September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness month. While it’s great there’s a month dedicated to this, it should be 365-day year awareness.

I understand suicide can be a touchy subject especially for those who have struggled with it themselves or have lost a loved one to it.

I wanted to share my personal story with suicide because that was something I struggled with for a long time.

I was 14 years old when I started getting suicidal thoughts. I was in high school and was completely miserable. I was living in an abusive household suffering abuse from my mom on a daily basis. It was physical, verbal, & psychological abuse. Living in such a toxic environment and experiencing that abuse on a regular basis caused me to go into a severe depression.

I would spend hours locked in my room crying myself to sleep. I would always question God asking him “why me?”

“Why was this happening to me?”

“Why did I have to get a mom who treated me so terribly?”

It wasn’t much longer when I started to get suicidal thoughts on a regular basis.

My mom told me so many lies on a regular basis that it was hard for me to not believe them. She convinced me I was a burden to others & that I shouldn’t be on this earth. She told me things that no child or person should ever here. She told me she wished I were never born and that she wished she had me aborted when she had the chance. These are things I wish I could say never happened, but those were all lies she told me.

My thoughts started to become more negative and darker as the days went on. I started to lose feelings of happiness and forgot what happiness felt like. I started to feel numb & empty on the inside not feeling any emotions but sadness. I started to cope with self-harm when I was 14 years old. I believed it was the only way for me to feel something besides emptiness & sadness so I turned to self-harm.

That’s when the suicidal thoughts started to creep in and became more frequent. I started to believe the lies my mom and my depression told me. I believed I was a burden to others and that the world would be a better place without me in it. I wanted out of the world so bad that I came up with a plan when I was 15 years old to end my life. I had been prescribed pain medication from a dentist visit when I had to get a root canal and researched that medication and found that if I took all of the pills in the bottle I could never wake up again. That was my plan.

It was like playing tug o war in my mind though, there was that part of me that believed I was a burden and that I should just leave the world now, but there was another part of me that wanted to keep fighting. It told me to keep pushing through that those negative thoughts were lies and I could beat them.

I confided in my high school’s guidance counselor and he helped me push through the suicidal thoughts. I didn’t seek out treatment for my depression at the time even though I should have. Throughout high school I still struggled with depression and being active in sports helped me manage it.

After high school and when I went away to University the suicidal thoughts started to creep in again. I thought it was just homesickness since I was going to school on the other side of the country, but it was much deeper than that for me.

It was the summer of 2014 when I was home from University that I sought out treatment for my depression. I struggled with an alcohol addiction and one day when I had way too much to drink I couldn’t control the suicidal thoughts. I knew that if I didn’t seek out help that night, I would have harmed myself and may not be alive today. I had my best friend’s boyfriend drive me to the mental hospital and drop me off. He asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this and I told him yes I knew if I didn’t get help I was only going to get worse.

I spent three days in the crisis unit of the mental hospital. I was put on Zoloft and anxiety medication that helped ease my anxiety while I was there. I wish I could say going on Zoloft helped with my depression, but it actually made things worse for me. At the time I was diagnosed with depression and didn’t know I had bipolar disorder. When I was on Zoloft I felt like a zombie I was so out of it and numb, I hated it. I didn’t realize that for those who have bipolar disorder, anti-depressants could cause you to go into mania, which it did for me.

When I was back at University that semester I was a wreck. I was in and out of depressive episodes along with being in manic episodes. My alcohol problem was out of control and my behavior was reckless. I was failing all of my classes and was drinking on a daily basis. I started to struggle with self-harm again and the suicidal thoughts again. I knew that if I didn’t leave University and get myself out of that environment things were only going to get worse for me. That’s when I withdrew from University and moved back home to Florida.

I wish I could say everything got better for me when I got back home to Florida, but my depression grew worse. The psychiatrist I was seeing was no help at all to me and didn’t listen to my problems. He didn’t care to give me a proper psych evaluation and just wrote me a script for the next anti-depressant out there. I continued to struggle with self-harm and battled the suicidal thoughts daily.

I was empty & numb living in an endless cycle of my depression.

It wasn’t until the end of 2016 when I finally found a psychiatrist who gave me a proper psych evaluation and diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. Getting on the proper medication and changing my lifestyle to healthier habits, put an end to the suicidal thoughts. It was like the fog had finally been lifted and I could see clearly again. I started to see a therapist for a few months as well that helped me work through some of the issues from my past.

