Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Say hello, save a life.

Suicide Awareness Day tends to sneak up on me. It's a day that it's hard. Sometimes hitting me right in the gut, sometimes bringing waves of emotion. 

Mental health is so close to my heart, something that I've struggled with, fought, won, lost and won again. It's my passion. It's my demon. 

But here I am. Finally on the other side of the mountain, in a position to help others fight their battles and work through their own journeys. 

So many people struggle. They may be open about it or they may be hiding behind a smile. People handle depression, grief and anxiety in so many different ways. Check on them. No. Matter. What. 

Take the time to ask your friends how they are doing. Be sincere. Be kind. Listen. For a long time, I was able to hold it together - until I wasn't. The battle began. Over ten attempts later, I'm still here. I'm happy. I'm empowered. I'm healthy. It took a long time to get here and a having a support system that takes the time to check in has been a huge factor in my recovery. 

Not everyone has that. So please, be that person. Reach out. Even if you haven't talked to them in awhile, be the friend who says hi. You never know whether or not it could be a game changer for someone. 

If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out. If you don't have anyone, I'm here. Another great resource is 7 Cups of Tea, a website and app that allows you to chat with peers that have gone through similar experiences. It's an amazing resource to use when you are not in crisis. 

If you are considering suicide or self harm, please get help. Check yourself into a psychiatric hospital, a resource that saved my life more than once. Look into a Respite to recharge. Look into resources through NAMI. Or use these resources for suicide prevention:

National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255

More than anything, remember that you are worth it. You have a purpose and a beautiful life ahead of you. Don't let your story end. 

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Why the butterfly

Change. It's scary. Terrifying, really. It shakes me to my core and is oh so hard. But it's also wonderful. Change can take something and make it beautiful. A storm into a rainbow, summer leaves into beautiful fall colors, caterpillars into butterflies. 

Change can bring hope. It can make someone feel empowered and hopeful. Yes, it may also come with sadness and difficulty, but if you really think about why the change is happening, there is almost always a light there, too. It may be dim, it may seem far away, but it's there and the harder you fight the brighter it will become. 

I've gone through so much change in my life. Some things that I've made very public, others that I've kept personal. But through it all, I've leaned on God and kept the image of a butterfly in my mind. I have it tattooed on my ankle with a semicolon body. It's my constant reminder that the continuing the fight will always result in seeing beauty, if only for a moment. 

As my life circumstances change and my journey shifts, I continue to be strong and focus on the beauty of change. I'm terrified. But every day I put on my armor of God and I fight. I remind myself of all I've been through and remember that I am a warrior. 

There are so many good things happening right now. My path is becoming clearer. I'm taking the road less traveled and it is stunning. I encourage you to face your hard times head on and find the beauty in the storm. Embrace the change and find the transformation that will take place at the end of this small path that is just a curve in your long road. Yes, change is a wild ride of emotion and pain and sadness. But find the light. Find the joy. And remember, at the end of it all, your butterfly will emerge. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Dear 16 year old me...

Dear 16 year old me,

It's ok to be you. Stop trying to be skinny enough, popular enough and pretty enough. Stop trying to force yourself into circles that are not welcoming. You are fine without them. Trust your gut. Don't give into the peer pressure from your boyfriend, your co-workers or your so-called friends. It's not worth it.

Those thoughts of being less than? Forget them. Don't listen to the people telling you that you're too skinny or too fat. You are perfect as you are. Stop ruminating on every word spoken to you, it will only destroy your perspective.

Ignore the bullies, they find joy that they don't deserve when they tear you down. You are better than them. Forget the teachers who say you can't do it. You have the brains, use them. Don't let someone else's lack of confidence in you destroy the confidence you have in yourself.

Most of all, practice self love. Speak encouraging words to yourself and others. Take time to express yourself in healthy ways instead of giving into unhealthy habits. You are worth so much more than you give yourself credit for.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Finding Myself Again

Looking back on my life since February, when I went so far down into those deep, dark thoughts that I couldn't handle life anymore, the change astonishes me. I have learned to love myself again. I've regained my joy. I look at my family and feel so full of pride. Everything is different. And it feels good.

Getting here was a long, hard, seemingly impossible journey. I think about how far down I was, how worthless I felt, how numb I was and I see a totally different person. I didn't care. I didn't feel joy. I had lost my Faith. I felt so incredibly empty that I just couldn't see the point in going on. I would think to myself, "who would want a mother like this?" and with each time that thought made it into my brain, I would be a step closer to suicide. Until I would try. Again and again and again. Yet, I'm still here. And oh how grateful I feel.

