Wash Away the Rain

I need to set the record straight.

Suicide is not an easy way out. Ever.

No one comes to the decision to end one’s life on a whim. You do not get to that place without suffering, greatly.

I shared a number of articles during the height of 13 Reasons Why on Facebook. I wanted to provide a counter-argument to the “at least it’s starting an important conversation.” No conversation about suicide should happen without a co-occurring discussion on mental illness and mental health.

The idea of revenge suicide is neither fair to those left in the wake of a suicide nor those who have fought their own demons and lost. To get to the point in which you think death by your own hand is a good idea, you must first suffer from some form of mental illness. A healthy brain will not go there.

Yes, a sexual assault can act as a catalyst as it can send the survivor into PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Yes, bullying can exacerbate an already struggling mind, but again, a healthy brain won’t just decide to travel the route of suicide.

Do people feel guilty in the wake of anyone’s death by suicide? Yes. We all have what if moments in which we question what we could have or should have said or done. I felt that way last summer; I still feel that way. We can hold individuals accountable for things like bullying, stalking, or other immoral and/or illegal activities, but we cannot lay blame solely at their feet.

Recently, Chris Cornell’s death by suicide had many in Generation X pondering our mortality. 52 is too young to die by any means. I listened to Soundgarden as I read a number of pieces that came out in the wake of the news.

I found myself nodding along with one. Until the author referred to “young kids” and suicide as an “easy way out.” The author has since edited his post to remove the “easy way out” and reference to another musician’s suicide as “petulant,” so I won’t link. But let’s address it anyway:

Nope.

No.

No.

Suicide is not an easy way out, not even when you’re a tween or teen. You see, as adults, we are afforded the luxury of hindsight. We can tell our tween and teen children that, yes, life gets better. That someday mean girls won’t run their mouths (though that’s a lie). That someday they won’t care what others think (though that’s not always true). That their hormones will even out and things will make a little more sense (until they go all wacky again). That they’re not alone (that’s the truth, kiddos).

But in that moment, to that young person, sometimes the problems seem insurmountable. Sometimes the self-loathing that often accompanies Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) makes a teen feel like the world would be better off without them; that they can’t do anything right; that they’re always hurting other people; that they deserved to be treated that way. I’ve recently been discussing suicidality among adoptees with a group of smart women. Trauma can begin on Day One, folks.

The truth is that children, tweens, and teen are not exempt from mental illness. I wish they were. Oh, I wish. But we’ve been living it for two years now. I’d give anything for my daughter to feel like she belonged on this planet, that her life has purpose, that she is as beautiful as the rest of us see her. But that’s not her reality right now; it’s not our reality right now.

I was once a teenager with an undiagnosed mental illness. My anxiety during my senior year was so high that I couldn’t function, even though to the outside world, I seemed just fine. I wasn’t. A teacher recognized this and set into action a series of events that should have given me a diagnosis and treatment. It was the 90’s and we didn’t want to believe teenagers could have mental illnesses, so nothing happened.

And nothing happened when I was hospitalized in college after an attempt to take my own life.

It wasn’t until I was a Grown Ass Adult, had birthed two babies and was parenting one that a doctor said, “Oh hey, you kinda sound like you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” Yeah. I did. I do. I likely have since I was a young teen. I likely always will.

Now our generation listens when a child talks about suicide, no matter their age. Generation X listens because we weren’t heard. We talk about it, online and in person and with our kids and with strangers, because it matters. Because we want our kids and our peers and the parents we care for to know they’re not alone.

No, suicide isn’t the easy way out, for the younger generation or those of us Gen X’ers fighting—tooth and nail—to survive each and every day. It’s an excruciating journey which ends one life and throws many others into crisis, and it’s one that we hope, by talking about it in real, valid, edifying ways, we can help other avoid.

Suicide Is Not An Easy Way Out

If you’re struggling with parenting a suicidal teen, start here.

Two Years

Two years ago today, I almost died. I wanted to die. I didn’t.