I’m happy to say that I am stable now and have not harmed myself in over three years now. I still find myself going into depressive episodes every now and then and will catch the suicidal thoughts creeping into my mind. I’ve become a lot stronger than I was three years ago and can fight off the thoughts much better than before.

I know living with a mental illness will be a life long battle for me. I’ve spent over ten years now fighting the demons and while it can be exhausting, I know I will survive the fight.

For those of you that have experienced something similar or going through a tough time please never hesitate to seek out help. There are so many resources available out there today and remember you are not a burden to others. Your life matters and you are never alone in this fight.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Six Months of Silence from You  

Maybe I should be grateful you’ve disappeared from my life. Though it’s hard to think that way, you’ve been a friend since we were pre-teens. Our lives both treacherous, though yours more so. A horrible mother who abused you, a stepfather who cried when he saw you because you reminded him of his dead daughter, a sister who turned everything into gold.

I wanted to be there for you, and as kids, I helped you escape. We’d run through tunnels under the highway to play in the stream on the other side. Take boxes from the back of the supermarket to make forts as big as mansions. I helped you write Mike a note and put it in his mailbox so he’d know how cute he was. Then I ran with you when his mother caught us and yelled, “I better not see you girls messing around here again!”

High school divided us. Our social circles drastically changed and pulled us apart, but we still kept in touch. The first time you were sent to the “nuthouse,” as you called it, I got a phone call. I pictured you behind bars eating nothing but slop. I wanted to come to get you, but at fourteen there wasn’t much I could do but hate your mother alongside you. Before you were able to return to school your parents moved three hours. You vanished. It might as well have been the moon.

Silence grew between us for over a decade, but we reconnected on a random night at the beach. The crowd was rowdy and you hated being pushed around, so you left. I knew where to find you, walking alone on the beach. That night I knew we’d always been friends, even when we had distance between us. Off and on we’d see each other after this, and often email several times a day/week, depending on the reason.

We shared our anxieties and fears. The difference was I sought help and you remained in denial. I wanted to tell you what was working, but you wouldn’t hear of it. I let this slide, because I loved you.

At times you’d disappear, but I knew you’d come back when ready. We’d read each other’s stories and talk about the horrible and good things our husbands did. You’d tell me how proud you were to raise two boys, even though you never wanted kids. I cried to you when I couldn’t conceive, and you did your best to understand.

The years went by like this. We’d hug once or twice a year in person, your smile infectious and warm. Then it was all taken away when I saw you at your worst.

Paranoia struck you so hard. You called me in a panic, your voice quivered and you spoke with no brakes in your sentences. I’ve heard this before, only on mentally ill people that have gone beyond an immediate return point. The flags were waving, I begged you to go to call, email, text a professional for help. You continued to lay it on me though. Claiming stories so bazar I felt lost. I called in our mutual friend, who pushed you harder than I would to get help. You needed her, not me, but you didn’t want either of us. You claimed she wasn’t who she said she was, and that you would report her to the police.

My own anxiety rushed through my veins, tingling and frightening every second of my day. I absorbed your delusional ride and let it take me down until our mutual friend dragged me back.

We made a pact without you. We told ourselves we would give it one more push, involve your family, give you resources, but then we had to walk away. You were being so vicious I didn’t know you. I told myself it was your illness; I still know it was.

That was five months ago. I didn’t know where to go after that. You didn’t trust who I was. I walked away saving myself. Now I know nothing about you and every day it kills me.

On February 8, 2019 I wrote. How Do I Get My Friend Help? She read it and in rapid-fire sent emails attacking me. She found my bruise and pressed her thumb into it, twisting and poking. From the day we met she brought up things I don’t remember; assaulted me as a mother, wife, friend, and human. I couldn’t read the entire emails, though I saved them. I don’t know why I’ve saved them. Maybe to remind me not to contact her? I want to though. At least to know how she’s doing. To see if she’s alive.

Melisa Peterson Lewis is a blogger at Fingers To Sky with over two-hundred personal essays on book reviews, her writing process, gardening, and soul searching. Follow her on Facebook or Instagram.

Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

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What’s the Make, Model, and Year of Your Mental Health Struggle?