I know some of you are in that dark, lonely place. You may have lost the spark that makes you, you. I know I did. I was a shell of a human being and it. felt. awful. You may feel like you have nowhere to go or no one to talk to. Or maybe you feel like you are just going in circles from day to day. But you know what? You're here. You still have a purpose. The light may be so far away that it has seemingly gone out, but I promise it's still there. And if you grit your teeth and claw and fight you will see it again. You'll learn to be kind to yourself, you'll learn how to cope, you'll learn how to dance again.

So please, keep fighting. You are so, so worth it. And when you come out on the other side I promise you will be stronger for it.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

But You Have So Much to Live For

"Just think happy thoughts."
"You have so much to live for."
"Why can't you just be happy?"

Those are just a few of the things that people with mental illness are told on a regular basis. Things that, in many cases, just make the person suffering feel guilt. Guilt that results in ruminating and self loathing, which makes their situation that much worse.

What people don't realize is that, as I've said so many times before, mental illness is a chronic disease. It can be managed with medicine and therapy which in the best cases can keep people stable, but finding that perfect combination of treatment can take years; years that some people can't survive because they don't have a support system.

Then there are the relapses. A medicine stops working or a person gets hit with a major trigger. They spiral faster than they can get in with their doctor and before anyone else knows it, the disease has won.

It's a disease that people who suffer have to spend countless days fighting. Days where they have to force themselves out of bed, force themselves to eat, force themselves to leave the house. Force themselves to get through another day.

If you love someone who suffers from a mental illness, stop telling them to "just snap out of it" and try listening. Tell them that you are there for them. If they need space, respect that while checking in and making sure that they stay safe. Get them involved in a program or group that allows them to talk to someone who "gets it." But most of all, be compassionate and empathetic because mental illness is a disease, not a state of mind.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Stigma is Real

Tonight, while trying to defend another mother, I was told to "take my mental health issues somewhere else." This person knew about my personal struggles because I had used them as an example in a comment trying to give the mom I was defending some advice.

Here's the thing. People who think mental health struggles can be slung at others as an insult are the same people who contribute to the stigma that so desperately needs to be broken. I guarantee that had I been talking about a physical disease, this person would not have said a word about it, because in their minds I wouldn't have anything to be ashamed of.

I don't write this for pity or because my feelings were hurt - they weren't. I write because this person was a harsh reminder of the fact that there are plenty of people who see mental health as something to be ashamed of instead of a disease that should be as normal to talk about as any physical ailment. This is why we have awareness days. This is why so many have gotten semicolon tattoos. This is why mental health should be discussed daily.

Along with this blog, I run a Bipolar Disorder Support Group on Facebook and am always amazed at how many people feel like they are alone and come to the group because they are seeking others like them. I see numerous people a day state in the entry questions that they want to join the group because no one understands or because they feel like there isn't anyone else out there "like them."

If only they knew.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 17.3 million adults in the U.S. have experienced at least one major depressive episode. 35% of those people did not receive any medical treatment. (2017) On the CDC website, it states that suicide has been the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in the US since 2008. In 2016 it became the second leading cause of death in ages 10-34 and the fourth in ages 35-54.

Did you read that? I'll say it again - suicide is the second leading cause of death for people as young as TEN years old.

Something HAS to change. People with mental health issues need to know that they aren't alone. And that won't happen until we start talking about it openly. Yes, there will always be people like the one I ran into tonight, but that shouldn't stop us. It should motivate us. We have the power to start a conversation, and the more people we get to talk about mental health openly and comfortably, the more people will realize that they have nothing to be ashamed of and that they aren't alone.

Because that's what matters - making sure that people know they shouldn't be ashamed and even more importantly, they aren't alone. Let's create a world where people like the one I ran into tonight are far and in between  It will save lives.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Finding the Joy

During an Easter Weekend filled with sunny days, fun times and Jesus, I felt guilty. Guilty because I desperately wanted to be consumed with as much joy as my husband and children, but it just wasn't all there. Yes, I was happy and yes, I was enjoying my precious time with family. But I wanted more. I wanted to feel uplifted and full. Instead I was running on half empty.

Why is it that someone with mental health issues has so much trouble finding the FULL joy during amazing parts of life? I had no reason to struggle over the weekend. Everything was near perfect, yet there were times where I had to force smiles, reassure that everything was fine and internally feel guilty for both.

But is the guilt warranted? I'm honestly not sure. On one end, I can't help how I feel. There is no switch I can flip, no happy thought to uplift my mind and spirit. But then, I feel like I should be able to find the joy when everything is good. And that's what the weekend was - good! Beyond good, actually.

Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself and maybe I should be kinder towards my feelings. But man, it's hard. Especially when everyone around me has that spark. When you can tell that the are truly and completely happy and I'm just not.

Even as I sit here today, I look back on the weekend and wish I had soaked it all in. That I was able to ingrain every smile, every laugh, every piece of happiness that everyone else saw. That I could see through the mental health fog and have a clear view of the absolute joy in front of me.

But, so goes my days with these diseases of the mind. And despite my guilt and disappointment in myself, I do think that I will remember this Easter weekend as good. As a time that my family saw everything clearly, even if I didn't. And knowing that brings me a little more joy than I had before. Because even if it wasn't perfect for me, I hope it was nearly perfect for them. 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Rock Bottom

Six weeks ago, I lost sight of what was important. I lost all emotion. No joy, no sadness, no anger. I felt nothing as I stared at the bottles, hoping they would make it all end. I took the pills. I apologized to my husband, who immediately talked me into going to the hospital. The last thing I remember is telling the front desk what I did. Then I was in the ICU. I woke up the day before my twins' birthday party, filled with shame, guilt and regret. Thank God for a compassionate social worker, willing to take the heat for releasing me instead of having me spend time at the psych hospital.

It was at rock bottom again. I had been struggling with depression and anxiety despite not having a reason to. As per usual, I didn't understand. But I felt like there was nothing I could do and that everyone, especially my family, deserved a version of me that no longer existed.

But when I woke up, I was back. I was ready to love on my kids again. I was ready to hug my husband, who supports me through even the darkest times. I was ready to be the best me possible, despite the mountains I would have to climb.

Then God stepped in. Not only did he give me more time, he lead me on a path that resulted in my first job in seven years. Something to give me purpose when the kids were at school. Something to challenge me, sharpen my mind and give me another reason to get up in the morning.

Yes, recovery has been hard. But I have to say, I have the best family around. They support me, love on me and advocate for me. My husband is my biggest fan, the person who is straight forward but compassionate. Who is on the phone for every doctor appointment and call to the office. Who sees when I am struggling before I do.

Six weeks ago, he knew something was off. He knew it was bad. He didn't know that I had a plan, something that I know hurt him deeply. I hid it. I lied about how I was doing. Yet he stays. He holds me as I cry. He loves me unconditionally. He's my number one.

Don't get me wrong, my kids are my world. They give me purpose. When I am healthy, my mind revolves around them and how I can work to raise them the best way I know how. But my husband...man, he is there. Always.

So even though I hit rock bottom again, I now see everything I have to give me purpose. My family, my job and my God. Oh how God has worked in my life. He gives me chance after chance after chance to be here. To live a full life. He guides me out of the darkness. He gives me support through my family. He so unexpectedly gives me a job to help me through. He is gracious and kind and forgiving. I know I need to better myself, but He has put people around me to help do so. And I am oh so thankful for that.

If you feel like you can't go on, reach out. Tell someone, anyone. Talk to your family or a friend. Call the crisis line. Email me. No matter what you think, there is always a reason to live. There are always people who care even when you don't see it. The world is better with you in it and your story isn't over. It gets better. Even if you've been at rock bottom again and again and again, you will climb out on top every time if you can just reach out. I wish I had. But I am so happy that my plan failed and that God's plan for me isn't over. I'm ok now. I'm happy. You can get there, too. Just talk and soon your rock bottom will not seem so dark. You'll see the light and you will get better. Be encouraged, friends. You're worth it.

If you are struggling and feel you have no one to talk to, please reach out to your local crisis line or call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also reach out via live chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Relapse

Last Friday, I stared at two pill bottles. I felt the weight of what I was about to do, but no emotion towards it. I felt no joy, no sorrow, no pain. Just...nothing.

I didn't think about the fact that the next day my twins were celebrating their 5th birthday with friends at their first big party. I didn't think about watching all three of them growing up, graduating, getting married. I didn't think about the people I know who have lost parents and have felt that sadness every day since.

I thought about how ending everything would make my boys' lives easier. How they would have happier memories with no mother at all than they would with a mommy whose moods fluctuate so greatly. I thought about my husband not needing to worry about me anymore. How the burden of my disease would be lifted off his shoulders and he could find someone "normal."

So I took the pills. A lot of them. And when my husband got home he saw it in my eyes.

"What did you do?!"

So I told him. I think I was honest because I didn't really want to die. I just wanted everyone else's lives to be better. I don't know. I still can't fully comprehend why I didn't just keep it to myself until it was too late. And I wish I could say I'm glad I told him, but I'm not.

