If you are feeling desperate, alone or helpless, or know someone who is call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a counselor at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
"I can accomplish anything if I just don't kill myself today."
That probably sounds either melodramatic or obvious, but for most of my life, this lifesaving mantra has required herculean reserves of emotional stamina.
Normally, that whole "don't kill myself" thing is pretty low-key, background accompaniment to the background noise of "you should probably just go ahead and kill yourself."
It's as annoying and ignorable as the tinnitus that I was shocked to learn is not how everybody hears the world.
The similarities end there.
If I ignore my tinnitus, well. I can ignore it. If I ignore my depression and the voice that says “kill yourself,” pretty soon the voice that says "not today" becomes smaller, weaker. One day, it might not be there at all. Even worse, it might eventually begin to say, "you know, that's not such a bad idea."
If untreated, depression can be fatal.
Not only are people with depression at higher risk for suicide, we are also at risk for putting ourselves in compromising situations.
From purposeful or accidental reckless behavior, to letting your health deteriorate, depression can be physically harmful if it isn’t fought with the strength and determination used against a physical illness, like diabetes or heart disease. Because depression is a disease; mental illness is not a choice, a personality trait or a way of life. This is not being emo - this is being unwell.
Chronic depression makes my life the ultimate abusive relationship; one that I can't leave without dying. It's huddling in the corner of a cold, empty room under a loudspeaker announcing all of the sad, pathetic moments of my miserable little life.
You are hopeless and worthless and invisible. You deserve your grief and your misery and your cursed existence. After every announcement comes the invitation: kill yourself.
But even when I've burrowed miles below rock bottom, I don't actually want to die, even though my depression seems to feel I do. Feasting on negativity, its tentacles push their way into every experience, every memory, every sensation as it doubles, then triples, then quadruples in size.
It needs that negativity to survive – jealousy, panic, sorrow, terror - and actively encourages the brain to supply nourishment. In this feeding cycle, sorrow or anxiety, anguish or panic, are all actually soothing. And, it’s in my brain, man. I thought I was the only one in there. My depression, at least, tells me I'm the one doing this to myself.
For years, I have listened.
Well, maybe I'm not listening as much anymore.
The therapist I started seeing a few months after my son's stillbirth has been a partner in my recovery. She is gentle but firm and hasn't allowed me to skirt around my risk for suicide - believe me, I try. Of course I still try, because part of depression's arsenal is the isolating sense of shame that makes discussing it physically painful. But she prods and - more or less - I open.
Skittish, with years of a bizarre attachment to the disease that I've known since childhood, my progress even under her careful guidance is slow and painful.
And, man - it is exhausting. Exhausting to keep saying no, I actually love living and my life is really fucking good, you bitch and please, please go away. It's exhausting to have to climb over depression before I climb over anything else.
It is exhausting to convince myself that I can do anything, if I could only find a way to stay alive.
But I do need to say it, not only because it's true, but because I am still at risk for killing myself, even though it's not at all what I want to do. Sure, I'm at less risk of suicide than I have been ever before. I am stronger and more centered; I feel far more positive than ever.
Being able to post this is itself an accomplishment of healing and progress. Yet, I'm not cured - I'm still struggling. It's likely, I will always struggle. I may never be cured. This is not something I choose; this is something I am working to accept.
My only choice against my disease is to fight it. And like the fight against any chronic illness, it is sometimes difficult, sometimes exhausting. It's always worthwhile to fight - to try and treat it, because if I don't, my depression will thrive.
If I do treat it, then I, instead, will thrive.
How do YOU get past the negative-self talk?
As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.
Do you have life lessons that would have helped you through a difficult time?
Share those with The Band as you write a letter to your younger self.
Dear Little Me,
First, I want you to keep playing outside by yourself in your own little world you created when you were five. Never stop, even when you are twenty-one.
Second, here are some things you need to know for the future. I wish I could tell you everything will be as great as you imagine it will be, but really, the last time you will be this happy is now, when you are seven.