Hi, I’m Chelsea. I drive a minivan.

I didn’t want to drive a minivan. When people learn that I do drive one, they start assuming other things about me. They also assume: I drive slow, am distracted, have no taste in vehicles, have children, will make a bad decision whilst driving because I’m probably turned around yelling at said children, and that I shop at Costco every day.

Now…. some of those things might be true. But, guess what? am not the minivan. I just drive it. am a person. My name is Chelsea. I am not slow, distracted, tasteless, children, bad decisions, or Costco. I am a human and I am also worthwhile.

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When you go out into the world, what sort of vehicle do you drive? Van? Jeep? Truck? Bicycle? Bus? Sedan? Train?

Are you large, difficult to turn, and roomy like that van? Are you fun outside but hard on the joints over speedbumps like a Jeep? How about pushy and a bit too high off the ground like a truck? Maybe you can’t really afford much in life or are environmentally conscious like a bicycle.

Our mental health struggles are our vehicles.

Say that you go out to the workplace after a difficult morning, only to snap at someone because they echoed a mean thought your Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder chugged and chugged and chugged. That wasn’t you, though. That was the OCD you have to take to work.

What about the night that Depression was your ride? That dark interior, battered trim, and iffy transmission was only how you got to the party, not who came inside.

And let’s not forget the lunchtime meeting you had with Anxiety. Your mechanic still shakes his head over the number of ‘strange noises’ you swear it kept making, the sudden stops, and its refusal to even start when you were at a traffic light.

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Thinking about mental illness as a vehicle might make you say, “Well, then, why can’t we just get another car?” Money, mostly. Circumstance. What your insurance will cover. What you need for your size of family, parking space, parking expenses, and (again) budget.

That’s not to say you’re stuck forever in your quirky transport, nor that you can’t address some of its more-limiting issues. In fact, you really need to address them.

-If you are repeatedly blocked from getting the engine to even start

-If you are constantly arriving late

-If you cannot seem to ever get out of the seatbelt when necessary

It’s time to see a mechanic -er, a therapist or mental health doctor of some sort.

No matter the age or condition of the vehicle, they can always help. No, your car will not be the same as when you first unknowingly signed that crappy contract and drove it home -but, do you want it to be?

And, sometimes, you do get a different ride. Sometimes you have no choice. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes worse. But, the car you drive is still not you.

You are you. Most importantly, you are always the driver. Never forget that.

Photo credit:
Rodolfo Mari
Pixabay
James Sullivan

The Cure for Depression: Never Give Up, Never Surrender

Hello, there! Feeling depressed? I’m here to offer you a little encouragement.

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Perhaps you are familiar with James Edgar Skye’s favorite life maxim: Keep fighting.

What does that mean, exactly? Is he encouraging site visitors to violence? I’m sure you all know that’s not the answer. Despite your astute intelligence, however, do you keep fighting?

Or, are you in my preferred category of fence-sitting numbness?

Worse yet, are you all alone, hiding from everything except the dark recesses of your mind?

That is no way to fight.

Don’t roll your eyes at me; you’re the one practicing bad habits. …Yes, I intend to get dressed and eat something besides these cookies. Yes, I’m wearing exercise clothes because I’m going to do something more aerobic than climb the step stool to reach another package of cookies.

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Hmm. Maybe we both need to step up our game.

Way back in May of this year I revealed the most secret of secrets: The Cure for Depression. Over the next few, heavily-procrastinated months I then discussed the secret steps involved.

In fact, last time I wrote about figuring out what’s helping and sticking with it.

Are you still not trying any of these?

Again, that’s no way to fight.

Fight is an action verb, and not one like “yawn,” or “scratch.” Think about what you picture when someone says, “Fight.” It’s not a person laying amidst packages of desserts, feebly raising a hand to scroll through this article and resolve to think about trying something tomorrow.

It’s pride.

It’s power.

It’s a bad-ass mother who won’t take no crap off of nobody!!!

The “nobody” we depressive types need to address is most often ourselves.

Think of how you would get ready for a physical fight. Besides psyching yourself up with a little mirror speech (which, by the way, is like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), you place your feet and hands in a defensive stance. Given time to prepare, you might wear protective clothing, train with a professional, and bring something besides air to smack the enemy with.

D’ya see the correlation? Your daily, healthy practices arm you for the fight against depression -a fight with your own, flawed mind.

