Thoughts On Being Better Off

Each year, May is recognized as National Mental Health Awareness Month. I thought that I might write about a revelation I had early this year, regarding my own struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, but I didn’t realize it would take me so long to complete it. This subject and this post have been very difficult, both for me to face and for me to share. The fact that I was so uncomfortable with it convinced me even more that this was important to follow through with, despite the anxiety and tears. It took me nearly the entire month to move past my own avoidance and blocks to complete it, and I hope that it is helpful to others.

For a long time, I was misinformed regarding suicide. I believed the misconceptions that I saw in the media, whether tv, movies or the news, as well as the stories of those around me. The only other time I remember hearing suicide discussed was in junior high, but even then I can’t remember if it was during class or a school-wide presentation. What I took away from that lesson was to watch out for loved ones who suddenly began giving away prized possessions, because that was a sign that they could be planning to commit suicide. That was the extent of my knowledge and understanding of suicide and suicidal thoughts for a large part of my life.

Due to this lack of information and guidance, for a long time I believed, as do others, that suicide was a selfish act. I believed that someone who committed suicide was only thinking of themselves, and their own pain, and did not give any thought to the pain and suffering of those that would be left behind. They didn’t give thought to the burdens, both emotional and practical, that their loved ones would be faced with in the aftermath. I remember being very angry with my uncle, who died by suicide in December 2009, for the nightmare he left for his family to navigate. I remember thinking, “How could he do that to them!”

By the time I heard the news about an old high school friend’s death by suicide in 2013, I had read a lot more about suicide, talked to others who live with anxiety and depression as I do, and had a better understanding of some of the ways that those with severe and/or chronic depression think about suicide. I knew that many individuals who died by suicide, or had attempted to, believed that their loved ones were better off without them. Many believed that their act was one of selflessness; a sacrifice for those they love.

For a time, I understood all this as a concept, but I didn’t really get it. I believed that I would never attempt to take my own life because I wouldn’t want to put my loved ones, especially my daughter, through that kind of pain. I continued to believe this until the beginning of this year. 2017 was an incredible hard year for me and my family. We suffered the premature birth and death of our son, Lincoln, in April (our second late pregnancy loss in 3 years) and an early miscarriage in November. At a certain point, I felt like I was grappling to the point of suffocation as I tried to manage my life. I wasn’t mentally present for my daughter, which added to my feelings of guilt and inadequacy. I was impatient and harsh with my husband, subjecting him to my mercurial moods, which heaped even more guilt onto my conscience.

I remember struggling to make it through the work day, and coming home with no other desire than to collapse in my bed. There were many days that I did just that. When my daughter would want to play, I would tell her that mommy didn’t feel well, or that mommy had a headache. I felt terrible, because all she wanted was my attention and companionship, and I just didn’t have it in me to give it to her. I began to think of stories I’d heard, of adult children talking about how they had to tiptoe around their parent’s mental illness, and I wondered if that’s how my daughter would look back on her childhood someday. Mom closed off in a dark room, while she had to stifle and withdraw herself. I began to feel sorry for my husband, having to step up and take on more of the burden of the household, all while dealing with my ever-changing moods that went from loving to pissed at barely a moment’s notice.

That’s when the lies of my depression started to get louder in my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about what I was putting them through because of my mental illness, and my inability to manage it. I started to think that I was making them suffer now, and that it could only get worse and more damaging as time progressed. I felt ashamed and scared, and I thought about how much easier life could be for them if they didn’t have to deal with my issues. That they’d be better off without me, and that I would be saving them from having to endure it all any longer.

I just as quickly realized that this is what people were talking about when they said that some individuals who attempted or even died by suicide truly believed they were making a sacrifice for their families. That it was for the best. Once the thought came to my mind, it felt like looking at one of those Magic Eye 3-D picture books. It’s a distortion, but once you adjust to seeing the picture in a different way, it’s difficult to stop seeing it that way. Now that I’ve had thoughts that my family would be better off without me, I can’t uncross that line. And it’s hard not to feel the weight of shame that comes with it.

In spite of that, I know I have to be diligent to also have counter arguments to the lies and distortions in my head. Shortly after I thought about my family being better off, I talked to my husband about these feelings; I also talked to my therapist. I honestly don’t remember the conversations themselves, only that I have an agreement with myself to be honest about these thoughts and feelings, so that I don’t allow them to fester and grow. The conversations were difficult, but also reassuring. It’s hard for my husband to understand the way my mind works, but he’s always open in a safe and non-judgemental way. My therapist helps me to remember that these thoughts are not abnormal, considering my depression and the recent hardships we’ve handled, and that I’m taking the right steps to face them.

