The topics we fear, the realities of depression & suicide

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I read an article today about a women’s choice to take her own life. I don’t know why this particular one hit  so close to home but it did. Suicide, depression, mental health, these are all things that we find so hard to talk about, but they are the exact things we all should be talking about. The fear, the stigma of living with it, knowing or loving somebody with mental health issues all point to us as a whole to come to terms with the truth. Depression affects around 14.8 million individuals a year, and women are two times more likely than men to experience depression. With over 30,000 reported suicides every year, a shocking two-thirds of these are caused by underling depression. These are staggering statistics and along with the fact that depression is often over-looked, misdiagnosed or left untreated, is so disheartening at the thought of so many people struggling through life; embarrassed, hiding behind a false sense of self.

The cold reality about suicide is that it leaves such a hole in so many lives. The person is gone but the pain has just begun, and many times it is completely unexpected leaving a sense of anger and guilt with the ones left living. Feelings of “If I only knew”, “I wish I could have saved them”. These are the thoughts that eat away at the ones left to deal with the after affects. It is a selfish way to die but we need to stop using guilt as a way of solving the issue and instead be honest about the reality and open up a dialogue that is safe. If millions are affected by depression, and this causes two thirds of the suicides each year then imagine the immense number of people that are being affected by mental health issues by being a sibling, a parent, a spouse, a lover, a friend, a co-worker, a mental health professional. That is millions of people who can make a difference, who can be honest about living or dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts or about living with a person who has these issues.

Depression is not a weakness, instead it is a safety mechanism, a really screwed up one but it is one that only the few that suffer through it can see. For we feel too much, we feel everything too much, and as such we hurt more than normal, we are afraid, anxiety ridden, and just plain fucking sad. Depression is the trickster that tells you over and over that you are worthless, that life just isn’t worth it, That living is just too hard; it takes all of your fears and intensifies them, affecting your sleep, your appetite, things you love, it affects your relationships with everybody!! It makes you lie in bed in your pajama’s crying your eyes out because of a hallmark commercial, fills you with guilt when your dog whines to go out and you don’t even have the energy to play Frisbee or ball with your best pal. It makes you turn your phone off and hide from the people who will see the truth. Depression wants to alienate you, to have you all to itself so you will believe what it is telling you.

As a collective unit of humans we need to take the stigma from talking about it away so that living with it loses it sense of secretiveness. We need to allow people living with it to feel comfortable asking for help, without fear of judgement from family, friends, or coworkers. The ability to find help is so muddled, the resources available are convoluted, leaving the people searching for help like they are jumping through hoops, climbing ladders to nothing, doors to nowhere. The mental health community needs to be reformed, with the proper sources addressing the issues within to allow for help to be more accessible. Trying to find a psychiatrist mean first finding one that is excepting patients, then having to get on a waiting list to be seen, and the earliest is usually 4-6 weeks before you can even be initially seen. Trying to find a therapist you connect with and trust can takes one to many, and then the issue of any medications that are deemed necessary. This leads back to the need to find a doctor or psychiatrist who can prescribe, the waiting game and the circle of frustration is only beginning. If you find a great counselor, therapist or psychologist, a doctor who can prescribe anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications you made it through round one. Round two comes with the slew of medications, and finding the right one with the least amount of side effects, that is round 2 to infinity.

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I gained a personal perspective on the mental health community as a whole when I moved to Portland OR. I had a mental break when life got too hard for me to bear in this state of my undoing. I was alone and without a support structure, with sadness and anxiety like I had never felt. I was scared at my own thoughts, and how I was feeling. I had never felt so dark and alone in all of my life so I drove myself to the emergency room to seek help with the idea I would see a doctor, ask about some anti-anxiety drugs to help me. That was the beginning of the one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. I will forever be filled with sadness when I think about this experience, I felt like a criminal. I do understand that medical care personnel have to be careful, their are many individuals who are truly suffering and try to hurt others or themselves. But I was not one of them, and I had to sit in the waiting room with a guard watching me, then taken to a room where I was forced to give all of my belongings, including my phone, and then undress in front of the nurses, and its not only women in there. They make you take everything off, jewelry, underwear,bra, and put on scrubs. I was so embarrassed, crying, saying this was making my anxiety so much worse. The rooms are glass so they can sit a orderly or guard outside to make sure you don’t try to leave, or hurt yourself. I tried to make myself so small, but I could not curl inside myself enough to hide from all of this. The looks, pity mixed with fear, maybe she really is crazy, feeling maybe I was. I sat in that room for four hours, locked inside my own head till a doctor and psychiatric nurse came in to talk to me. Then it was dolling out medications, quietly getting dressed, walking out in the drizzly dark, feeling the true sense that I was completely alone.