It’s a battle we face every day, but one that is easier if we’re prepared. After following the recommended steps, that battle doesn’t even happen some days. Isn’t that worth fighting for?

Yes, it is. Now, get out there. Keep fighting.

Never give up. Never surrender.

Photo credits:
Whitney Wright
And Giphy.

Compared to My Siblings

The frustration inside of me bubbles to the surface with a sharp bite. My parents treat us differently. I know this because I have ears and eyes and use them like most humans. It’s not hard to pick up my father handing my sibling a wound up wad of cash to “help her out.” Or when my parents show more interest in my sibling’s career choice (it’s within the medical profession), while I try to become a content writer I hear, “that’s interesting.” What I want is someone to say, “Good for you! Follow your heart! Money doesn’t mean anything if you’re not happy.”

See what I just did here? Over and over and over in my head, I weigh out the differences between my siblings and me. How we compare, who is thinner, who is stronger, who makes more money, which takes more handouts, who dresses better. Then I replay my own scenario, instead of hearing a monotone response or something equally lackluster, I envision the message I want to. I want them to say I’m talented, smart, courageous – something! Anything that makes me feel approved or praised.

I have a generalized anxiety disorder. Maybe I should have mentioned that sooner or if you are like me then you may have picked up on my battering thought process. It’s something we anxious people like to do. I’m insecure, I want someone to randomly ask me, “So, how is that writing career going?”  Then I could tell them I’m taking significant steps towards my first paying gig! Instead, I haven’t brought it up because I feel their response wouldn’t hold a candle to the thrill that I already feel inside.

Therapy has helped me with this area, even if the frustration and comparing still surface, sometimes unexpectedly. The answers I seek are already in my complex heart. It’s time for me to put myself on the pedestal and know that if I am seeking approval from others or I dream about praise, these things are already sewn into my soul. I know I want people to say I’m doing a good job, so therefore I already feel that I am. I’m going to have a party for myself that celebrates big steps and small steps. I’m going to do this today! Starbucks here I come! Make it a Verde.

Yes, I do feel like Stuart Smiley, but you know — gosh darn it I’m worth it. I may tease, but this is no laughing matter. You are worth it, and you don’t need other people to tell you this. In case you do though, I just said it, so I will repeat it. You are worth it!

 

Brought to you by Fingers to Sky: Soul Searching. Writing. Gardening

Juggling, Hiding, Saying No

When there is a relatively calm week with nothing outside of the ordinary happening, I can easily handle a hiccup or two. Now, if you expect me to be able to juggle multiple situations at one time, I may start to withdraw. Like a turtle drawing his head into his shell, I close myself off.

The static in my brain starts to send out sparks, misfires occur, rapid thinking, jumping to conclusions, and hopeless impressions wander through me. You can’t do this! Just quit! My inner demon whispers. This advice is so tempting. Quitting is easy. It might sting for a while, but the wound heals pretty quickly in most cases.

There are times when we pile on too much, and saying NO can be healthy, and part of self-care. However, we must be aware when we raise our hands in surrender to soon. Trying to avoid something that is demanding, or labor intense, we might turn our head at a challenge before we find out what we are capable of.

It’s too difficult, it’s too hard, I can’t do this! There are too many things going on at one time. I can’t juggle all of this at once!

Excuse me for throwing out a term so loosely, because the truth is I do not meditate in the traditional sense. I have tried, it’s just not my dish. When things pile up and start to crash down upon me however, I do say to myself, “It’s time to meditate on this.” To me this is taking a break, a step back. Thinking out all the logical options, and most importantly coming up with boundaries and goals. Breathe through it. If a situation is elevated beyond a determined margin, then maybe it is time to make an exit. Until then, it’s time to stick with it!

I find that when more than one task (even if a pleasant) falls on me, I start to get a little erratic. I haven’t been able to stop this from happening, but I do recognize it more quickly than in the past. I’m not sure if this is my anxious tendencies or just a normal human response to a lot going on.

Continued stress can do horrible things to our mind and body. Not accomplishing goals or backing out of a commitment can also wreak havoc on our inner self. Sometimes we need a little stress to propel us forward. Understanding our limits is important. More important yet, is pushing these limits in a healthy manner so we can gain achievement and self-worth.

Brought to you by Fingers To Sky