And so I kept living

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, marking the start of Suicide Prevention Week–I feel like a hypocrite for even mentioning it. Because this last month and a half has been the worst time of my life mentally–my depression has come back with a vengeance, and coupled with the overwhelming anxiety I feel on the daily, it’s felt like a hurricane has ripped through my soul: total destruction everywhere, levees broken, the walls of my body destroyed. This last month and a half has seen countless panic attacks and flashbacks, overwhelming suicidal thoughts, me almost driving into a tree, and, unfortunately, it’s also seen me relapsing–self-harming again after not doing it in 7 years.

It’s also seen me reach out more–ask for help. Depression has this way of making me feel like I’m the worst person in the world; that I deserve everything that has happened to me. So, normally, I pull away, revert back into myself. Because here’s the thing: when the demons attack, sometimes I’m afraid that I won’t make it out of the battle. I pull away to soften the blow, to lessen the crater that my departure might leave. I’ve come to realize over this last month that when the bomb drops, people will get hurt whether I pull away or not–I’d rather confide in people and have them care about me than walk through this storm alone, even if sometimes I feel like an inconvenience. Even if I feel like letting people in, telling them what’s going on in my brain is a burden to them.

We all need people.

Even though you’re trying as hard as you can to pull away from people, they just won’t stop caring about you.

And so I kept living despite the feelings of inadequacy, the feelings of worthlessness, the thoughts in my head telling me I should not be here.

And so I kept living despite the thoughts I’ve had for as long as I can remember: I can’t go to school today because it’s going to burn down; I can’t get out of bed because the floor’s going to collapse; I can’t go out for recess because the world’s going to explode.

And so I kept living despite those thoughts that, apparently, most people do not have every day for their whole lives.

And so I kept living despite the shame of my past, the weight of it all, the regret, the hurt of what others have done to me and what I have done to myself.

And so I kept living despite the “I’m sorry”s, the number of times I’ve written and ripped up the words: To whoever finds this.

And so I kept living despite how scared I am of the dark, how weak I feel.

And so I kept living because if I didn’t, I never would have gone to Guatemala and led a young girl to Christ.

And so I kept living because the Buffalo Bills have not won a Super Bowl, and I’ll be darned if I kill myself before I see that.

And so I kept living because I want to fall in love, even though I’m terrified of being hurt.

And so I kept living because I still have so many jokes left in me to tell, so many words within me just waiting to be written, so much laughter left to burst forth from my mouth.

And so I kept living because of the cotton candy that paints the sky during sunrises and sunsets.

And so I kept living because there are so many books in this world I have not yet read, so many places I have not yet seen.

And so I kept living because sometimes all this pain that I’m feeling, all the hurt, remind me that I’m alive.

And so I kept living because the most vicious thunderstorms produce the most beautiful rainbows, and I want to be beautiful.

And so I kept living because I am not alone, and I have a God that is bigger than all my shame, all my hurt, all my fear.

And so I kept living because if I can help just person know they’re not alone, then let me do that.

 

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How To TipToe Around Depression

 