I hope you remember to enjoy the time you have living in Connecticut, it will be the last time you spend that much time with Granddad. Connecticut will become one of the best teachers you ever have, but it will be much harder than you think it will be.
I want you to breathe.
Moving back to New Mexico will be hard, but breathe. Don't give up on math, actually get the nerve to admit you don't know what they're talking about anymore. You are always safe.
Middle school is horrible. Sorry, but it's true. Don't forget to hug Granddad the summer before seventh grade and tell him you love him, and talk to him on Christmas. That will be the last time you talk to him.
Enjoy Molly and Jack more, they are the best friends you ever will have. You will be petting Jack when he dies, and you will be with Molly when she is put down. Be brave, little me, and do not be afraid to cry.
Fight more in Dance, and enjoy it. All the dreams you have will not happen, you will end up getting hurt and look back and wish you'd done things differently. Don't take your anger out on anyone, just remember to enjoy dancing. You are so much more than just a dancer. Do not base all your joy on the next level, dance for fun first, and try to breathe. Dance will also give you Cat, and you have no idea how important she will be to you yet.
Sorry, but it does. Don't give up though. You are SO much smarter than what people say you are. Mum will do some fighting, but YOU must follow through. Feel free to be a little bit of a bitch, some teachers will always knock you down. Try harder and stay in a language class, you will wish you had when you are older. But most of all, ENJOY it more. High school is so hard, but it's also a lot of fun, and I wish you'll have more fun, and less depression.
Tell Mum about your depression sooner. You will get to feel more like yourself sooner.
Do NOT trust Chip. EVER. He will be the thing you wish you could change. He is a liar and a cheater, and not worth the pain. Walk away from him that night, do not talk to him.
Stay away from TJ. Trust your instincts.
Spend more time with Mum. All those times you brushed her off, you fought with her, told her next year, planned on doing things in the future will not happen. Always tell her how much you love her and what she means to you. You will realize just how much you wish you'd told her... but it will be too late.
I wish I could tell you life will be great. I wish I could tell you everything will be okay, but I don't know that. I can tell you one thing though; when you hold Grace in your arms for the first time, all this pain, all this anger, all this self hate goes away. In the end, when you watch her sleep, you know it was worth it. She is everything. Remember that.
I wish I could tell you Mum meets her, but she doesn't. Dad will never leave you nor stop loving you, so don't hide that you miss Mum. It hurts, and it's okay to show it.
Play strong, little me.
Life is great, but when drama invades, remember how to play. It will keep you sane. Enjoy being outside and playing on the beach, enjoy climbing trees and rocks, enjoy life. It will be hard, but it's worth it. So keep on dreaming and playing. Somehow, I know it will be okay.
Your Older Self
I was eleven wishing for heaven
I sat miserably with scissors
Praying desperately for a heavenly visitor
I wanted to kill myself
I was living in a secret hell
I wouldn’t dare tell
I wouldn’t dare scream and yell
No signs, no trail
I hid it well
I felt I had failed
My mind felt jailed
Would the pain end with a farewell?
No one was aware
So, of course, no one cared
I never felt safe enough to share
My daily nightmare
Talking about it brought me shame
I took it upon myself to reclaim
My fear-filled brain
I was petrified, terrified and I glorified fear
This was every day of the year
Only shedding tears behind closed doors
Begging and pleading “Please, God, NO MORE!”
I was hurting at my deepest core
The judgment and names, hate and drama-filled games
They were all the same
I was wanting to be different
It was going to take commitment
Being filled with resentment
Created my limitations and restrictions
I desired and admired
And rarely aspired
I was sick and tired of not feeling required
And not being able to acquire
My truest desires
Changing my convictions
Releasing being a mouthy vixen and victim
Stop hoping and wishing
Start a new mission
Shed my old image
Embrace a new vision
Choose to feel accepted
No more feeling neglected
I’m changing my perception
Releasing the anger, jealousy, greed and envy
Is not always easy or pleasing
But I am releasing to relieve and receive
I am stopping the "poor me" mentality
To begin to accept love and peace as my new reality
Is this a possibility?
