This post was sparked by hearing about the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.
I do not keep up with the news much anymore because of the negativity and anxiety it tends to give me. I happened to see a post on my Facebook newsfeed today for a suicide hotline. The post talked about how, yes, 2 celebrities committed suicide but we didn’t hear about the other 870 suicides that occurred that week. I do not know their lives, or much about either Kate or Anthony, but I do know something about depression, anxiety, and suicide.
Often times people wonder, “why didn’t they ask for help?” or “how didn’t we see the signs?”
For many people with depression, myself included, there are very serious feelings that create a guard around ourselves.
Expressing feelings of sadness is not always easy to talk about. This can be especially said for people who are the ones receiving the information. In my experience, when topics get serious, people often shut down and don’t know how to respond. It can make it difficult for someone to continue to try and have a serious conversation about their feelings when what they get in return is silence.
Also in my experience, when I would try to bring up my feelings of self loathing, the only thing that was said is “you need to get help”. I always felt like it was like someone was telling me that they couldn’t help me. It was especially hard when it was said by the person I truly wanted to help me. By helping me, I simply just meant for them to listen and acknowledge my feelings.
It did not take long for me to start harboring my feelings because I felt like I was a burden to ask for help, or even to have a serious conversation. I felt like the adults I needed to have these conversations with were too busy with other things that I simply wasn’t worth their time.
During the times of me experiencing suicidal thoughts, I would experience this knotted stomach feeling because I knew I didn’t actually want to die. I just wanted to matter. I wanted my feelings to be heard and be validated.
In trying not to burden others with my problems and feelings, I learned how to put on a fake smile. To this day, many people are surprised to hear about my depression and suicidal tendencies. So many people with depression are able to put on this fake smile because they don’t want to be that burden. It is a truly gut wrenching situation. How can we tell a fake smile from a real one in order to “see the signs”?
The only real answer I can give is to make sure the people you care about know that the door is always open for them to come to you. Check up on them, even if you don’t have a reason to suspect anything. A simple “how are you” can go a long way.
I know it may seem like a black and white thing, but it isn’t. Some people are too afraid of being vulnerable. I can’t say I blame them, but I can tell you for a fact that being vulnerable and getting things off of my chest has released so much of my depression and anxiety. I now do not fear vulnerability- hence my extemely open blog.
How did I overcome my suicidal feelings?
I know for others it seems “easier said than done”, but I had to believe that I mattered more than the feelings I was having. I had to matter so much more to myself that I knew I could no longer hold it in.
The first time after I decided I mattered I was 17.
In high school, I was admitted to the psychiatric ward. That was a scary eye opening experience. I had asked to be put in there, not knowing what I was going to be introduced to. The first thing they did was put me in a room, like a holding cell if you will (less prison-like than that sounds). They have a doctor evaluate your mental state and then, when admitted, they take you to your room. I was so terrified of where I was. Not to be judemental, but the psychiatric ward is the same place where people who were experiencing schizophrenic episodes and things of that nature. Some of those episodes were very scary to watch. I went into a panic because I didn’t feel like I belonged there. What was being there going to do to even help how I feel? I did not want to be sedated, medicated, or anything along those lines.
In many ways, I guess I was hoping to get the attention of my parents. I wanted them to listen and respond. I had been trying to do that in other ways for awhile and nothing worked.
I wound up begging my parents to check me out of the hospital. I promised I was fine and not suicidal. They agreed and we left. The thing of it is, we still never really talked about why I had needed to go there in the first place. I am sure they chopped it up to just being an emotional teen girl, but it was a lot heavier than that. The part that sucked was, yet again, it got brushed under the rug.
It was like the universe was trying to tell me I didn’t matter all over again. So what did I do? I felt I had no other choice than to harbor feelings again.
The feelings were so deep I had started to plan my death. Ultimately, I had given myself a time frame. I decided I was going to die when I was 22. 22 was my favorite number, for no real reason. Now, I was 18 when I made that decision.
After high school, my life started to slowly change. I think that is one thing a lot of kids and teens do not understand, life changes so much once you become an adult. You have to create your purpose no matter what that is. You break free from the chains of parental ruling. The changes that occur in your brain when you reach this age, you experience a wall breaking epiphany. To put it short, it gets better you just have to hang on.
Even with this epiphany and lack of high school drama, I still harbored my feelings. Even through a 3 year relationship, I harbored my feelings.
It wasn’t until I met my husband when I began to change. My “snapping” moment was not the kind where you snap and ultimately end your life. It was the kind of snapping where I decided I did matter and my feelings could no longer sit in the pit of my chest. I made the decision to start being vulnerable, even when it felt like I couldn’t. I didn’t give myself the choice. Now, I did not go and blow up on everything at one time. I took it slowly as the opportunity presented itself. The bottom line was, I had to matter. You matter.
My husband and I have been together for 8 years now. Though not as often as it use to be, I still find myself having old thoughts. How do I manage these “crazy” “ridiculous” thoughts without someone telling me I needed to see a psychiatrist or be on meds? In many cases, I still keep quiet about my thoughts because I don’t feel like I am psychotic. I know that is the impression someone else would get if they were in my head. All of my thoughts go back to a reason as to why. Unresolved problems. Problems that I alone cannot find resolutions to. Problems with others that cannot be changed because they don’t see the problem. Problems within myself, in dealing with self esteem.
Here is what I say to those having similar feelings:
1. People who do not want to conversate in order to resolve a situation or at least try to gain understanding of why you feel the way you do, are not people you should actively have in your life. These are called toxic people. You are under no obligation to have a forced relationship with a toxic person even if they are blood related to you. You matter more than a toxic relationship. Cut the toxicity from your life, block them, delete their access to your social media as well as your access to theirs. If you want a little closure, feel free to send them a letter letting them know not to contact you anymore unless they are willing to meet you halfway to reach a mutual understanding.
2. Your self esteem should only be based on how you view yourself. The opinion of others should not be a driving factor for your hazardous feelings. If there is something you don’t like about yourself, you can change. You can change physically and mentally if you set your mind to it. It is only hard if you make yourself believe it is hard. If there is a will there is a way.
3. Your life is just that, yours. You need to decide what you want out of your life. Make those dreams and goals. Don’t give up on those things because so long as you believe in yourself, you can do anything. No one is going to make these choices for you. No one is going to hand you everything you hope for on a silver platter. You have to work for it. Trust me, it is much more rewarding that way anyway. I know you are capable because I was/am capable to. Happiness starts within.
4. Do not be afraid to feel vulnerable or shame. I know those are strong feelings to hold onto, trust me, I know. The relief you will feel after releasing these feelings is worth the 5 minutes of nervousness. Speak to someone, anyone. There are support groups online, you can call the suicide hotline (link and number below). Talk to a friend, relative, counselor, or even write a journal. Get those feelings out, because the minute you do is the minute it gets better within you.
I would also like to add, that I will make myself available to those needing someone to talk to. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s help our society by talking about it. You are not alone. There are more of us out there than you think. It can get better. I know because I am proof.
Until next time,