I’m working on my feelings of self-worth, and building a positive image of myself. I’m working on lowering my expectations of myself, so that I don’t feel like a failure. I’m working on remembering that I am a perfectly imperfect person, and that I am worthy of the love and admiration of those around me. Most importantly, I’m working every day to remind myself that both I and my loved ones are much better off with me, than without.

However, it’s still a work in progress. Whenever I share these types of posts, I try to end things on a positive note. I try to share tips or tools that have or are working for me. I don’t want to just share a sad story, have others pity me, and leave it at that. But I don’t have a tidy bow to wrap this one up in. As I said, once you see things a certain way, it’s difficult to unsee that. Simply talking to my husband and therapist about these thoughts and feelings haven’t made them go away. Working on how I feel about myself has not made them go away. Whenever I lose my patience and temper, or struggle to be present, with my husband or daughter, I have a niggling thought of them being better off without the turmoil I bring. There’s a possibility that this will be a life-long struggle for me. But as my husband said, honesty is an important part of any recovery. I don’t have this figured out. It doesn’t have an ending. All I have is the honesty of my truths, and the hope that that is enough for me, and for you.

Thoughts On Being True To My Feelings

A couple of months ago, I decided to join my husband on his trip to New York, NY, for a fantasy sports industry event he was attending. New York is my favorite city in the world, but I hadn’t been back there in over 20 years. Since the trip fell on the weekend before our 9th wedding anniversary, it seemed like the perfect time and place to celebrate a little early. We joked that it was going to be an amazing trip because we would only see each other on the day we arrived and the day we would depart for home, due to his event schedule. I planned out the places I wanted to see and things I wanted to do. I asked friends for tips on their favorite places. I reveled in the joy of having only myself to be concerned about for two days! I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to go.

A little under a week before we were set to leave, after some persistent suspicions, I took a pregnancy test and was gloriously surprised with a positive result. We were relieved and overjoyed. This journey to have another baby has expended so much from us, a positive test relieves a bit of the weight we carry. We were also anxious and scared, as only a parent who understands that a positive pregnancy test means you’re pregnant, but not necessarily that you’re going to have a baby, can be. We only had a possibility of a baby at that point. So, we looked ahead to future plans to see how this pregnancy would fit, but also understood that it was much too early to really have any idea of what to expect. We decided to wait to tell the doctor, as well as modified plans for our trip.

I started to have some very light, brownish spotting a few days later, which has happened in previous pregnancies. As much as I tried to tell myself that everything could still be fine, my anxiety spoke louder. About 4-5 days after our first positive pregnancy test, I took another. The positive sign was still there, but it was a little fainter than the one previous. I waited a day before doing it again, and this time the result was negative. I told myself that it might be because I had gone to the bathroom during the middle of the night. It was early. There wasn’t enough hormones built up yet. We still had our possibility.

We flew out on a Thursday evening, after traveling for 3 hours to drop off our daughter with her grandmother before heading to San Francisco. Upon arrival in our terminal, I went into the restroom and saw the first drop of bright red blood. My heart swooped into my stomach and my breath left me in a rush. I had mentally prepared both myself and Justin for this probability, given the signs, but I had still held on to the hope that I could hold on to this baby. I still thought that after all we had been through, with the loss of Lincoln last May and the early loss of our baby sixth months later, the universe couldn’t possibly put us through our third loss in less than a year. Our fifth loss in less than 3 years. It didn’t seem fair.

As we flew from the west coast to the east, the bleeding and cramping increased. Once we arrived at our hotel, over 11 hours after having left home, I was physically and emotionally drained, and felt hopeless and discouraged. We revised our plans for the day, and both laid down for some much needed rest. Once we awoke, we decided to push forward with our anniversary dinner together, followed by a meet up with the rest of the fantasy experts, at a local bar. We wanted to put the miscarriage momentarily to the side, and enjoy some of our brief time together on this trip. The dinner was amazing and the evening with new friends was a wonderful distraction from familiar pain and disappointment. We ended the evening holding each other in bed.