  1. Pick out your clothes the night before because mornings take too much effort. Change your mind two or three times while lying in bed, waiting for sleep to come. The next morning, try on every outfit you own that fits the occasion. Be happy with none of them. Wear the last outfit you try on because you are now running late.
  2. Set more alarms than is necessary for the morning: one which is the ideal time to get up, and one which is the last possible minute needed to get ready and just make it out the door in time. Hit snooze on all of them. Because, once again, mornings take too much effort.
  3. Decide one morning you don’t need to wear make-up because you’re beautiful anyway. Take a selfie to document the occasion. Freak out because your nose looks bigger than you remember it being. Contemplate getting a nose job. Talk yourself out of it because it’s permanent, and the finality of using a sticker is enough to stress you out.
  4. Breathe in. Hold it. Count to five. Breathe out, trying to slow your racing heart, which is only outpaced by your racing thoughts.
  5. Get bangs that cover your eyebrows. There are more important things to be worried about (i.e., everything) than doing your eyebrows.
  6. Write down everything that happens on anything you can find: receipts in your wallet, iPhone notes, random scraps of paper found in the deepest recesses of your over-sized purse. Remember what it’s like to feel on your darkest days. Live to feel these things again.
  7. Take pictures of every beautiful thing you see: sunrises and sunsets; flowers and gardens; fields and clouds; coffee and food. Don’t let anybody take away your joy by reducing you to a stereotype—you are anything but.
  8. Wake up in the middle of the night needing to pee. Put it off until you can’t hold it any longer. You stumble half-asleep down the hall, past the stairs, avoiding looking down. You’re not scared of the dark. You’ve come to accept it; it’s the unknown human-like shadows that freak you out. When you wash your hands, avoid looking in the mirror above the sink. You don’t necessarily believe those ghost stories, but you’d rather not find out. At 3 am, when you’re not fully awake, you look like a ghost of yourself anyway.
  9. Walk through your local cemetery. Take note of the gravestones: the startings and the endings; the oldests and the youngests; the epitaphs and the ones that say nothing. Wonder what yours will say—not in a macabre way, but in a “will I have accomplished what I wanted to accomplish” way. Make up stories of those buried there (it’s a different form of people-watching, something you love to do). Your grandfather’s been dead for 10 and a half years. He’s been buried for a few months less than that. You haven’t yet visited his grave—you don’t handle death well.
  10. Eat freely. Love deeply. Remember what it was like when you deprived yourself of food and love.
  11. Dream big. Don’t be afraid to fail. Being a Bills’ fan has helped you learn how to deal with disappointment.
  12. Become an English major. Worry that you ruined your life because “it’s not a practical degree.” Tell people you’re not a practical person. You follow your heart and not your head. You see the world in shades of grey, not black and white.
  13. Lie in bed at night thinking about every possible outcome to every possible scenario so you’re not surprised when they happen. Write dialogue for possible conversations in your head. That way, when you do work up the courage to speak, you don’t make a fool of yourself.
  14. Remember words are your most powerful tool and weapon.
  15. Give names to your intrusive thoughts. Call them out when they fill your head with stupid ideas: “No, Fred. I will NOT drive headfirst into this tree.” “Shut up, Gertrude. I know there are about 20 Advil in my hand right now, but I only need two.” You are too busy trying to live to listen to those that drag you down.
  16. Remember you are not a walking billboard for depression. You are so much more than one word. You are smart, funny, kind, musical, and children and animals seem to like you. So, in the grand scheme of things, you can’t be that bad.
  17. Sleep with headphones playing nothing in. The crickets outside your window have been extra noisy lately. Depression needs silence to sleep. You’ve discovered that after so many years of co-habitation, you do too.
  18. Set your alarm for the quietest setting you can. You are a light sleeper. Maybe if you can get ready and leave the house quickly and quietly, depression will stay sleeping. If it wakes up, it will chase you. It’s like a dog, but unlike a dog, there’s nothing cute about any of this.
  19. When you are struggling, call it out. Give it a name. Say, “Yes. I have Depression. But I am not Depression. I am a human who is living with it. I am strong. I am a fighter. I will not give up.”
  20. If all this fails, try again tomorrow.

What You Don’t Get to Say to People With Mental Illness

They say to write what you know, and if that’s true, here’s what you don’t get to say to us.

1)      Snap out of it. If I could snap out of it, I wouldn’t be here right now in this moment. Yes, I know everyone feels sadness at some point in their life, but in my case “at some point in their life” translates to “every freakin’ day,” or a hopeless pit of despair where it’s so dark, I’ve forgotten what light looks like. And I know everyone feels anxious, but that’s not the same as having an anxiety attack, which is best described as: “a terrifying lightning storm of despair, self-hatred, and the absolute certainty of my immediate death.”

 

2)      You don’t look depressed or conversely, you look depressed. Thank you, really I appreciate it. Thank you for letting me know I can’t be sad, because I don’t look sad. Conversely, thank you for letting me know you can see my sadness. I appreciate knowing that it must be real now.

 

 

3)      You must have asked for it somehow, or you must have done something wrong to be depressed. I asked for a pony, but all I got was this lousy feeling of impending doom. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

 

4)      What’s wrong?  I don’t know what’s wrong. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be here, right now, in this moment. Yes, it’s true that a particular event sparked what would eventually become known as Depression, but right here, right now, in this moment, everything’s wrong and nothing’s wrong, and I’m still trying to figure out how that can be. (You can ask me what’s wrong, but don’t expect a coherent answer).

 

 

5)      Stop focusing on the bad stuff. Thanks, now I feel horrible about myself, because I’ve tried this many times. I’ve listed out all the good stuff about life, but it hasn’t worked so far. And right now, I’m not feeling very hopeful, because the Evening News begins with “Good Evening,” and then proceeds to list off all the reasons why it isn’t. And yes, they usually conclude with a little “bright spot” showing that there is in fact light at the end of the tunnel, but this tunnel isn’t getting any smaller, and I’m not getting any closer, and really, right now, the light bulb is rather dim. I think it needs to be changed. And you know it’s bad when a listed side effect of anti-depressants is: increased suicidal thoughts. I’m sorry, but isn’t that why we started taking this little happy pill to begin with: to make us just happy enough so we weren’t thinking about suicide all the time?

 

6)      Just pray about it. I have witnessed the power of prayer, but prayer can’t fix everything, and you’re making me believe that I don’t have enough faith. Are you implying that the way I feel somehow equates to my lack of faith? Because if so, let me explain to you that my faith is quite intact. Because it takes a lot of faith for me to get out of bed in the morning, to believe that the ground won’t fail beneath my feet. I have enough faith for the both of us.

