National Suicide Awareness Month

September is National Suicide Awareness Month and September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. You never know what other people are going through. Be kind whenever possible; it’s always possible. Maybe this is something you don’t show much concern with because it had never affected you directly. You never know who in your life may decide to take their life. Even if you think someone is self-harming because they want attention, that doesn’t make their pain less valid. Existence is pain. Sometimes that pain is overwhelming. We can overcome that pain if we seek help from both professionals and from people in our lives.

If you’re hurting, or think your life is meaningless, there are plenty of places to seek help. If this post speaks to you, I want you to leave a comment. I may not respond, but if you feel alone, look at some of the other comments. Many people, hundreds of thousands, feel the same about their lives. You’re not alone because so many people have the same feelings. Reading articles from TheMighty.com helped me when I was looking for some comfort. I felt people there were in the same boat and I felt less alone. I’m sharing the resources listed on The Mighty website below.

Suicide Prevention Resources

If you are feeling suicidal, there is hope. 

You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255

You can reach the Crisis Text Line 24/7 by texting “START” to 741-741

You can call The Trevor Project, an LGBT crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline, 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386.

You can call Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 if you live in the U.S. Call 877-330-6366 if you live in Canada.

To find local resources in your area, visit To Write Love On Her Arms.

If you are hard of hearing, you can chat with a Lifeline counselor 24/7 by clicking the Chat button on this page, or you can contact the Lifeline via TTY by dialing 800-799-4889.

To speak to a crisis counselor in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.

If you are a veteran (or your loved one is a veteran), you can reach the Veterans Crisis Line by calling  1-800-273-8255 and Pressing 1. You can also send a text to 838255.

Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

For additional resources, see the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education).

You can read the following stories from people who’ve been there (from The Mighty):

And for additional messages of hope, click here

You are not alone.  

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

The Craziness of Mental Health

I’ve read about the mental healthcare systems abroad, some of the “things” that are available (like therapy) and thought a lot about ours.  I’m not suggesting that things are rosy everywhere else, but merely to reflect on the system we have here.  I live in South Africa and most of the laws and policies here are like Nelson Mandela authored.  We put the D in democracy and the humane into human rights, thereotically.  In practice, it doesn’t work that way.

For example, I once “trained” a group of women in a rural area in our country on the beautiful domestic violence act we have.  Thereotically the police can intervene, you can obtain a protection order, and again thereotically, be protected.  In your home.  In your house with your children.  They listened, dilligently took notes and smiled when I paused.  When I found their silence too much I asked why they weren’t talking / participating.  One of the older women stood up and said:  “The closest police station is at least 300 km away for most of us.  The court is even further.  And you’d be lucky if they serviced you on the same day, IF you have transport money to spare / get there.  We have our own act.  If your partner is threatening violence, we hang a certain item of clothing on the line, which means I need help.  The woman who sees it alerts others in the street, and we all come for “tea”.  We stay there, with endless conversation, until the situation is diffused. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  But that’s what really helps us”.

I kept quiet.  I was humbled by what these women went through and how they tried to help each other.  But that didn’t mean that they shouldn’t be helped more, and that resources and attention shouldn’t immediately be directed to make their lives better.  In the context of mental healthcare things are even more ominous.  There are people with chronic mental illness who died because they were dehydrated.  Yes, there were other factors, but dehydration?  Not being fed?  If I consider what it’s like to have mental illness and to die for these or ANY reasons just isn’t ok.  No matter how we try to dissect it.  If you don’t have the money for private health care (it cost me about 800 US Dollars for myself and my children on private medical aid per month) you will find that there aren’t any services that are responsive enough to cater for people with mental illness, no matter how ill they are.

For example, you can’t get into a psychiatric ward without being suicidal.  This based on my own and other people’s experience has meant that you need to have tried to commit suicide and required immediate hospitalisation / care.  Not if you were intending to.  No, preventative is nice.  We don’t (although there are a few attempts) have a sufficient suicide call in number for people who feel suicidal, or their families who are a concerned.  And I will not go onto describe the ambulance service, which as the rural women teacher taught me, is just not realistic in some parts of our country.   There are frequent drug stockouts, a lack of psychiatrists in the public health system and therapy is a luxury.

I have to face the reality of this system now.  I was retrenched and do not have the resources for private healthcare.  My psychiatrist costs $150 per session, my therapist $80 and private psychiatric hospitals (which are funnily still like jails) are thousands and thousands.  The implementation of our far-reaching mental healthcare act, like the domestic violence act is failing the people who it was designed to poetically protect.  And most people with mental illness do not in our country, have communities of support where they can hang the “I need help underpants” on the line.  We need to draw attention to the state of the system (or perhaps the lack of it), the way people with mental illness are treated and the services they are subjected to, and the not so silent genocide of people with mental illness in our country.  I intend to.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

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).