The next day, I begged off from our planned breakfast and let Justin meet up with his friend by himself, since I had spent most of the previous evening in pain and discomfort. As the morning wore on, it only increased, along with my anxiety. I canceled plans with a friend, to watch the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and attempted to sleep and avoid. Unfortunately, I continuously awoke with pain, sorrow, shame and guilt. I felt ashamed for wasting my short time in New York, while simultaneously feeling guilty for wanting to do anything other than mourn the loss of the life inside of me.

Around late-morning, the bulk of the miscarriage had passed, and the pain began to ease. I decided to get up, get ready, and attempt to make the most of the time I had remaining in the day. I decided to mix together the plans I had looked forward to most, along with recommendations from a friend I had messaged earlier in the day (one of the few people to know about what I was going through, who offered his love, condolences and advice, along with some agenda choices for my now marred trip). Yet, as I got ready, I was still conflicted with the feelings of shame and guilt that plagued me all morning. I struggled to reconcile my feelings of sadness and loss, with the desire to not miss out on the opportunity to take advantage of my time in one of my favorite places. How could I want to do anything more than lie in bed and cry over yet another baby that would never be held in my arms? How could I, after having waited for over 20 years, waste the chance (not to mention money) to walk around the streets of New York? Would it be avoiding my feelings to allow myself to enjoy the city? Would it be ridiculous of me to spend my brief trip holed up in a hotel room by myself, wallowing in pity? I was stuck in a cycle of self-recriminations regarding what I should do and what I should feel, and how to best be true to my feelings.

As I continued to reproach myself, my thoughts drifted to pondering how our society has changed in many ways, over several decades, in regards to how emotional/mental health is viewed and handled. There was a time that many would approach it by avoiding or ignoring emotions. Simply shove them down as far as they would go, and then keep moving forward. Eventually, the pendulum swung the other way, and embracing and voicing feelings has been seen has the healthy approach. My battle with myself was due to being pulled between the two. I realized I was putting too much stock in what I thought I should do, rather than what I felt I wanted and needed. I wasn’t being true to myself, nor to my feelings, because I was allowing outside pressure to dictate my actions.

Then I began to think of others in my life who had suffered loss, the ways they handled those losses, and my judgement of their actions. I have a friend who lost his wife, after a long battle with cancer. Not long after her death, he made the decision to close her Facebook account and get rid of her belongings. I remember thinking, “No! You’re moving too quickly! You’re not giving the kids time to process this loss before changing things. You’re going to regret this!” Recently, a friend unexpectedly lost her father. A week later, she shared her feelings of wanted to get back to normal and not wanting the negative aspects of dealing with grief. Again, I judged, thinking, “Grieving is normal and healthy. You need this to move forward without the pain crippling you later!” In thinking about these friends, I realized how wrong I had been. I don’t know what they need in order to feel and process their grief. As much as I didn’t want others to rush my own grieving process, I couldn’t push my own timeline on others. These friends could only do what was best for them, and be true to their own feelings. I had to realize that I couldn’t push, even silently and from afar, what I perceived to be best way to handle their loss. They could only find their own way through it, and I could only support them, even silently and from afar, in that journey. I also realized that’s what I needed to do for myself.


I left my hotel room and I walked. I walked from the Financial District to Central Park. Then I walked some more. I marveled in the sights and sounds of the city. I listened to conversations and I people watched. I visited places I loved and found areas I had never seen before. I walked, but not away from my feelings. I found joy, even in the midst of sorrow. I found that holding onto my happiness didn’t mean that I had to let go of the hurt; I could be with both and still stay in the moment. Most of all, I found that doing what I wanted and needed, for myself, was the right thing to do, and nothing could be truer for me.

Thoughts On “Our Only Time”

Our Only Time

I was referred to Amie Lands by my friend, Nicole, in 2015, following the death of our son, Josiah, at 21w3d. Amie is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, and she had a new group session starting that I thought would help me to process my grief. It did, but it also gave me so much more through my growing friendship with Amie. Her strength and kindness have moved and lifted me in ways I could not have imagined. In addition to her work with The Grief Recovery Method, Amie is also a mom, teacher, author and founder of The Ruthie Lou Foundation, which was named after Amie’s daughter, Ruthie Lou, who she held for 33 days.