When I realized two weeks ago I’d be flying alone—all day—on this anniversary date, I panicked. Alone? All day? Not great.

When I realized this particular November 9 fell the day after what I knew would end up a tumultuous and dramatic election night, I panicked again. I didn’t know the outcome of the election, but I knew, no matter what, the nation would have big feelings today. I knew I would have big feelings today.

Big feelings are scary on suicide anniversary dates.

A lot has happened since that scary night. My doctors and therapist worked together to find a medication cocktail that works for me. It’s changed a few times, as recent as last month when they changed up my sleeping meds as they no longer put me to or kept me asleep. The lack of sleep negatively affected my moods and motivation, causing another bout of depression. I feel mostly okay again.

I worked hard with my therapist to get at the heart of some issues. Do you know how much that sucks? All the sucks. I greatly prefer burying and ignoring my feelings, thankyouverymuch. I would also greatly prefer to help you through your hard time, to hold your hand through your darkness than ever ask anyone, even my own husband, for support. Which was one of the core problems, of course: I didn’t believe I was worth anyone’s effort, not even my own.

Nowadays my anxiety goes up and down, depending on what’s going on in my life. I’m on a plane, so it’s up. Yesterday I played with Baby Jack for two hours, so it went down. I manage it as best I can. Some days I fail, but I always know there’s another day.

I didn’t realize that two years ago.

In an attempt to avoid today’s news, I looked at my Facebook memories and Timehop while waiting for my first flight this morning. I didn’t do that last year. Last year, I was just happy to be alive. This year I felt curious as to what that day looked like two years ago.

It made my stomach hurt.

Of course, if you look back at the months leading up to this date in 2014, it’s easy to see—with hindsight—what was coming. But no one knew, not even me. Yes, I lost both of my grandmothers in quick succession. Yes, my doctors couldn’t find a proper meds protocol and kept messing with doses, new medications, and lapses. No, I didn’t tell anyone how deeply I struggled every day; Taurus stubborn is the most stubborn.

But that day I shared how I felt like a failure due to something that happened the day after my maternal grandmother’s funeral. I remembered, prior to reading that post, that one woman lashed out at me with hateful words, telling me to get over it and stop posting such negativity.

That’s all I remembered. The negativity. The judgment. How I was wrong, other, off.

What I saw when I looked back today were 32 comments from 32 people who recognized something wasn’t quite right with me, even if they didn’t understand the full extent. Each of those 32 people left a comment of hope. Many replied with variations of “be kind to yourself” or “be gentle with you.”

One friend left this image comment.

This Is Important

I wish I had been able to see how much my friends loved and cared for me that day. Instead, all I saw was the dark black of my depression. I could not see anything good about myself, about my parenting, about my relationships, about the world. I felt as though everyone in my life would not only survive without me but thrive without me.

It took longer than the Emergency Room visit, the three day hospital stay, and the following year to recognize those as flat out lies depression whispered in my ear. I believed those lies. Letting go of beliefs, even when they’re lies, is really, really hard.

The past few months have felt difficult. I’ve mentioned the sleep problem. I’ve written about people being unkind. I haven’t written about some other things, because finding words for everything going on proves difficult right now. Some stories aren’t even mine to tell though the rip through my core. I’ve done the very best I can do. Sometimes that means going back to bed after the boys go to school; sometimes it means doing all the things just so I stay busy. Sometimes that means running; sometimes it means not running. Sometimes it means surrounding myself with friends; sometimes it means holing up in my house.

I still deal with intrusive thoughts, but not suicial ideation. The difference? I can recognize the thought as unhealthy, understand it as a brain flaw, and never want to act on it. They’re still awful though, and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone. It sucks to have your first—very first—thought of the day be, “I wish I were dead.” It’s difficult to drive down the road and think, “Well, if I hit that tree…” But I let the unhealthy thought come and then go, and then I go about my business. Deep breath in, exhale it all out.

