What I Was Made For

I was made for cooking all kinds of delicious things for my family. Food is my love language.

I was made for snuggling babies. My babies, your babies, all the babies.

For answering questions from my daughter. Any and every. Always.

For morning and evening walks with the love of my life while I ramble on about our children, the weather, the beauty around us, politics, religion, family, friends, Buzz Lightyear, and love.

I was made for love, to show love. To show kindness when and where others cannot. With a broad range of compassion, both from my personal life lessons and from the understanding that we all carry our own baggage.

I was made for mothering. I was made to kiss boo-boos, to calm fears. For laughing at fart jokes. For Nerf wars. For planning ridiculous birthday parties. For sleepovers. For kisses and hugs. For the hard stuff we don’t imagine when we consider mothering. For all of it.

I was made for raising a generation who loves better than those before them. Literally. I was literally made for this.

I was made for moving my body. For running short distances and long. For enduring marathons. For yoga. For walking dogs. For chasing boys. For dancing. For stretching.

I was made for poetry. For prose. For reading all the things and writing even more. For using words, spoken and written, to reach others, to touch others, to help others understand.

I was made for friendship. Oh, I’m not always good at friendship, but I was made for it. For laughing. For wine nights. For holding your hand when you don’t know the answer. For helping you move really heavy furniture on Sunday nights. For falling out of hot tubs. For listening when your spouse is a jagoff. For lamenting when your kids are tweens. For sending your kids off on their own. For celebrating your success. For crying with you in your grief. For you.

I was made for sharing this story.

This story that is ever-evolving. For presenting a birth mother as so many shades of gray instead of all happy rainbows or all pitch black night. For showing motherhood through a lens of both gratefulness and exhaustion; of reality. For standing up and saying, I’m here. I nearly wasn’t, for so many reasons. My kidney. Complicated pregnancies. Two separate suicide attempts, the most recent of which isn’t yet a full three years ago.

But I’m here for a reason. Yes, all of the reasons above, and so many more, and to say this: Even when it feels impossible, when it feels pointless, I’m still here for something.

I am here for you.

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September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. This year on of my beloved non-profits chose the theme: Stay: Find Out What You Were Made For. If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-273-TALK to connect with the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine. You are not alone. You matter.

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.

World Suicide Prevention Day: Thoughts from a New Year

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. I know this because Timehop reminded me when I was still awake at 4:00 this morning after another long night fight with insomnia. Thanks, Timehop!

Last year on this date, I shared links to my Voices of the Year video and winning piece, saying I had already said all I needed to say on depression. And while those two pieces, written then spoken, speak volumes about depression and my experience, boy howdy, the things I didn’t know I didn’t know.

I spent most of 2014 feeling more alone than at any other time in my life. I felt overwhelmed by my grief, nearly overcome by it. I became so lost within my depression that I didn’t and couldn’t see those around me who reached out, who stuck it out, who held me up when I couldn’t even feel their presence. I spent a long, frightening time in a dark, cold place, void of compassion for self or any semblance of grace or peace.

Last year’s bout of depression was hell, quite literally.

By this time last year, I’d already begun an unstoppable slide. A series of unfortunate and unrelated events would eventually stop me in my tracks, stop a number of us in the middle of a breath or a sentence or a thought. Those closest to me rallied about, supporting not only me but my husband, my sons. And nothing was ever the same again.

Nor should it ever be.

Depression lies to us about what we deserve, what we ought to be doing. Depression sneaks onto our shoulder and points out the ways we’re harming those around us, how they’d be better off. Without us. And we listen. Over and over again, the black veil of depression keeps the truth from us. We believe it because we can’t see, can’t hear, can’t feel, can’t touch, taste, or smell anything but the lie, the lie, the lie. It becomes our truth, the only thing that makes sense. It is all; it becomes all.

And so I sit here on September 10, 2015 the same person, as in the same woman with the same bones and eyes and stubborn streak a mile wide; a new tattoo, some new clarity, a spark of hope. I’ve added what might be the beginnings of some self-forgiveness for all the things I previously refused to loosen my grip on out of fear or necessity. I’ve been holding tightly to each of these things, these faults, for so many reasons, but mainly and maybe: Who am I without these short-comings, these faults, these flaws, these things I can hold up and point to and say, “This is my fault. I am Not Good because of This Thing.”

World Suicide Prevention Day

I’m not necessarily where I need to be just yet. Sometimes I still get caught up in the “good enough,” in the quest for supposed perfection; I’m working on it, and yes, the tattoo serves as a great reminder in times of need. I also feel increasingly more gentle with myself. My anxiety still spikes, still sky rockets beyond what is normal, what should feel normal, what I want to feel as my even-keel, but even then, I’m learning how to stop the rocket launch, deploy the parachute, and float a little more gently toward the waiting ocean waters of calm, of love.

I write this, today, in a good place. I communicate my thoughts and fears, my highs and lows, with my husband on a regular basis. I went back to therapy after a summer off due to travel and a desire to stop talking about the same things, if only for one season. I take my medications daily. I exercise. I try to sleep. I drink cold water a lot to help stop the rocket launch. I journal. I write a lot of poetry, most of which never makes it to the blog. I spend time with friends again. I do all those things I’m supposed to do.

But I still have bad days. And I’m nervous about the upcoming fall and winter.

I share all of this to say, as always: You are not alone.

Just because I came through this last bout of depression doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and butterflies up in here. And if it’s not all rainbows and butterflies up in your life, please know it’s not a lost cause. You are worthy. You are worth it. You matter. On those days when it seems and feels like, ohmyeff, you just can’t go on and you don’t matter and you’re just messing everything up and why freaking bother anymore, I want you to remember that you matter, that someone else, maybe even me, is struggling with those same thoughts and fears, and that together, we can help each other through this moment, through the next, and continue our story.

You matter. I matter. We matter to each other. I see you where you are and I meet you there. I will stand with you; I will hold you even when you cannot feel my presence. Together, we will endure.

 

Suicide Prevention

 

If you don’t have a friend to text and you need to talk to someone, visit National Suicide Prevention Lifeling or call 1-800-273-TALK.