Thoughts on Grief and Time

This past Friday was the 2nd anniversary of our son Josiah’s estimated due date. Last year, on the 1st anniversary, I wrote about why I choose to celebrate my son on this day. Although he never had a chance to be born, I need to have a day that is marked just for him. Last year, my family and I spent the evening at the beach, in quiet remembrance of our loss and our pain and the enduring love we are surrounded by. This year, we simply spent time together at home.


My pelvic tattoo, in the Beloved font

As more time passes, the pain of this day thankfully softens. I’m able to think of the love of those around us, and how they too remember and honor our son. When his estimated due date came around four short months after we had to make the choice to terminate our pregnancy, family and friends joined us for a memorial at our home. Those that were unable to make it sent us pictures, via Facebook and text, of candles that were lit at the same time as our memorial ceremony, and messages with our sweet boy’s name. Thanks to On This Day on Facebook, I’m able to see those messages each year and remember how our loved ones stood beside us at our darkest time and ensured that our son and our love for him will not be forgotten.

I can’t help but imagine what our lives would be like if I had been able to carry our son to term. What his 2 year old face would look like. Would he be fair like his father and sister, or would this child have a little more of me visible in his face and coloring? I wonder what his 2 year old personality would be like. Would he adore his older sister as much as I know she would adore him? I often stare at other children who are at the age he should have been and daydream of what could have been.

At the same time, I’m taking the experience of the past 2 years and using it to carry me through the fresh pain of losing our son, Lincoln, earlier this year. When we lost Josiah, the hurt was unimaginable and acute. There were times that I felt like I couldn’t breathe as it pressed in on my from all sides and suffocated any sense of the world around me. I couldn’t envision a world where I survived that loss. I couldn’t grasp being able to have any sense of normalcy again. I couldn’t understand how I could possibly live without him. But I did. I survived, I settled into a new normal, and I continued to live. As time moved forward, so did I. It has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever accomplished, but I’m grateful to have been able to attain the foothold I now have.

The thing about having been to Hell and back is that the next time you’re there, you know the path that will lead you out. It seemed unbelievable to have lost Lincoln back in April, after having already experienced that nightmare. It seems so unfair that we would be forced to face that reality again. Yet, even in the fog of my grief, I was able to hold on to the knowledge that I would get through agony of this heartbreak and piece myself back together. As if I had left bread crumbs to follow in a dark forest, I knew the steps I would need to take to be ok. And I knew that when I was lost, it was only a temporary setback to getting myself where I needed to be.

There is not a single thing that makes any experience of loss easier. It’s all hard and wearing… even maddening at times. However, time made it better for me. Experience made it more bearable for me. It has only been a little over 5 months since Lincoln died, but I know the smell and taste and feel of this sorrow. I know where I am, and where I am going. I know that there will come a time that I feel the pain, but more strongly remember the love. I will celebrate that love. Love that we are blessed to have within and around us, and love we carry in our hearts instead of our arms. I will celebrate that, as well as Josiah and Lincoln, time and time again.

Thoughts on Five To Stay Alive and Suicide Prevention – Part 7

Here is my seventh, and final essay, about my experiences with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, as well as tools, resources, and inspirations. I hope they help, and that you know you are not alone. Suicide is preVENTable, so let’s vent together. Talk it out!

Suicide is Preventable

My Experience: Since today is the last day of my seven part series/goal, I would like to talk about the future. Specifically, about my daughter’s future. Most of my close friends know that I never planned on having children. I love my parents, but there were some seriously damaging mistakes that they made when raising me. I felt I didn’t have the right role models to know how to be a good parent, and I was afraid of screwing up something that was so monumentally important. I was afraid of having children that would be damaged like me. However, a family was important to my husband, so I took a leap of faith. Thank God I did. All the fears I had about dealing with and “solving” my issues have been healed by my daughter. She has been the push I needed to really do the work. I look at her and know that I need to be a positive example. I want her to know that she is beautiful no matter what, so I need to show her that I accept (or even celebrate) my body for all of the positives it holds. I want her to not be afraid of making mistakes, so I need to show her the importance of trying. And trying again. Of accepting failure, and continuing to work. I want her to know that her flaws are not the whole of her. I want her to not hold onto the negative, mistaking it for a life raft. I want her to know forgiveness, for herself and others. So I need to learn how to forgive myself and others, and show her the way.