I didn’t tell anyone about what happened two years ago for a long time. When I wrote about it, I didn’t share it in my own space. I felt ashamed. I felt less than. I felt as if my struggle would make people walk away.

And some did.

But those who stayed? They made all the difference.

I share all of this today for a number of reasons.

1. I really just wanted to get through today. And not sharing felt harder than sharing.

2. I know some people are feeling hopeless today. I did for a bit last night. I went out and sat on the porch and breathed in cool, rainy air. I came inside to a slew of messages, once again, from people who love and care not just for me but for humanity. There’s hope, people. In each other.

3. I’m feeling kind of over not saying things or staying silent because someone might not like it or not want to be my friend or might judge me or whatever else. If you don’t like me, there’s the door, sweetheart. I will never demand anyone stay in my life. If you don’t want to be here, please go. (Three months ago, I couldn’t have added this third part.)

Today I’m on my way to California. I didn’t want to leave my family behind, but my life now involves all sorts of new challenges and adventures. I’ve practiced deep breathing, set intentions, and generally forced myself to stay present in the moment. I’m looking forward to the next few days.

All of this is progress after that deperate night two years ago.

I feel proud of the progress I’ve made. I understand that the struggles I still face do not define me; I am complex and beautiful and intelligent and successful and flawed and doing the best I can with what I’ve been given where I am in this moment. I hope that sharing my story will help others for the connection between humans is the only reason I’m still here, and for that I am grateful.

I am grateful to be here.

Where I Am Today: World Suicide Prevention Day 2016

Some days I nearly fall to my knees, filled with overwhelming gratitude.

Some days I can’t seem to get out of bed, filled with dread for the coming day.

World Suicide Prevention Day

This is life with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and occasional bouts of Major Depression.

I did not choose this life. I would not choose this life. I would not wish this life on anyone, even those who tell me I could “get better” if I just prayed harder or believed more or breathed deeper or loved my family just that much more. Even those who turn their heads when I talk about mental health, about suicide. Even those nurses who lack compassion for suicide attempts—supposed “calls for help.”

I can still hear your voice outside my hospital room. I can still see your name on the nurse’s board in the hallway. I know you know me. I know you were there.

Most days in 2016, I find myself on an even keel. I function at a normal level, meaning that I fall behind on laundry like the normal, everyday human being. I sometimes get frustrated with my children, like the normal, everyday parent. I think my period, especially considering I elected to have an ablation, is stupid, like the normal, everyday woman. I miss my daughter, every single day, like any birth parent ever created by the system of adoption.

But I also get stuff done. I run a successful business with my daughter’s mom. I write more often than I don’t, even if it doesn’t all show up here for public consumption. I read books again, which is a huge indicator of how I’m feeling mentally; I cannot read when I am lost inside my own anxious head.

I remember to do things. I clean bathrooms. I menu plan, though I didn’t do so great during the summer months because summer feels too hot to cook. We grilled a lot, and by we, I mean my husband. My anxiety can’t do open flame. Another reason I’m not a firefighter.

I drink my morning coffee, but know when to stop. I have a gin and tonic, but know when to stop. I take my medication, and know when I might need an extra dose of my anxiety meds—the first day back to school, air travel, when my dad has surgery and I can’t be there with the family.

I understand my mental health. I do not feel afraid to discuss it, even in mixed company. Even with those who, upon my mention of it, look away, cringe, judge, or try to discount my life experience.

I have stood on the edge of this life and the desire to end it all, on that bridge that is any bridge, and I have come back. Twice now. Both times I came back because someone cared enough to intervene. Both times I chose to walk a path of recovery because people in my life surrounded me with enough love and compassion to help me find my way back to me.

Not everyone is afforded those luxuries, a person to pull them back before it’s too late, a group of people who love you even when you don’t love yourself very much.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

It’s a day that makes me think, makes me feel a lot of things.

