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

My Love for Baseball

This is a particularly favorite chapter in my memoir because the subject matter is something that is near to heart—my love for the sport of baseball. With the start of the regular season just under two weeks away, I wanted to once again share this short chapter in my memoir.

James & His Love for Baseball

Baseball is the most amazing sport for someone like me that has a mental illness. I love what the game of baseball teaches you. You could be the best pitcher in the game, dominating at every aspect of throwing a baseball, and still give up four home runs in a game. The game of baseball can be unforgiving, much like living with a mental illness. It is no wonder that during the Spring, Summer, and early fall baseball is my goto when I need to get away from the daily struggles of life.

The spectacle that is baseball where every 90 feet is important to me. I love the game of baseball because it is pure. Anything can happen on a baseball field. A team can hit four home runs one night, and get shutout the next. Every player is important to the team.

For three hours almost every day I get to enjoy a game I love. On those rare occasions I find myself in a baseball stadium, it is visceral experience.

Sure, I suffer from social anxiety, and it has been years since I caught a game live there is nothing more my speed than a baseball stadium. The smell of the grass. The taste of a hotdog and a soda. The sound of the bat making contact with the ball. Even the energy of the crowd is an amazing thing to behold.

It’s amazing the ups and downs of a baseball season can teach you. Even if your team has one of the best records in baseball, it’s not for sure you will make the World Series. If you somehow your team makes it to the fall classic, anything can happen and your team might lose. You can be the most successful baseball player on the planet, but if your team is not great, you still have to play every day. Baseball really is a team sport because you need all nine guys playing their position in the field of play.

My favorite stories are players no team wanted coming to your team and becoming a superstar. On any given night, a baseball player can be the walk-off hero from the star player down to the guys on the bench. Watching baseball is one of the things that has helped me over the course of spring and summer months with my depression and anxiety.

 I still don’t understand how watching baseball makes me feel good inside and out for a few hours out of my day. It relaxes me, even when my team is doing bad, it doesn’t cause me to get overly anxious. I get so lost in the game of baseball all summer. For any of my social media accounts, be prepared to be overloaded with baseball talk from March to October.

I doubt my love for America’s past time will ever go away, and for a good portion of my year baseball will always be there for me with another game for me to watch and to cheer for my favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Always Keep Fighting

James

Mental Health Detective Report Back

There I was, I had planned my trip to the PRIMARY HEALTHCARE Clinic.  The Government Service.  The supposed to be free one.  The one in AFRICA one.  You would be forgiven for imaginging lions and elephants trawling about the yards of the clinic, because if that were true, it would simply capacitate you to function BETTER in the system.  A) If you’d been mauled, you would get pushed up the queue (and be taken more seriously than JUST a chronic mental illness) and B) You’d have a “funny” story to tell an otherwise disinterested and very tired, healthworker.  And whilst there aren’t lions and elephants serving as gate keepers to mental health services, there are many other um, hairy hindrances that do.

In the country that I live in, the first challenge that we confront is that there are far, far too few psychiatrists in practice, particularly in the public health sector.  It takes weeks / months to access a psychiatrist in the public sector, which is in fact life-threatening for a person with chronic mental illness.   Now I’m well aware that medication is not the only thing a person with mental illness requires, but in my case (and I recommend this) it’s a huge part.  Not being able to see a doctor that could give you medication.  Well, the mind boggles.  Thereafter the other very real reality is that there will be medication stockouts, or that the medication you are on is not seen as ‘necessary’ by Government.  For example they think that some anti-depressants aren’t necessary.  Grimace.

But before I complain about the shortcomings of the health system,  the very real challenge – and the reason why I ended up NOT going – is the horrible, disabling stigma that exists in our communities and which in my case – and I’m sure many others – results in the worst form of stigma:  believing what people tell you about you.  You see even if I had jumped the hurdles of waiting forever, expecting to have to come back for appointments numerous times, I was most worried about what each tier of the public healthcare system would require of me:  telling “the story” that informed my diagnosis. Having to “speak up” and contend with much “and how did that make you feel” is both frustrating but also heartbreaking to have to recall and retell – again and again and again. Honestly, being a slightly clever girl, one would have thought that I would have taped the “how did I get crazy” convo by now, so I could just press play and have the healthworker informed.  But funnily enough, each time I’ve needed to outline the top ten reasons why I’m mentally ill, I haven’t had the candour or humour to record it.

So the truth is that this mental health detective went as far as playing out going to the clinic in her mind, and retreated immediately to the couch to eat the snacks she had packed for the trip (and as many others as she could carry in a single trip from kitchen to couch, but hey who’s counting).  Oh, and she may have had a little cry, an anxiety tab or two, and a nap. Because I don’t want to do that right now.  Explore how broken I am in order to be slightly fixed with medication I may only get six weeks  / months later thing.  No thanks.  I’m an expert in roasting myself, I don’t need help or reminders of the cracks and creaks my being holds or has a lack of.  This is the coward way out, I know, I am paying for medication I can’t afford, but am too chicken to attain from the Government Service.  Ok, I will work on going to the Government Service.  I think I may try and convince myself that I’m doing a public service so I can feel heroic about it.  Ok, a couple levels lower than heroic, but a lot levels higher than chicken.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.