While I was pregnant, I made the mistake of watching a show called, “Obsessed.” It was a documentary series on A&E that first aired in 2009. The show depicted the real-life struggle and treatment of people with anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and general anxiety disorder. The episode I watched featured a man, Matt, who was not able to leave his house other than a very small perimeter, and a few places he was familiar with. He worked from home. During one of the interviews, he talked about why he suffered from this anxiety disorder. He mentioned that he remembered his mom being very anxious when he was growing up, and that she would pick at her fingers. I had a total meltdown after that, sobbing to my therapist that I was going to damage my baby. It was one of the most severe moments of panic in my life.

Thankfully, I’ve come to a number of realizations since then. As I mentioned above, my daughter has been the impetus for change that I needed. I’m learning positive tools in order to be a positive role model for her. However, no matter what I do, I know that there is a chance, genetically, that my daughter will have the same issues/struggles that I do. There isn’t anything I can do to change that. What I can do is give her the tools she needs to live and be happy. My parents did the best they could with the tools they had available, and I will do the same. I’m just lucky enough to have better tools.

As we as a society stop seeing depression/anxiety/suicide as something to hide away, and as we face this taboo subject, it will be easier for those who live with these disorders to discuss them openly. My hope is that by talking honestly on this subject, I can help, in some way, break down the barriers to transparency regarding mental health, so that my daughter will never have to hide who she is, but will instead be as proud of herself as I am.

My Tools: You know how there are some people who seem to view the world through rose colored glasses? I need a pair of those. I see life through the glasses of a very snarky critic. The kind that usually sit on the end of a nose, with a disdainful look behind them. I don’t take compliments very well. When someone tells me that I’m smart, nice, awesome, etc., my initial thought is, “haha… I’ve fooled them!” One of the only times I don’t think this way is when someone tells me I’m funny, because there’s just no denying that. What I’m trying to do now is very similar to my “fake it till you make it” tool. I’m working on actually hearing what someone has to say about me, and believing it. I feel self-conscious about my body, especially when I’m being intimate with my husband. I’m working on believing him when he tells me how sexy I am. I need to remember that the way I see myself is often through the lies my darkness tells me. The lies it tells to keep me imprisoned and isolated. I need to trust those that love and care for me more than I trust myself in those moments. That’s part of how I’ll learn to love and care for myself.

How To Give Support: Help Yourself Help Others helps to connect you to a mental health assessment for yourself or someone you love. As a matter of fact, the Thursday of the first full week in October is National Depression Screening Day. The Alta Bates Summit Medical Centers states on their assessment home page: “Mental health is a key part of your overall health. Brief screenings are the quickest way to determine if you or someone you care about should connect with a mental health professional – they are a checkup from your neck up. This program is completely anonymous and confidential, and immediately following the brief questionnaire you will see your results, recommendations and key resources.” This assessment may be the start to a whole new way of life.

Resources: I recommend utilizing social media, if that is something you are comfortable with and enjoy. Facebook has many online support groups you can join, which might be preferable for someone who has anxiety in large groups or in meeting new people. There are also many organizations, such as AFSP (mentioned below), with Facebook and Twitter accounts, where they share information and inspirations.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention works to help others understand suicide, to prevent suicide, to cope with suicide loss, to support research, and to provide advocacy and public policy. The work they do is amazing. To help raise awareness and funds, the foundation hosts Out of the Darkness Walks throughout the US. There are campus walks to engage high school and college youth, a premier overnight walk (a 16-18 mile walk from dusk till dawn, hosted by rotating cities) and multiple 3-5 mile community walks. I participated in a community walk a few years ago, in honor of my high school friend, and I hope to participate in an overnight walk in the future.



Share It Forward: I’ve talked a lot this week about how depression and anxiety go hand in hand. This article, by Kristi Pahr, talks about fighting against them. Additionally, Nick Seluk of The Awkward Yeti, created this comic that depicts the same thing. Both finish with this focus: We can fight it.

Thoughts on Five To Stay Alive and Suicide Prevention – Part 6

Here is my sixth essay, of seven, about my experiences with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, as well as tools, resources, and inspirations. I hope they help, and that you know you are not alone. Suicide is preVENTable, so let’s vent together. Talk it out!