This morning I woke up to a house full of boys, friends over for a sleepover last night. I woke to a dog who licked my face mostly because she wanted to go lick the face of the boys she could hear in the living room. To kisses from my husband returning from work. To a text from the mother of said boys, laughing at a picture of their sprawled, sleeping bodies all over my living room as I headed to bed last night. To the smell of sweet, blessed coffee. To sunshine. To the song “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” in my head as my daughter tried to convince me last night that Disney is not evil.

To my life.

Over the past nearly two years of recovery, for a long time my first thought of the day was, “I want to die,” or, “I don’t want to be alive.” I’d shake my head, physically shaking the thought away, and then take my medication. I didn’t want to think those thoughts, but they just popped in there many mornings. That’s what Intrusive Thoughts act like; you know it’s not a thought you want to have, that it’s not good or productive, but it just—POP—shows up. I lived for many, many months with that as my first thought of the day.

I told my therapist, sometimes. I still get scared, even in therapy, talking about what I know to be Intrusive Thoughts out of fear of losing my children, of being deemed unfit, of being pegged as suicidal and sent back to the hospital.

Even now, I’m not ready to talk about either of my hospitalization experiences. I have those memories very tightly locked away. They feel scary; they feel like they happened to someone who wasn’t even me. I will deal with them in therapy at some point, but that point is not yet. Not now. Not today.

Today I woke up and thought, “What time is it? Why are those boys awake? The sun is really bright. I have to pick up kid drinks for the cookout tonight. Mmm, this bed is comfortable. Why is this wretched song in my head?!”

But I still took my medication.

A few times during 2016, things have felt really hard. Things I can’t tell you about here in this space, because they aren’t part of my story; they just affected my story. Or I should say they affected my story too much until I realized that the mental health of others doesn’t have to negatively impact my own mental health.

I say that in hopes of believing it; I’m not quite there, really.

The mental health of my children will always affect me; I will always want them to be okay, but I will love them fiercely even when they don’t feel okay. Losing a friend to suicide will never leave me, though I am processing it appropriately; the first week or so felt like a weird dream sequence though, and I still go to a not-so-good place if I think too hard about it.

But I’m okay. I’m improving. I still have Generalized Anxiety Disorder; don’t expect to take me somewhere with a crowd or new people and have me act like I act when I’m sitting on your front porch in the morning sunlight where everything feels safe. I still go out, I’m still doing new and scary things. I’m still putting myself out there, maybe even more so than ever before, but it remains a struggle. And might always remain a struggle. I don’t know yet.

I’m not currently battling a bout of Major Depression either, which feels like a dream in itself.

I share all of this because there are readers here, there are people in your family, friends in your circle, coworkers, acquaintances, parents of your kids’ friends, neighbors, strangers, who aren’t in a good place right now. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. There are approximately 117 suicides every day. Speaking of Ohio, in 2014, the suicide rate was just over 12 people per 100,000. Additionally, as there are no legitimate ways of tracking suicide attempts, surveys estimate that at least one million people engage in “intentionally inflicted self-harm,” whether or not that self-harm is attributed with an attempt on their life or not. (All information from American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.)

There are people in your life, in my life, that need to know they’re not alone. That the Intrusive Thoughts that pop into their head when they wake in the morning, when they’re driving down the road, when they’re alone at night, are not a death sentence. That even experiencing suicidal ideation and starting to make a plan don’t mean that it’s over. Neither does an attempt on your own life. You can get help. You can get better. You don’t have to live this way; you don’t have to feel this way forever.

You are worth the hard work it takes to recover from mental illness, from wanting to throw your hands up in the air and scream, “I just can’t do this any more.” You are enough.

For those of us in good places who haven’t been in the past, I encourage you to tell your stories. Our stories matter and can save lives. For those who have contact with any human being at all, ask someone how they’re doing, and mean it. If you know someone in your life is struggling with anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness, make a true attempt to let them know they have your support. It can make all the difference.

If you are currently feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can now also text the Crisis Text Line by texting “Go” to 741741 for support. Please know you are never alone.

World Suicide Prevention Day

I’m here today as proof you can get better. I’m here today for you.