I'm still suicidal. I still don't want to be here. I still feel empty. Tired. There's no joy left.

But I'm working on it. I've been trying to express my feelings to my support system. I have calls into my doctor. I'm trying to find things out of the house to give me purpose. Because as much as I love my kids with all my heart, I need something else. So I'm putting myself out there and hoping for the best.

But friends, I need prayer. I need healing. I need something. And I know that something will come; it always does. I just need it to come fast.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Perfectly Imperfect - Behind the Selfie

That quote...it's me. I hide behind my Facebook profile, happy as can be. There are no tantrums, no fights, no worries. 

Oh how misleading that is. 

The truth - and this is hard to write - is that I am drowning, constantly. I feel like everything is out of control. My kids, my health, sometimes even my marriage. My perfect little boys? Talking back, throwing toys, beating each other up like they are in a boxing ring. My perfect marriage? Far from it. Don't get me wrong, we are very much in love - for ten years now - but there are still kinks. Still arguments. Still trying to find our groove all these years later. 

We had kids young and fast. That surprise positive test came on our two month wedding anniversary. We hardly know what married life is like without children. And you know what? It's HARD! We are now three kids and nearly eight years in with daily struggles. I don't know if it's normal to still have trouble finding our place this far in, but - truth bomb - we do. I sometimes wonder if it would be different had we been given more time to just be married before kids were in the picture, but that wasn't God's plan for us. 

Instead, we tread water. We lean on God and try to follow his lead. In fact, his plan has led us to four states in the time we've been married. It's put us through so many trials that we never thought we'd get through, yet we are still here. But going strong? That depends on the day for me. There's always that voice in my head telling me I can't do it, I'm not worth it, I'm failing miserably in every aspect of my life.

So I take a selfie. I post something about being #blessed. I create a world where everything is perfect. I write a status about how sweet my boys are as they throw punches with their fists and their words. After all, no one wants the world thinking that their family struggles to get along on a daily basis.

I plead, I punish, I pray. I take away toys and send them to their rooms. A lot of the time I feel like a failure. But sometimes, they apologize without being asked. They are sincerely sorry, I can see it in their eyes. And then as the day closes out with dinner, they pray. They thank God for their family and tell Him how much they love each individual member. My heart fills with pride and in that moment I actually feel like I am doing something right.

My point? It doesn't matter how perfect someone's social media life is, because I can't imagine there aren't daily rough patches. And if they are being honest, I believe they may just resonate with that quote the same way I did. And to you, I want to say that it's ok. You've got this. Stand tall and adjust your crown, because despite the daily feeling of defeat, you fight. And that makes you as perfect as it gets. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Word vomit.

Well, here I am again. Empty, depressed, borderline suicidal.

We knew that the good wouldn't last forever. Yes, it's been a long time since we've dealt with this side of bipolar/borderline personality. I almost forgot how awful it is. I'm currently on day three of this valley and have spent a lot of time crying, a lot of time thinking and a lot of time trying to hide behind a smile.

But that's how it goes, isn't it? The dark cloud comes over and your whole world changes, so often for no reason at all. Reaching out, especially when suicidal, can be so difficult. There is always the cliché "Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem" and the obvious "just take deep breathes." To be 100% honest, these things just make me more irritable despite the advice giver's good intentions. Although, I guess there's nothing anyone can really say when I'm in this spot that truly helps. In fact, I've found that for me, talking is the last thing I want to do, unless it's spilling words onto the computer. Why? Because the computer doesn't talk back. I can let it all out without hearing all of the clichés out there that people think they are supposed to say when someone is depressed or be told how important and loved I am when all I want is silence.

I know how I sound, here. It's not that I don't appreciate the sentiment. I love that people care about me and try to help. It's that when I'm deeply depressed, I'm not going to believe a single word anyone says. The only voice I'm listening to is the one in my head and that's the only one that can pull me out.

I wish it wasn't this way. I have an amazing support system and I don't want to discredit that. The voice in my head reminds me that I have them to live for even though I don't deserve them and am far from good enough. And as I start to come out of it I remember that my husband holds me as I sob for no reason because he loves me. That my family and friends support me because they care. That maybe I am good enough.

And then I'm back.

Now that I've written all of this out, I can say that I'm doing better than I was when I wrote that first sentence. Just putting it all out there and working through my emotions via a keyboard has, once again, been therapeutic. I'm still not ok, I'm still anxious and tired and down. But I've remembered how much I matter, and that's something I didn't have when I started writing this morning.

With that, all I can say is "onward."