My Experience: Today, I decided to talk about the roots of my depression. In my lifetime, I’ve had 3 personal therapists. I’ve also had a lot of trauma (therapist’s words). By the time I was 12, I had dealt directly with a myriad of abuse (emotional, mental, physical, and sexual) from the people in my life that were supposed to protect me. The majority of my time in therapy, especially as an adult, has been spent trying to learn tools to positively deal with the stressors and triggers in my life, building my self-esteem, and trying to figure out where exactly my life derailed. Which of the traumas in my life led to, or helped develop, the assortment of insecurities and emotional issues that plagued me presently? At times, it felt like an epsidode of CSI, when the analysts are using red strings to determine the directions of blood splatter. It could be as exhausting as the issues themselves. However, when I decided to go on medication, I came to the conclusion/realization that this is just who/how I am. This is how I was made. My family’s history with depression and suicide made this clear. As did the fact that I really could never pinpoint an exact event as a source of my depression or anxiety. I just know that they have been there for as long as I can remember. My dark passengers in this ride of my life. I also believe that because of my family’s history with depression, I never learned positive tools for dealing with, or managing, these emotions. I believe my depression and anxiety have always been there, but my experiences in life exacerbated their severity. My traumas reinforced my negative feelings about myself, and drove me deeper into anxiety by making me feel unsafe and unprotected.

Because I thought that my depression and anxiety was a result of my traumas, I really thought I was a unique freak. That my very personal experiences led to a very personal version of depression and anxiety. It’s been a relief to find that I am not that unique. To be able to accept that this is a part of who I am allowed me to delve further into learning more about depression and anxiety. As I mentioned in a previous post, this led me to finding information about others that suffered from the same types of depression and anxiety as I do. The worry fantasies, the picking at my cuticles. A nameless monster in the dark is terrifying. For me, putting a name and face to the demons that tormented me allowed me to find better ways to cage them, and to learn how to not let them hurt me. I’m not done. It’s a long process. But I feel more hopeful today than every day before in my life.

My Tools: Today’s tool has a very technical name: Fake It Till I Make It. Try googling that! I reached a point in my life where I realized my shyness and social anxiety wasn’t going to get me very far in life. It would most likely hamper me instead. I began to take steps to get over the shyness. I started to fake it till I made it. I would just pretend I wasn’t shy, put myself out there, and wait until it became second nature. I started small: talking to checkers at the grocery store as I was buying food. I know… sounds ridiculous. For me though, it was hard! Eventually, it got easier, then better, then natural. Most people are honestly surprised when I tell them I’m painfully shy. I’m not shy when I’m with my friends, of course. I can handle small groups, as long as I know the majority of those present. But put me in a large group of strangers, and I’m tense with anxiety and trying to find an exit strategy. At the same time, I have an innate need to be polite and make others feel comfortable, so if someone approaches me, I can start to open up. It’s the approaching someone else that I wither from. As you can tell, my tool has only gotten me so far. At least it’s better than when I was younger, and, of course, I’m still a work in progress.

I try the same approach with my depression. On days when I would rather stay in bed, I get up anyway. I may not feel like doing anything, but I fake it till I make it, and sometimes I get into the routine of my day and those feelings slip away.

How To Give Support: One of the best things you can do to help a person living with depression and struggling with suicidal thoughts is to understand. That, and give them a stick.

Resources: I’ve posted many links to this site because I think the work they do is amazing. If you are struggling, whether you are considering suicide or not, or if you know someone that is, please don’t hesitate to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Sometimes all you need is to #talkitout.

Suicide is Preventable

Share It Forward: I mentioned in a previous post that writing and talking about suicide and depression is very cathartic. This young man, Patrick Roche does so in a way that is moving, breathtaking and cleansing, for me. I hope it stirs you as well: Couples Therapy

Thoughts on Five To Stay Alive and Suicide Prevention – Part 5

Here is my fifth essay, of seven, about my experiences with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, as well as tools, resources, and inspirations. I hope they help, and that you know you are not alone. Suicide is preVENTable, so let’s vent together. Talk it out!

Suicide is Preventable

My Experience: Today is the day I’ve been most nervous about. Like jumping into a cold lake, sometimes you just have to take the plunge. I’m nervous about judgement, but I made a promise to myself to be brutally honest with these posts, in hopes of reaching others that may have the same experiences and let them know they are not alone.

So here goes: Today’s post is about the embarrassing/humiliating (to me) side of my depression. The side I try to hide from everyone. When my depression is at its worst, I struggle with everyday tasks, to the point of often not doing some of them at all. Getting out of bed. Taking a shower. Brushing my teeth. Brushing my hair. General self-care. Going to work. Going outside. Going anywhere. Talking to anyone. Doing anything. Cooking. Eating. Washing clothes. Everyday tasks are overwhelming. I have no desire to deal with them. I just can’t muster the energy to even try.