I had forgotten to love me, you and the land
I had no real goals or plans
Just a beer and a nice tan
It was my selfish superficial stance
Voiding myself of any real chance
To dream and expand
I had forgotten how to dance enjoy and love
I had forgotten to rejoice in the power above
I had my things and my drugs
The rest was all unimportant details I swept under the rug
I was unaware I could dream
Living only by a means
I wasn’t me or who I wanted to be
I numbed my being and every feeling
I was very deceiving.
Compassion, passion and action
I have been lacking
Fear and loathing have led me slacking
I have been passive
I have fed off of reaction
My life I would have captioned
In the past as slow moving and taxing.
There’s glory here for me
I’m choosing a new story
It’s the end of the poor me mentality
As I say yes to pure ecstasy
By looking for the light in me.
I’m no longer the girl crying on the floor
Begging and pleading no more
I’ve risen to my knees but not to beg or plead
To breath, see and believe that there is a Christ in me
I’m still here releasing my fears
Drinking less beer
Trying to figure out how to be sincere
I’m still switching gears
My pain is less severe
Some of the hurt I’ve let disappear
Letting the good in me reappear
By holding myself accountable and looking in the mirror.
I’m living more expressively, creatively, freely and aggressively
I’m allowing myself to enjoy and love me
It’s slowly and progressively becoming more easy to be me freely.
Reputation no longer my motivation
I’m looking for salvation
To some of my old ways I have already said salutations
I am looking for inspiration
That leads to feelings of validation.
I feel better these days
Now that I’ve cleared some of the haze
Feeling less dazed
My eyes have been covered with a new golden glaze.
I’m letting love light my pathways
My new life has been in motion
No more sugar-coating
No more swaying and coaxing
I have started devoting
No more moping, hoping, and doting
It’s time for focusing.
I will find that which strengthens me
Enlightens me and heightens me
Release that which frightens me
Accept and shed light on what brightens me
Unleash the fight in me
It’s my God given right, you see.
Infinite love and gratitude is my new attitude
More meditation, realizations, and appreciation.
My openness and willingness
Has led me to much bigger bits of happiness
I am blessed
I am seeking my best
I’ll trust God will handle the rest.
I was 11 wishing for heaven
17 years and a lot of tears
A lot of anxiety and so many fears
But with the help of love, words, family and a few peers
I am now 28
Releasing my anger and hate
Trading in my past for a clean slate
Realizing my fate is in my hands to create.
I have been one of the Brains Behind The Band for a little while now and find it incredibly fulfilling. I have found a wonderful sense of purpose here.
But I have always found something more with The Band.
I have found amazing friendship and support.
I've recently had issues with depression and anxiety sparked by the trauma and abuse I suffered as a child. It seems I have a wicked bad case of Complex PTSD, which is wanting to rear its head NOW, no matter what I do.
No amount of ignoring it or distracting myself has made any difference.
I decided to finally talk about everything I was feeling with my husband of six years, for the first time ever in our relationship. I have a VERY hard time trusting, so it was insanely hard for me to do.
I told him how I hated myself, as in "hope I get hit by a truck and die a pain-filled death" sort of hatred.
I told him how I was unable to stop thinking of the things that happened to me as a child and how I was obsessed with my parents, the perpetrators of the abuse and trauma.
I told him I need help. I told him I want to go into therapy but that it would be a long, hard journey, and I couldn't do it without his support.
He sat there in silence.
Then, he started speaking. He told me that, yes, he was sure I had issues, but it isn't C-PTSD. He told me that I need therapy, because I was definitely a little nutty, but that it shouldn't be too hard to fix me.
He refused to be my support, with his unspoken words.
Now, before we all go up in arms, my husband is pretty wonderful. He just truly sucks at being a supportive partner when it comes to anything regarding mental health - he thinks it's all a bunch of crap.
I was distraught and heartbroken.
I fear rejection like normal people fear zombies. It's a visceral reaction for me when I am rejected, even if the rejection is all in my head.
