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!
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.