This is not my everyday depression, mind you. This is the darker side of my depression. These are the times when I’ve had bad moments turn into bad days, which sometimes turned into bad weeks. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen to me as often or to the extent that it used. These days, my daughter needs me and motivates me to push past it, and I’ve become better at utilizing the tools I have available to help me.

However, there have been times that I’ve had a thigh-high pile of unwashed laundry just sitting in the middle of my room. I would simply grab whatever was least wrinkled and unstained to wear, checking to make sure that it hadn’t begun to noticeably smell. Day after day. I needed to ask for help with taking care of it because I just couldn’t do it myself. The shame of what I had done, or wasn’t doing, would have me frozen. My outside world became a reflection of how I was feeling on the inside. Disorganized, dirty, trapped under a never ending pile I couldn’t begin to crawl out from under. In those moments, I stopped caring about myself and anything around me.

While this is not my every day depression, there are pieces of it that are. I have a hard time with self-care; taking care of myself has always come last. I feel good about myself when I’m taking care of others, but it often comes at the expense of myself. On one occasion, when I went off of my anxiety medication, it took some time for them to kick back in, once I started again. That left me struggling for a while. During that time, I went through the motions of what I HAD to do, and everything else was neglected. I have a hard time admitting this, because it’s deeply embarrassing for me, and I have to steel myself a bit to say it, but this included brushing my hair. My hair is very long, and I would just twist it up into my usual bun. Eventually, my hair started to become a big knot. I was mortified that I would allow that to happen to myself, so I just avoided dealing with it. I didn’t want to face what I was feeling. When I finally did, it took a long time to work out all of the knots and tangles (how’s that for a metaphor).

What’s worse, I lost about half of the volume of my hair. Every time I brushed my hair afterwards, I would feel shame and guilt. These are just some of the examples of how my depression impacts my life. As I said before, I don’t have these types of moments/incidents often… only when I stop being vigilant about the honesty of my feelings (and avoid them instead) and reaching for help. I instinctually feel deep shame, sharing and baring myself here in this way. But I’ve spent a lifetime being ashamed of myself, and if anyone here is going to judge me or think less of me, the world isn’t going to end. My world isn’t going to end. I have plenty of people around me who understand and still love me. Also, there are others out there who not only understand but recognize this type of behavior, or at least the shame, in themselves. I’m willing to embarrass myself time and time again, if that’s what it takes to help someone else know they are not alone. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

I need to be ok with being me… flaws and all. Mistakes and all. As long as I know that I am working to do better, be better, everyday, that’s what I need to be comfortable with. I judge myself because I worry how others will judge me. That needs to stop, and that is why I said I hoped these posts would help me as well. This is my way of starting to break from that pattern. This is me. All of me. I need to stop apologizing to myself and others (whether out loud or not) for that. I’ve had people tell me they are surprised that I struggle with depression. I can be a very good actress, but I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not anymore. I’d rather spend my time and energy on allowing the person I am/want to be come out from behind the curtain.

My Tools: A support system gets me through the really hard stuff. That support system includes my husband, my brother, my therapist, and some close friends. It also includes my doctor. A support system can be made up of anyone you feel comfortable reaching out to. A pastor. A hotline. An anonymous chat room. What ever helps you to come out of your darkness can only be a good thing. Suicide is preVENTable. #talkitout.

I also recommend self-care. As I mentioned above, I’m terrible at this. I’ve been trying to rework what I think of as self-care, so that I can better incorporate it regularly into my life. If you struggle with knowing how to care for yourself, even in small ways, check out this self-care guide below, from The Trevor Project. The organization is specifically geared towards LGBTQ youth, but I think that most of their ideas would benefit anyone.


How To Give Support: If you want to help someone struggling with a mental illness and/or suicidal thoughts, but are unsure how, at the very least avoid these 15 Things You Shouldn’t Say To Someone Struggling With Depression. These phrases can isolate the sufferer further, and possibly lead them to not reach out when they need to.

Resources: AAS, American Association of Suicidology, runs suicide support centers all over the United States.