Amie’s first book, Navigating the Unknown: An Immediate Guide When Experiencing the Loss of Your Baby, is an incredible book for any parent finding themselves in the bewildering position of grieving a pregnancy or child loss. This is the book I wish we’d had following Josiah’s death, because “This book encompasses everything that you need to know about navigating the unfamiliar journey of grief. It covers all the unexpected decisions that need to be made when a parent faces such devastating news, and follows through the first year and after, including: informing others, experiencing grief, taking care of oneself, asking for help, how to re-enter into the world, having ‘grocery store conversations’, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and how to memorialize, honor and celebrate your precious baby.” Additionally, Tending to Your Heart is a free, downloadable e-book created by Amie to help others start their healing journey.

In March 2017, Amie sent me a message to ask if I would like to be a part of her newest project, a book for health professionals and birth workers that would give them insights as to how best assist the families that would go home without their precious child(ren). At that time, I was four and a half months pregnant with our second son, Lincoln. While our hospital experience (not just the loss, but how we were treated) when we lost Josiah was traumatic, and I wanted to share our story in order to help others, I was nervous about how reliving that time in the hospital would affect my current, anxious state and our baby. Despite my reservations, I agreed to write our story, in hopes that other families would not have to suffer in the same way.

Less than two weeks after agreeing to participate in Amie’s new project, I once again went into premature labor and delivered our son, Lincoln, at 19w4d. He lived for nearly 3 hours, gently held by those who loved him, before passing in his father’s hands. The compounding grief was shattering, and I told Amie there was no way I could contribute to her book now. Of course, she understood. Yet, as the days and weeks passed, I contemplated how different the two experiences were, thanks to the medical staff who shared Lincoln’s brief life with us. I didn’t have the weighted guilt and regret that anchored me after Josiah’s death, and I attribute that to the care and respect we were given during our hospital stay. More and more, I saw that I had something to share that had the potential to make a positive impact for other families.

Despite numerous attempts to write something clear and concise and helpful, I found that most of my drafts lacked the truth I was searching for. They instead were filled with hurt and anger and deep sadness. While those emotions were perfectly understandable, they didn’t allow the heart of what I wanted to share to shine through. When I took a step back, I realized it was because I was not allowing myself to drop into those moments in the hospital and really feel how those experiences had imprinted themselves onto me. I took a deep breath and willed myself to sink into those memories, and by doing so, “When Lightening Strikes Twice,” flowed through me. It is true and honest and real. It is part of the story of my boys, Josiah and Lincoln, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share it with others.

My contribution has been included in Amie’s newest book, Our Only Time, which was released today. Amie’s website explains:

Our Only Time was created to motivate, inspire and show appreciation for medical professionals through experiences told from a patient’s perspective. Through heartfelt stories, families share the sacred time spent with their baby — whether in utero or after birth — and offer insights into how medical professionals positively impacted their experience. Also included are recommendations on how best to be supportive of patients and what types of actions to avoid during this devastating experience.

Through these incredibly intimate stories of loss, medical professionals can better understand a grieving family’s experience, and become equipped to support bereaved parents when they leave the hospital without their baby. Medical professionals will come away with new insights on how to guide parents, empowering them to have the least amount of regret during this loss, and allowing for the greatest chance of healing in their grief as they re-enter the world.”

I’m proud of the incredible work that Amie has done, and I’m proud to be a part of it. I know this book will make an tremendous impact on families living through an unimaginable loss, and the professionals who are assisting them. If you or someone you know might benefit from reading this book, please do not hesitate to order it today.


When Lightning Strikes Twice

By Danielle Salinger

“I’m here for you. I’m not going anywhere.”

My memory of many of the moments while in the hospital is vague; too little sleep and too much adrenaline, heartbreak and fear. They blend the memories together like a painting by Monet, giving only vague impressions. But I remember the words that our nurse, Anna, said to me as she sat in the chair beside my bed and took my hand.

“You’re my only patient right now. We can wait until you’re ready.”