 

7)      Being busy will help distract you. Ignoring an issue, doesn’t make it go away. I’ve discovered this when I ignore homework.

 

8)      Sleeping all the time isn’t healthy. Maybe not, but it’s the only escape I get from my feelings. If I could sleep for a week straight, I would. Because sometimes I have too much pain to be awake for. Sleeping is like death, without the commitment, because I know one day, I will be temporarily happy, and I want to be awake to see it.

 

9)      You’re doing this for attention. This is literally the worst thing to do for attention. If I wanted attention, I would wear a clown costume as I was riding a unicycle while juggling. It’s much easier. And that way, the stares and whispers would be because of something good.

 

10)   I understand. No you don’t. The only way you’d understand is if you have the same feelings I do.

 

Instead of saying those, try doing these instead:

1)      Sincerely listening to what we have to say. Let us vent. It’s healthy for both parties involved, because when you need someone to vent to, I’ll be there.

 

2)      Talk to us like we are normal people. Treating us like we are different is no good. Invite us to do things. We are the same person we were before, but we are just dealing with an issue less visible than a broken arm. We are not broken.

 

3)      Tell us that you still love us, and that you support us.

 

4)      Learn about the problem we are dealing with. Talk to other people you know who are struggling so you know better how to help us.

 

5)      Ask us what we need or how you can help. Even if that means sitting next to us so we are not alone.

 

 

Remember: You cannot cure us, but you can help make our lives more enjoyable.

 

see also: “What Doesn’t Kill You”  “You’re Better Off Dead

 

 

Fall in Love

When you fall in love, don’t fall in love with just a person; because sometimes hearts get broken.

Instead, fall in love with life around you.

Fall in love with the way hope creeps up on you when you least expect it but need it the most.

Fall in love with the way the seasons change and how the world keeps going on.

Fall in love with the autumn causes trees to shed their leaves, sending leaves and petals fluttering in its breath.

Fall in love with the way winter turns everything around you to ice; how it holds misplaced leaves captive in their frozen, glass tomb.

Fall in love with the breath of spring as it melts the world around you, ushering in new colors in its wake.

Fall in love with the way summer sings its song to the tune of crickets and laughter, crackling fires and the boom of thunder.

Fall in love with music that makes you believe in magic.

Listen to it over and over again as it weaves its way into your soul, becoming a part of you with every note.

Fall in love with old couples who have been together forever. Their wrinkles a road map of their journey together.

Fall in love with the way the moon and the stars turn the dark sky into a beautiful masterpiece.

Even the darkest things are capable of being beautiful.

Fall in love with the lone candle sitting patiently in the window of your far away home, like a beacon it will guide you back always.

Fall in love with the way your bruised kneecaps cushion your fall, with the space between your rib cage that will be full one day, with the way your pulse echoes at the hollow of your wrist—reminding you that you are alive.

Fall in love with the way that your heart quickens its stride at the sight of a boy whose song harmonizes with yours, of a little girl who refuses to give up on dreams that are bigger than she is, of a person who has been knocked down over and over again, but somehow always finds the strength to stand.

Fall in love with the way oceans talk to you through seashells, with the way the sky and the land don’t meet, there is always a horizon.

Fall in love with the way light streams in through your window, because today is a new beginning.

Fall in love with the way baby birds learn to fly; shaking off bad dreams like downy feathers.

Fall in love with gravity as it holds us together, but fall in love with the idea of flying.

No dream is too high.

Fall in love with the way broken hallelujahs sing out from all around you, marvel at how they are transformed into beautiful melodies.

Fall in love with hellos and goodbyes, with the way eyes can ask so much.

Fall in love with the way the train track never ends. It’s on a journey to find itself and somehow manages to always miss itself.

Fall in love with the way a tombstone can say so much with so few words.

Fall in love with a book; make it your favorite, read its story over and over again.

That new book smell of paper and ink will never go away, but will always be there, dancing at the end of your fingertips.

You can tell a lot from fingertips and hands if you pay careful attention.

Fall in love with the rain and the tears. Fall in love with you, because you are beautiful.

Fall in love with stories and write your own on your journeys.

Fall in love with things that don’t make sense, dream in colors that don’t exist, create a world that will one day be.

Fall in love with your shadow, with your reflection; because it will always find you again.

 Fall in love with the wispy clouds on a clear summer day.

Fall in love with something new every day.

Fall in love with the eye his eyes light up when he smiles.

Fall in love with the way she captures the beauty of life with words.

Fall in love with the way her eyes fill with wonder.

Fall in love with the way she is clumsy but graceful at the same time.

Fall in love with everything.

Transform “I love you” into “I love your everything.”