Share It Forward: I’ve spent a long time hiding my depression from others. The death of my high school friend helped me be more open in the relative safety of Facebook. The death of Robin Williams compelled me to take it a step further and really show myself. After Robin Williams’ death a new movement was created, #thisistheface, to end the stigma of depression. As Glennon Doyle of Momastery said, “People who need help sometimes look a lot like people who don’t need help.”



Thoughts on Five To Stay Alive and Suicide Prevention – Part 4

Here is my fourth essay, of seven, about my experiences with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, as well as tools, resources, and inspirations. I hope they help, and that you know you are not alone. Suicide is preVENTable, so let’s vent together. Talk it out!

Suicide is Preventable

My Experience: A couple of years ago, I made the decision to go on medication to help me with my anxiety and depression. For so long, I had avoided medication because I believed that if I could just be more disciplined, I could get better on my own. If I could just be stronger. If I could just be better. I believed that medication was a sign of my own weakness. However, an incident occurred that made me understand that I had been strong long enough, and that asking for help was its own kind of strength.

I have always had what are called, “worry fantasies”. These are daydreams that I have, and they often cause anxiety or fear or sadness in me. They usually involve something terrible happening to myself or someone I love. I call them emotional cutting, and sometimes I indulge in them just to feel something, because I’m so numb from depression.

Two years ago, I met a man on a plane. He was friendly… a little overly friendly for my tastes. Not in a sexual way, but I tend to be reserved and like to keep to myself. We were speaking about my work in housing, and towards the end of the flight, he asked for my phone number. I can’t remember why… it had something to do with my work. And for some ridiculous reason, I gave it to him. After getting my bags and heading home, I began to obsessively worry about that bad decision and that guy. I don’t know why, but my mind began to obsess on him coming to hurt me. Eventually, my mind began to obsess on him coming to my home and hurting my husband and daughter. I no longer wanted to leave the house because of the overwhelming anxiety and fear. I did, but I would panic each time. This is when I knew I was out of control and needed help. I told my husband what was happening, and that I had decided to go on medication. I also told my brother. It was embarrassing. Humiliating. I felt like a crazy person. But telling was the right thing to do, and the first step to helping myself. Just as writing all of these posts are. The medication helped immensely. My worry fantasies lessened to nearly non-existence. I worried that medication would only mask my issues, and only help me to avoid them. I was wrong. Medication has allowed me some room to breathe. It’s helped me think more clearly so that I can tackle my issues head on.

My Tools:  As I mentioned, my third greatest tool has been going on medication. It is a very personal decision, not to be taken lightly. There are downfalls to the medication. In some ways, my emotions are muted. But, for me, they’re not gone. I just have to work harder to bring the right ones into focus. Medication has made a tremendous difference for me, and I’m glad I took the leap of faith.

How To Give Support: When it’s more than you can handle, then it’s time for you to ask for help. This is just as true of someone caring for an individual living with depression, as it is for the person living with the illness. You aren’t failing your loved one if you are at a loss of what to do, or if you’re at the end of the line of your capabilities. It’s ok to ask for help. Sometimes that is the best way you can support a loved one. This article talks a little more about how to help your loved one, and ways to get your own support at the same time.

Resources:  ADAA, or Anxiety and Depression Association of America, is helping to bring awareness and improve the diagnosis, treatment and cure for survivors. Also, Freedom From Fear is a wonderful mental illness advocacy group.

Share It Forward: “The more people share their experiences with depression, the more others suffering from the condition realize they’re not alone,” says Kat Kinsman, author of this enlightening piece, Going Public with Depression, on She also includes links to other articles/podcasts/etc. at the end.

Here is another comic that I can identify and laugh with. The work done by Brian Gordon, of Fowl Language Comics, always seems to connect with me.

Fowl Language

Thoughts on Five To Stay Alive and Suicide Prevention – Part 3

Here is my third essay, of seven, about my experiences with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, as well as tools, resources, and inspirations. I hope they help, and that you know you are not alone. Suicide is preVENTable, so let’s vent together. Talk it out!