Her words struck me most because they were in such stark contrast to how things were handled two years ago, when we found ourselves in quite literally the same position. At that time, things happened so quickly it was hard to understand. To come to grips. To accept. To breathe. I was 21w3d pregnant with our son, Josiah. We were so excited to be having a boy after 3 ½ years of trying to get pregnant, following the harrowing birth of our daughter 6 years prior, a birth I nearly didn’t survive due to severe hemorrhaging and a cervical tear. We were so concerned with my own survival through another birth that we never thought about the possibility of something happening to our son after we crossed that first trimester threshold. Then my water broke in the middle of the night. We rushed to the hospital and were taken immediately to Labor & Delivery, or L&D. I was examined and, once the situation was explained to us, we were given options. I could stay in the hospital on bed rest, hoping to hold onto Josiah until he had a better chance of surviving, or we could give birth to him and have an opportunity to say goodbye, or we could terminate the pregnancy. Those choices dwindled in less than an hour when I began to heavily bleed. After the trauma of my first birth, the doctor became concerned about hemorrhaging. We were told that the best way to ensure the chance of my own survival, since there was no hope of saving our son, was to terminate the pregnancy immediately. There wasn’t time to ask questions, or consult our regular doctor. We were terrified and devastated, and made the decision we thought would be best for our family, although we didn’t fully understand the choice we were making. The doctors and nurses and staff grieved with us. They were caring and kind, and took wonderful care of me as I was prepped for surgery. However, the prep was only for surgery, and not for the shattered pieces of me that would remain. Looking back, I could see that the care was only for me, and not my son. He was not viewed as a patient, as a person. The only tangible evidence I had that he existed were the ultrasound photos and the prints of his hands and feet that a nurse was thoughtful enough to make sure we had before we left. That wrecked me, because I needed to grieve a person that wasn’t even truly recognized by those that were helping me. A little over six hours after we had arrived at the hospital, we were discharged home and I left empty and ill-equipped to handle the way that my life had been cleaved apart.

They say that lightning doesn’t strike twice, but in tragedy this isn’t true. This is how we found ourselves back in L&D, two years later, facing the loss of another son. I was 19w4d on the day Lincoln died. While so many things were different, it was all very much the same. We would still be leaving the hospital without our son. This time, it was my cervix that gave out, instead of the amniotic sac. I had arrived at the hospital the previous day, and we tried all night to save him. By the next morning, it was obvious that there was nothing else that could be done and I was going to have to give birth that day.

“What’s going to happen now?” I asked Anna, as she turned in her seat to face me and clasped my hand between hers.

“Whatever you need,” she replied.

“Would you like to meet with a social worker?”

“Yes, please.”

We never met with anyone other than nurses and doctors when Josiah died, but this time we were able to speak with a professional who guided other families through moments like these. Sitting in our dark room, we discussed resources and support. We reviewed mortuaries and end-of-life tasks that are often forgotten. We talked about counseling and bereavement groups. We were given these tools in order to reach out to our community and find what we needed to survive well. We were also given a folder with the same information, since we certainly wouldn’t remember later. But she knew we would need it eventually. We did.

“Would you like to meet with a minister or priest?” Anna asked.

“Yes, please.”

We lost Josiah without any spiritual guidance, but Lincoln was blessed before he was born, which was of comfort to me because it was another acknowledgement of my son’s spirit, which I had come to cherish and love during my pregnancy. The minister came to our room and also sat beside me to talk more about our sons and our losses. We shared with him the circumstances of how we lost Josiah, and the wracking guilt choosing to terminate a fiercely wanted pregnancy left us with. We also discussed our too-soon-to-be loss of Lincoln, and our fears for what would come after. Fears of having to tell our daughter, and other family and friends, that we had once again lost a son, as well as fears of navigating the compounded grief we were facing. He listened and his commiserated. He offered guidance, thoughts and a bit of faith for what was to come; faith that we needed, but had been missing for some time.

“Would you like something for the pain? I know you’re hurting right now, but there’s no need for you to suffer physically,” Anna assured me.

“Yes, please.”

Once the epidural was in place, I told her we were ready to meet Lincoln. We didn’t want to prolong the inevitable, and wanted to allow him to go peacefully as we held him.

“How is this going to go?” I asked.

She could have glossed over what we were about to experience. She could have used terms we didn’t understand. Instead, she was blunt and she was thorough. And she prepared us as best she could, both physically and emotionally for what was about to occur.

“Would you like me to bathe him?” she asked. “I could also place one of the gowns we have on him.”

“Yes, please.”

She honored him. Not only did Anna honor us, our family, our experience, our past, our birth… she honored our son. She saw him, and she saw us. She saw our love, and she made sure to mirror that back to us. She knew that we were going to leave the hospital in pieces and knew we would have to be put back together. Through every step of the way, as slowly as we needed to go, she made sure that some of those pieces would be imprinted with Lincoln, to carry with us always. She gave us memories of love, thoughts of future healing, and a small piece of her to carry with us as well. She taught us that when lightning strikes twice, it’s time and care that can make all the difference.

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.