That was just the beginning for me, round one. Then it was calling my insurance, the employee assistance program through my work, and the local mental health facilities to try to get a psychiatrist appointment, the 4-6 weeks waiting game. I was lucky it only took me two tries to find my therapist, a psychologist who I love and has been the most amazing guide for me through this journey. Then it was finding a primary care doctor, who I too got very lucky on my first try. After that it was medications, after medications, trying to find the correct one, the correct dose, dealing with the side effects. I am left with the choice to either feel sadness so complete that I cant get up or with headaches, nausea, muscle pain, dizziness and hopefully this one no weight gain. This is real life, this is reality for millions of Americans, the ones who want to be better, struggle to find their way back and are trying to beat the odds. We are more than a statistic, we are warriors, we are fighters and sometimes we lose. I want less people to find it easy to let go, and more people to reach out. I want education about this, the connections between individuals suffering and those who can help, accessibility of programs, support groups, I want honest dialogue. I don’t want to win the battle, I want to win the war….

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The Echo of Life….

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I saw my heart today, listening to the sounds the valves made, felt the warm gel on my chest. It was magical seeing the beating of my heart, it was not broken, it was still beating. I was surprised by the level of  peace and emotion it brought in me.  The soft whoosh sound of the womb, blood flowing within us, so peaceful and comforting. Since my father died so suddenly, the emptiness he left has been unbearable at times, but my echo-cardiogram brought a bittersweet realization. He is not gone, his blood beats in my heart, his genetics are ME, he lives on in me. As I sat watching my heart, listening to it I thought I heard his laughter, whispering to me these things. I felt alive in that moment, and I wanted to make my heart proud, to make him proud. Responsibility, I will forever hear my father in my heart, I will remember the destiny of our DNA that entwines us.

Often when we are little we put our ears on our parents chest, as we grow, upon the chest of our lovers; we are soothed by the rhythmic beating of their hearts.  It is the sound of life, a binding to us.  We are taught our heart is the giver of love, that if we give it to another we are giving a piece of ourselves.  This magic, this power we all hold in us, it beats everyday as a reminder that we are all connected, that life goes on. We hold a responsibility to honor it, to honor ourselves, to honor others. If we are given the heart of someone, to love it the way we would like ours to be loved.

Responsibility, this word keeps resonating in my mind. The feeling of feeling responsible for ourselves, for others, their sadness or happiness, of trying to fix what is not ours that is broken and why do we not feel as responsible for our happiness. I know there is a lesson in this, that we cannot hide behind other peoples pain to forget our own. I have always struggled with guilt, born out of my childhood, and the need to take on other peoples pain and traumas. I am a healer, a fixer, and at the core of this is my heart. My heart reminds me that I must honor it, honor myself. I must see its strength to heal, to feel it beating still, the blood in and out, piece by piece, becoming whole. Put your hand to your chest every morning, feel it beating, and remember that is your destiny, to live. I hope you my reader to find the same magic within yourself, the awakening of self. We all have a choice, everyday to start over, to become who we wish, hope to be. We are fluid beings, not meant to be static but instead to flow with the ever changing universal energy.

This lifetime, however you believe it to be; your first and only or your 100th, we still have an obligation to live it, with depth, grace and courage. To take responsibility for our actions, our regrets, our mistakes, and to let them be our growth, our healers, our lessons. Of course we don’t have to choose the difficult path of growth, we can stay static and thus become stagnant beings.  That is our choice, our free will. There will always be those who choose the easy path, who want everything to be easy, given to them and that is the saddest thing the universe feels. They are losing out on such beauty, for even through hardship or grief there lies beauty, hidden behind some deeper meaning. It lies in how you choose to see it, to deal with it; With grace and courage or with fear and resentment. Sometimes the universe only gives us one chance for a lesson, other times it keeps bringing it back over and over until you learn it. Those are the lessons we should see as the most important, for it wants you so badly to get it right. I wish so much love and light to the world, that we all are given the ability to see our lessons of this lifetime.  At the crossroads of life, take the winding thorny path, just bring a set of shears and wear a sweater….