 Suicide is Preventable

My Experience: Since I’ve already covered both depression and anxiety, this post is going to be about suicide and suicidal thoughts. As is often the case, suicide runs in my family. My great-grandfather committed suicide by hanging. My uncle shot himself. Another close family member, whose anonymity I will respect, has attempted suicide more than once. The first time I ever thought about suicide, I was 12. The last time I thought about suicide was about 8 weeks ago. I’ve never gone beyond the thoughts, but they have been scary enough, and obsessive enough, that I have taken them seriously. These thoughts are not always present. Looking back at when I was young, I think that I didn’t have the words or the maturity to express my feelings. I didn’t want to die, I just wanted my pain to end and I couldn’t think of any other way. I don’t remember having those same thoughts again until I was nearly 30. My mother had had a stroke, and I was both supporting her financially and as her caretaker. I didn’t have a lot of support. I was working two jobs. I wasn’t eating healthy, wasn’t sleeping well, and I was overwhelmed. I began to feel as I did when I was young. I just wanted it to end. I began to fantasize about my-then boyfriend’s (now husband) shotgun. I also thought about hanging myself in the backyard. After some time, I told my-then boyfriend about my feelings and thoughts, and asked him to get rid of the gun. I didn’t think I would do it, but I wanted to stop fantasizing about the possibility. I also told my brother and my best friend, just to keep it from being a dark secret for me. It still took me some time to start therapy again, but all of those things helped me. At one time, I started taking medication for my anxiety and depression and I went off of the meds twice. If, on a scale of 1 to 20, with one being my lowest emotionally, my depression pre-medication brought me down to an 8, going off of the meds took me down to a 2 or 3. It was very scary, and made me understand the importance of working with a doctor to go off of meds. Both times eventually brought on suicidal thoughts that frightened me enough that I had to ask my husband to help me make sure I took them. Let me be clear. I do not believe that I will ever take my life. I want to live, for so many reasons. However, there is a little voice inside my head that whispers about it and sometimes a whisper can be more frightening than a scream. So I remain vigilant against the voice.

My Tools: While speaking with a friend, who whose husband had recently died by suicide, about my experiences, she asked if I had a crisis plan. I had never heard of one. She gave me a quick explanation, and I looked into it further. I created a plan that helped me immensely when I had suicidal thoughts about 8 weeks ago, and I wrote about that experience. You can find a template for creating your own plan here.

How To Give Support: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline created a great toolkit that I highly recommend.

NSPL Never Give Up

Resources:  Take 5 To Save Lives is an amazing website, and I’m grateful for the information it has.

Share It Forward: Many people attempt suicide and are lucky enough to survive and share their stories with us. This is Silja Björk Björnsdóttir, and her words on the taboo of depression are so moving to me.

Thoughts on Five To Stay Alive and Suicide Prevention – Part 2

Here is my second essay, of seven, about my experiences with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, as well as tools, resources, and inspirations. I hope they help, and that you know you are not alone. Suicide is preVENTable, so let’s vent together. Talk it out!

Suicide is Preventable

My Experience: The other side of my depression coin is anxiety. The two go hand in hand like chocolate and peanut butter. Anxiety keeps me up all night, and depression keeps me in bed all day. Anxiety is in part a result of my depression, telling me that I can’t do anything right. However, in some ways, I think I’ve always been an uneasy, anxious person. I can remember being very anxious as a child. I’m anxious almost all the time.

Often, the anxiety is just a whisper I can tune out, but when it’s loud, it screams. One day, I was at my daughter’s school, helping the other board members with a deep cleaning of the school before fall classes started. I can be a little OCD about cleaning, so I was making sure that the legs and underside of the tables were clean. The entire time, I was having an internal dialogue about how the other parents probably thought I was taking too long. I’m sure they weren’t, but that was my fear. My depression gives me a negative view of myself, and my anxiety, at times, is that others will see that. My depression tells me I’m safer isolated, and so I become anxious when I ignore that compulsion and put myself out there. I’m anxious now, writing my truths for all to see. My internal dialogue is the harshest critic, but it attributes all my negative feelings and thoughts to those around me… insisting that this must be what everyone is thinking. Making decisions can be hard for me because I worry about the consequences of making the wrong one. I get overwhelmed and anxious at work for the same reason, and it can be stifling. I get anxious going to parties, especially if I don’t know many of the guests (if I’m ever late to a party, there’s a chance it’s because I was panicking at home, trying to talk myself into going. If I’ve been invited to a party and I didn’t show up, there’s a good chance I just couldn’t get past the panic). Hell, I get anxious going to large family functions. I’ve just always felt like an awkward outsider, no matter where I am, and it’s difficult to enjoy something with the mean internal dialogue that often accompanies me. Identifying with others has helped me. I’ve learned that there are so many others whose anxiety and depression manifests itself in many of the same ways that mine do. It makes me feel like less of a freak. Recently, I learned that there is a name for my habit of picking at my cuticles when I’m nervous or anxious. The habit goes back to at least my teens, and there are times that my cuticles and the areas all around my fingernails are torn, scabbed or bleeding. Often, I don’t realize I’ve done it until it’s too late. Other times, it’s a compulsion I can’t stop. Either way, I thought it was a shame only I carried. Knowing there are others that do the same helps me to understand myself better, and see that there is another way for me. I’m learning more and more that it’s ok to be me, and I’m really not so bad.