I felt like I had been open and honest with him, completely baring my soul, and he threw me under the bus.
As I went to sleep, I cried. I spent the next two days beating the ever-living fuck out of myself.
How could I have been so stupid? Of course he wouldn't support me, I am completely worthless! No one would support me because no one cares about me, and they shouldn't!
I was spiraling downward at light speed.
Finally, I reached out to my fellow Brains.
I told them what was going on, feeling like an asshole, a whiny baby, and a complete moron for believing they might care or even want to help me.
I waited with bated breath, praying they wouldn't hate me, or make me stop volunteering.
I was terrified of their rejection. I knew it was coming, and I was pretty sure I had struck the killing blow with my letter. I was sick with the fear and terror of the impending rejection.
They didn't reject me.
My worst fears - my biggest hurdle in seeking help from anyone and the knowledge that I would be rejected - were past.
They were awesomesauce with their love and support!
I got glitter-filled bacon flavored cupcakes of love and hugs flung at me!
No, it didn't immediately fix all my problems, nor did it make me magically able to trust the world.
I am terrified to post this.
What they did do for me, however, was love me.
In loving me, they have shown me that I may not be doomed to be forever rejected, ridiculed, and hated.
They have helped me just by being their awesome glitter-flinging selves, and, for that, I am grateful.
Now I know that during this journey, I have the support I am going to need.
I have The Band.
Half of all children report being bullied at some point during their schooling.
This is her story.
Dear Eleven-Year Old Me,
First, can I give you a hug? No really, I know you're okay, I just want to give you a hug.
You still do that, you know. You're nearly forty now and still telling everyone "I'm okay," just like you did when you were eleven. I know you want to be okay. I also know you're scared. I know you're anxious all the time. I know about the stomach aches, the bullying, the sleeplessness.
You are depressed.
You are eleven.
You should be dreaming dreams and writing stories. Painting pictures. You used to do that. Before the bullies at school singled you out. The mean girls who are so pointed in their exclusion. Before the name-calling dredged up every single insecurity you had buried in you.
Bullying triggered all the insecurities and self-doubt. I can hardly describe the desperation. It was months of intense social isolation that you hid from your parents and all those who loved you. You tried so hard to fit in, to fix what was wrong with you, to remove the black mark of the bullies.
This only fueled their cruelty.
But you didn't understand what was going on. You are only eleven. In an effort to turn the bullies from you, you even picked on someone else. You became a bully one day to a girl smaller and weaker and (is it possible) weirder than you. The lowest point in your eleven-year-old existence. Your life appears a small dark tunnel with no exits, no twists or turns.
You are going to be okay.
In a few hours, you will walk right up to a very adult decision. You will go to the medicine cabinet, get a family-sized bottle of Tylenol and take them all. I know that you do not want to die - not really - but you do not want to feel this way anymore.
You will decide to end your life, and then in a few more minutes - after the taste of the pills fades from your mouth - you will change your mind. As scared as you are, you will realize that you really want to live.
You realize that you can change the outcome of this situation. Not the bullying, but the suicide attempt. You will realize that you are not yet locked in to this decision. This is such a huge realization. And you are not too proud to ask for help.
You will tell your mom what you have done. She will not yell at you (to this day I don't know how she kept it together - I would have freaked out). She will take you to the ER and you will spend some time puking up every pill you took. She will hold your hair.
Your dad will be by your bedside at the hospital. He will, at first, only say one word: "Why?"
You will not know what to say.
I know what to say. There is no single reason. You did it because you have an anxiety disorder, you are depressed, you are being bullied, and you are, by nature, very hard on yourself.
As difficult as it is to be you, (and me) I would not change a thing about you. Your experience will serve you well. You will be a sensitive, strong and compassionate grown-up. You will be a mother of two beautiful girls of your own. You will ask for help when you need it, and you will recognize when the darkness of depression re-occurs in your life. These are gifts you gave to me, eleven-year old girl.
All I want to give you now is another hug. And tell you that it will, in time, be okay.
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