The Journey of the heart…

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THE JOURNEY OF THE HEART

You will look for me

In every face you see

The eyes you gaze into

The hearts you try to open

I will be in a part of you

hidden so deep

You will search for me

In every feeling you face

in your own prison you create

in yourself

In your lessons

I will be in your heart

You will seek me in your journey

In every path you cross

every detour you take

In every mistake you learn from

You will mourn for me

In every piece of your heart

In the tears you shed

In every heartbreak

I will be a memory

Change…The Greatest Teacher…

Listen to this song and…think about where you are now, where you were yesterday and where you want to be tomorrow? Would you change to get there, to be a different person, a better person. It is up to us, to facilitate our rebirth. Life and the universe will give us abundant choices and some will be easy, but mostly they will be hard, tear us apart, break us and bring us to our knees; But there will also be joy, kisses, friends, smiles and laughter, reaching out to pull you close as you sleep, to teach us that we can love and be loved. Life…our teacher, bringing us people to mirror our growth so that we can find our belief in ourselves; to see the deeper truth of who we are, what we are destined for. Look for the signs that the universe gives you, the gifts it bestows on all of us. Be aware and open to seeing them, feeling them, being a part of the immense power of beauty and spiritual energy that is in all of us. The connection we all have in this life is the ability of love, to empathize, to offer understanding and compassion. The more we give love, the more we get love in return for it is an ever flowing and abundant fountain.

This year has brought me to an awareness of my gifts, my abilities that I tried for so long to hide, to be ashamed of, pieces of me to hate. I am now learning to see my gifts as ways of connection, empathy, compassion, and healing. To be aware of the gifts of the universe in the huge smile of the little boy as he waves to a complete stranger, in the baby squirrels stealing walnuts out of the tree, and the little girl who walks up to me to touch my hand and say hi. Those gentle and genuine smiles, offers of connection on our most basal levels. I am learning that holding on to things, people, ways of thinking, control is the chaos we inadvertently cause to disrupt our path. The lesson of the phoenix, who rises out of complete destruction, out of the ashes to become new, is one that I am learning in this lifetime. Seek and you shall see, surrender and you will flow in the path the universe has destined to you.

I have found my voice, this gift inside of me that was hidden so deep, locked away to be found through the loss of self. This destruction does not have to be as painful as mine, but I was holding on so tightly to what I thought I needed to be secure, old and outdated ways of thinking.  Security in love as we are told to have, the job and status that brings us money and pride. When in reality is just our belief in ourselves, in others, the connections we give and receive, the lessons we learn and teach; The people we love and leave behind, the loves of our life and the heartbreaks, it is all the birth and the death of self. These are the things that truly matter, the connections we made, the empathy we gave, the hand we held and the arms we hugged with.

One of my favorite movies is Jacob’s ladder. This quote from the movie summarizes my year for me so well that I had to share it:

“The only thing that burns in hell is the part of you that won’t let go of your life: your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away, but they’re not punishing you, they’re freeing your soul. If you’re frightened of dying… and you’re holding on, you’ll see devils tearing your life away. If you’ve made your peace, then the devils are really angels freeing you from the earth.” 

I will change, I am leaving behind the person I was, I am letting go of my attachments, releasing those that no longer serve a purpose, no longer build me up, no longer bring love and support. I will utilize this change to heal, to start fresh, to be who I was always destined to be…Who are you destined to be…

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The faces we hide behind….

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I hide in a face of me, my mask that I chose so carefully, as I cover myself with armor, this shield of sadness. It has such power, invisible yet with the ability to surround me in loneliness. Depression is made up of many faces, those of us who have the group jacket can attest to all of the ones we hide behind. Breaking free from the chains that bind us, in the strength to get up and go on, one day at a time. Medication, meditation, praying, begging, yoga, walking, therapy, mantras, screaming on the inside, feels like its all in vain. The phoenix rises from the ashes of nothing, rebirth and regeneration from the depths of sorrow.

I carry around within my sadness a vanity, gained in my youth, the start of my quest for perfection. The perfect child, daughter, student, friend, girlfriend so I never left the house without my hair and makeup done, looking perfectly put together, with my mask on tight. Thoughts that this is enough to hide behind, to blend into life; but when you carry around a deep sadness, it radiates even if your hiding it behind that perfect mask. I have seen the physical way people move around or shy away from me like they can feel my sadness reaching out to touch them.  It is like trying to swim in quicksand, the more you try the harder you sink. I am trying to realize that it was inevitable that we would be free from the binding of love between us, and that letting go will not break me. I have been sleepwalking through life, and I know that it is time to wake up.

“Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others, and the delight in the recognition”…what do you recognize in the mirror of your love…

Trees with wounded hearts…for D

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I don’t believe that anybody ever starts a relationship with the premise, ok we should prepare ourselves for the inevitable end; but for ours maybe that was the forethought. Two cancers, afraid of being loved and fear of rejection strong within our sense of being. Love is a mystery, a terrible beautiful thing, we give all of us to another wrapped up in a bow and hope we are treasured and protected while in the care of this other. Most times, this just isn’t the case, instead we get back a tattered and torn box with the bow discarded.

Searching is long, sometimes tedious, but when we find the one we laugh with, falling asleep in the scent of them, seeing their truth reflected in our eyes; well we think we are the luckiest people in the world. We believe what we say is real, what we feel must be sacred. Sometimes we lie to ourselves, because we want something so bad or because we are afraid of our own truth. Being lost, lonely inside and searching can often bring about false wants, false promises.  I wanted so much, for you, from you, and I believed you thought the same. You see we are not so different, for I lied to myself too. I blinded myself to the truth, seeing what I so desperately wanted to be the truth of us. Seeing your unhappiness nearly broke me so completely, I couldn’t stand the thought of being the cause of such pain in someone I loved so deeply, fiercely. I know that lost empty feeling, of breaking down, believe me I know what giving up feels like. But you got to be the one, with just the premise sorry, I’m a coward.

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I have beaten myself up, lost myself, falling and suffocated as I drown in the depth of your sadness and mine. Giving up, losing hope, all of this just simply put, sadness at its most poignant. I feel so small in this great big universe, stumbling trying so hard not to fall. I feel pathetic at times, with the thought I would have done anything for you, gone to hell and back to make you happy, us happy. How do we lose ourselves so completely in another, and how do we find ourselves again. Maybe we don’t, maybe we lose who we were and growth is having to become someone new. So we gather what is left of us, and we look back and we go on. Life is built on broken hearts, songs and poems written about them, stories told, support groups, medicated minds, movies we see ourselves in.

Going in circles, our heads spinning, addicted to sadness, addicted to you. They are all the same, all of our stories. Resonating the same depth of what we lost, surrendering to our selves. I wish I had all of the answers, the magic cure, I would be rich in more ways than money. we cut ourselves so deep sometimes, watching the blood trickle out as we hope the pain will follow. No amount of our own pain or sadness, no matter how broken or lost, the moon still rises, its ethereal glow, healing the wounded hearts of the trees.

the rise of nothing…

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The feeling encompassing me, its empty and numb. I try not to name it, afraid that if I do I will feed it the power it needs. It lies dormant while I grieve, I am mourning the death of love, the death of my father and the death of who I was, for I will never be the same again. That person is no more, that person does not exist and can never be found. How do we fall, become someone we don’t recognize when we look in the mirror. Living in fear, with anxiety and depression, who is this person. I was always able to look within and find strength in my struggles, I have lost this ability. I feel like I am trapped in this person, screaming to get out, banging inside my head that I’m here, I’m still here. But on the outside I am unable and afraid to feel. Depression is a wiley ole’ fellow, sneaking back up on you after you threw out your antidepressants, just days before your dad dies, because they made you gain weight. You felt ok, then Bam… your old friend is back with a vengeance, stroking your head while you cry in your dads pajamas unable to get out of bed for four days.

Its like everything has changed, but nothing has changed, as if I am quiet and calm while screaming on the inside. I don’t sleep, only for short periods, I feel haunted.  I feel anxious, I feel tired, I feel sad, I feel fear, I feel confusion, I feel too much, but I feel nothing. I have been slowly trying to open all of the locked doors in my heart, in my head, to let out all of the caged memories. Its scary, looking at ourselves with open honest eyes, as we may not always like what we find. facing our fears, our own shortcomings. I sometimes wonder if our memories are our own karma haunting us. The feelings that some memories evoke are so real; you can smell them, taste them, and almost touch them. I don’t want to be a part of anything anymore, I don’t want to call my old friends, I don’t want to be a part of a family structure anymore. I want to be alone to feel nothing, not answering the questions, no explanations, just emptiness from the issues that arise from caring.

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What happened to love, to romance, to the fierce fire that burns in all of us. “If this is love I don’t want anything to do with it…oh why does it hurt so much”….”ah, because it was real”.