My Tools: I mentioned in Part 1 that my most important tool has been therapy. My second most important tool is talking and writing about my depression and anxiety. I’m blessed to have family (especially my husband) and friends that I can be honest with regarding how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking. When I was young, I wrote a lot of poetry. Recently, I have channeled my writing here, trying to express and share myself in a new and frightening way. Talking and writing about my feelings and experiences keep me from poisoning myself with the negativity.

How To Give Support: This site offers some simple tips for helping someone with depression, and #4 is often overlooked, but can be immensely effective.

Resources:  NAMI, or National Alliance on Mental Illness, is a wonderful resource for those with a mental illness like depression (or any other mental illness), as well as anyone wanting to give support to a loved one. The site can also help you find local resources.

Share It Forward:  As I mentioned above, writing has helped me live with depression. Obviously, I’m not the only one. There are many writers, artists, etc. that have channeled their feelings into their craft. Here are some wonderful examples of that kind of artistry:

Loudes Wainwright talks about his album, Haven’t Got The Blues Yet

Logic’s Anthem for Suicide Prevention, 1-800-273-8255 (the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, as this article details)

Finally, I just wanted to share this comic from Robot Hugs because I LOVE it. I highly recommend checking out the many other comics posted on the site.


Thoughts on Five To Stay Alive and Suicide Prevention – Part 1

September is Suicide Prevention Month, September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day, and the Sunday through Saturday surrounding that day are considered National Suicide Prevention Week. Organization and individuals the world over spend this time trying to raise awareness, reduce the number of suicides that occur, and get help and hope to those that desperately need it.

Depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts are deeply personal; no two people will experiences them in the exact same way. However, we may share many of the same feelings and issues. There are many misconceptions regarding all three afflictions, and the fact that it is so taboo to speak of them allows those myths to continue. Those that know me personally know of my passion to speak about depression. That has not always been the case. Until 2013, after a high school friend’s death by suicide, I was too afraid to be honest with anyone outside of my close circle about my struggles. Now, I strive to break down the walls of silence that contribute to so much suffering and death. Depression and anxiety ARE manageable. Suicide IS preventable. As long as we are willing to talk, and to listen.

With that in mind, in 2014, I wrote a series of essays I called my Five To Stay Alive posts. They were originally published as Notes on my Facebook page, one for each day of National Suicide Prevention Week. In these essays, I shared my own experiences with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, as well as the tools I use, tips on how you can support a loved one who struggles, links to available resources, and inspiring stories/videos. I believe these five pieces may be the keys to keeping you or someone you love alive. Who knows? They are just my stories, things that have helped or inspired me, and I don’t want to be silent about this ever again.

I thought it might be beneficial to republish these pieces, here on my blog, during National Suicide Prevention Week. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a new campaign this year: #BeThe1To. They recommend taking the 5 following steps: ask, keep them safe, be there, help them connect, follow up. Perhaps what I’ve written can help with that. My hope is that my posts might reach someone who needs them, at the right time. Or they might help someone else reach out to someone they love, to let them know they care and they are listening, so that they can be the one. That’s my goal, at least, and I thank you for reading.

BeThe1To_Lifeline-SocialMedia_201707276 (2)

My Experience: I’ve spoken with many friends about my openness regarding my depression. It’s was a coming out of the closet type of thing for me. Perhaps coming out of the darkness would be more appropriate. However you see it, it was therapeutic for me. At the same time, I still held back. In part because some aspects of my depression are embarrassing… humiliating even. The other part is because my depression still tells me I need to hide away. That if people saw me for who I really am… well… that would be the end of friends, love, etc. So I decided to facing those fears head on. I’m not looking for sympathy or for anyone to feel sorry for me. I just want to help anyone who reads these words and recognizes themselves in them. I want to say we’re not alone.

My husband once told me that his mind is a dangerous place to be. That was something I could identify with. I can literally lose myself in my mind. Lose any sense of who I really am, and get sucked into the vicious picture painted of me by my darkness. The only way to stop this, for me, is to talk about it.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline started a campaign called “Suicide is preVENTable”. I think it is fantastic. We live in a world where we are bombarded with advice like, “Look on the bright side,” “Don’t dwell on the negative,” “Count your blessings,” “Complain less.” The list goes on. So many of us with depression retreat. We depress. We shrink and hide and stop sharing ourselves. We believe that no one wants to hear it. Or maybe I should just say I. I feel like that. It’s not the way. Talking, writing, sharing, opening up… it takes me further and further from the darkness and gives me lifelines to hold onto.

Suicide is Preventable

So I’m going to write. Since I began opening up about depression, many of my friends have opened up to me as well. It has helped me feel less isolated. Less alone. Less like a damaged freak. It’s wonderful when you are able to identify with someone else. I recognize myself in others, and it soothes me. My hope is that by writing and sharing with all of you, anyone who is struggling may have the same experience. My hope is also to help myself, because I’m not entirely (or even close to being) selfless.

Today, I want to focus on sadness, and how that is not my depression. Someone that has not dealt with depression may think that I’m a human version of Eeyore, feeling sorry for myself with a raincloud constantly over my head. That’s not my depression. My depression is a Pandora’s box of negative emotions, the strongest of which are fear and self-loathing. I identify with some of the information found on Wikipedia regarding Major Depressive Disorder, “Major depressive disorder…is a mental disorder characterized by a pervasive and persistent low mood that is accompanied by low self-esteem and by a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities… A person having a major depressive episode usually exhibits a very low mood, which pervades all aspects of life, and an inability to experience pleasure in activities that were formerly enjoyed. Depressed people may be preoccupied with, or ruminate over, thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt or regret, helplessness, hopelessness, and self-hatred.”

I’m afraid of making mistakes, making a fool of myself, and of failing myself or others. I know many people have these fears, but mine leave me gasping for air and incapable of moving at times. I have these fears because I don’t believe I’m good enough. I have these fears because I believe I’m a fuck up that is just going to screw it all up. I believe that I am incapable of succeeding in anything. I believe my darkness. This is what it tells me. And my darkness has been with me since before I can remember. It is the voice I have heard more than any other. It’s taken a long time to realize that it lies to me. It’s taken a long time to realize that I’m in an abusive relationship with my darkness/myself. I am a battered woman, and it’s my own punches that have been thrown. In October 2013, Anne Theriault wrote a piece for Huffington Post, Ten Lies Your Depression Tells You that accurately described some of the lies my darkness tells me.

As with many victims of abuse (even self-inflicted), I also have a poor sense of self-worth/self-esteem. I don’t think I’m pretty, I don’t think I’m worthy. I never have…. But I’m working on it. I’m learning to build my self-esteem from the ground up now. At my lowest, I hide away. I don’t want to see anyone or do anything. Before having my daughter, I could stay in bed all weekend. Thus would begin my cycle: stay in bed, avoid everything, lay there and think about all the things I should be doing, start to feel guilty/bad/overwhelmed, go to sleep. Repeat. Not a lot of self-help there, which brings me to…

My Tools: The first tool I ever used to battle my depression was therapy. I was twelve when I first started therapy, and I’ve gone off and on all of my life. However, it was only as an adult, when I made the decision to go myself and I really committed to the process (including finding a therapist that was right for me) that it started to make a difference. It’s not the only tool I use, but I WOULD NOT BE ALIVE TODAY if it wasn’t for therapy. I truly believe that.

How To Give Support: There are wonderful websites and blogs that have tips for giving support to your loved ones. Here are a few of my favorites:

10 Ways to Show Love to Someone With Depression

Suicide Is Preventable


Resources: When I began therapy again several years ago, I worried about how I could afford it. Then I found a low-fee clinic with a sliding scale counseling program that serves individual adults and children, couples, and families, through both licensed and intern therapists. There are many community mental health centers, and both the National Council for Behavioral Health and SAMHSA can help you find an affordable one in your area.

Share It Forward: I saw this piece some time ago, and it has stuck with me. I posted it over and over on my Facebook page, to bring the point home. There was a time when I would say I suffer from or struggle with depression. Now I know better. I LIVE with depression. And I’m not ashamed of it. Kevin Breel’s Ted Talk, Confessions of a depressed comic, taught me that.