Depression and Suicide

This is something I’ve been thinking about writing for a long time, but something that I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to write about. My hometown has lost too many people over this school year. Too many young people. Too many high school students. Too many friends. Too many brothers and sisters.

I want to make it clear that I am not here to talk about the specific incidents that have happened this year, because it’s not my business and I don’t fully know what happened and it’s not my story to tell.

Suicide is really hard to talk about. It’s taboo. It’s scary. It’s personal.

I have struggled with chronic depression for thirteen years. For as long as I can remember I was told that I’m a drama-queen and that I’m over-reacting or trying to get attention or making things up. And sometimes it was true, sometimes I just needed someone to acknowledge that I was still real and that I was hurting. But the problem with this was that I never got the help that I needed. I was told so many things: that my faith wasn’t strong enough, that I needed more prayer (I’ll admit that this has made me pretty bitter towards the church), that I needed exercise or a better diet. And all of these things contributed, but at the end of the day, an imbalance in your “happy-brain-chemicals” (as I like to call them) needs professional help.

There were days, even years, where I considered suicide to the point of knowing exactly how I wanted to do it. There were days where I had to steady my hands to keep myself from running straight into on-coming traffic.

It took me three years, new friends, seven doctor’s appointments, and a lot of tears to get where I am.

I tell you these things because I think it is so important that we acknowledge the real pain and emotions that all people experience. As a fairly healthy girl in a happy middle-class family, going to a top-notch school, with good friends, in a healthy and loving relationship I have never looked like the poster-child for depression. I don’t look like someone who needs help. We can’t write people off because we don’t see their struggles. We cannot dismiss people because they are “too young” or because they just “need attention”. This is never helpful. Never.

I don’t say this as someone that is cured, or even as someone that is “healing”. I say this as someone who is coping. Someone who is working every day to keep going.

I’m begging you to listen to the people in your life, to make them feel loved and cared about. And maybe you don’t understand why they’re acting the way they are, so ask. Don’t assume that you know exactly what’s going on. Don’t roll your eyes at someone who is expressing their pain for being “over dramatic”. And DO NOT, under any circumstances, tell someone who is thinking about taking their life that they are being ridiculous or “selfish”. These words are so damaging and will do nothing but push that person away from you.

I’m so sorry to all of the friends and families who have lost someone to suicide. I want to make it clear that I am not saying that this is your fault. I know how hard this is, please draw people around you who can love and support you.

If you are someone who is considering suicide or fighting depression I want you to know that you are loved and valuable and there are people in your life who will listen. Maybe that person is your mom, your friend, a coworker, or you can send me a message. I’m really sorry that there is something so hard in your life that this seems like the answer. Your feelings are valid and important and you are not crazy.

Here is a poem that I wrote to someone who is close to me:

please
know that
you’re loved

when you are
too sad to speak
and too afraid to
ask for help
know that there is
someone missing you

there are no
useless people
and no
meaningless lives
and you are no
exception

you are the sunrise
and you get brighter
with each passing
moment
but know
that you have
more warmth
to give before you
burn out

The National Suicide Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255
Chat with someone: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Love you,

Abby

Geneseo murders and when women say no.

WARNING: Contains content for mature audiences and may contain emotional triggers.

If you follow me on Twitter (which you definitely should) you probably saw me talking a little bit about the murders and suicide that happened at a college close to mine. If not, I’ll give you a quick summary:

A former student of Geneseo murdered his ex-girlfriend and the guy who was with her and then killed himself after she chose to end their long-term relationship.

I’ve been really sad about this recently. I’m heartbroken for the people who died and for their families. But more than anything, I’m disturbed. My first thought when I heard this news was “I hope I never get stabbed for rejecting a man.”

How sick is that? That I am afraid of being assaulted or even killed for exercising my right to say “no”. It’s terrible, but it’s a legitimate fear that people, particularly women, face. There are entirely too many examples of women becoming victims for rejecting a man’s advances or for ending a relationship. Just yesterday I saw this article about a woman who was shot after turning a man down in a bar. There is an entire blog dedicated to this subject called “When Women Refuse“. (I’ll warn you, some of the stories are pretty disturbing and can be very graphic)

In one study that was conducted, it was found that 94% of women who were murdered in situations where the victim/offender relationship could be discerned were killed by someone they knew. In fact, women are far more likely to be killed by an intimate acquaintance, spouse, or family member than men.

I’ll tell you why this freaks me out so much: this is a clear demonstration of men believing that they are entitled to a woman, be that emotionally or sexually, enough that they are willing to kill when they are denied. I can’t help but think back to this post I wrote several years ago about the mass shooting at UCSB.

One of the first things I told my boyfriend when we began dating was “well now I don’t have to lie to creepy guys when I tell them I have a boyfriend” because I am more comfortable telling a man that I am someone else’s property then I do telling him my feelings. When did “No” become not good enough? I don’t need to have a boyfriend, or be a lesbian to not be interested. You don’t need to be ugly or not a “nice guy” for me to say no.

And let me be clear: a man in a relationship with a woman has no more of a right to punish her for rejection than a man who is simply hitting on her in a bar. Coercion, assault, rape, and murder can all happen in the context of a relationship. And in the case of what happened at Geneseo it was the end of a relationship that prompted this violent act.

This comes from that sick mentality that says “if I can’t have you then no one can.” My amazing roommate, Katie, and I just recently watched The Hunchback of Notre Dame and it freaked me out so much. There is a whole creepy relationship where Frollo, the minister, is lusting after Esmerelda and (spoiler alert) he decides to have her burned at the stake when she will not have him and he sings this super creepy song where he says:

Destroy Esmerelda and let her taste the fires of hell or else let her be mine and mine alone…. be mine or you will burn

(I now understand why my parents didn’t like that movie when I was a kid)

That is just terrifying and it is the exact same thing as what happened in Geneseo. It’s one thing to watch that in a Disney movie where things always work out fine in the end, but it is another to see that played out to the point of death in real life.

I came across this article talking about what these murders that happened in Geneseo mean and I think it makes several good points. The main thing that stood out to me was the statement that “broken hearts don’t drive people to murder” but that possessiveness and a need to control do.

I don’t really know what the action items here are. What do we do to change this? How do we encourage women to get out of controlling relationships when they’re afraid of what could happen to their lives if they did? How do we fix this mentality of something being owed to men when this clearly isn’t an isolated incident? I don’t know.

I’ve just been really broken up about this for the last few weeks and I think this is something we need to be aware of and actively fighting. We need to teach our brothers and sons that women are not property that they deserve and we need to give women the resources to leave relationships and situations like these unharmed.

Abby

For people dealing with sexual assault: here
For people dealing with violence and abuse: here
For people trying to care for a loved one who has suffered: here

Brutal Honesty and Kindness

I’m a little late to this conversation, but I think I’ve finally pulled my thoughts together enough to write something cohesive. I’m sure that many of you have seen the video that was made by Nicole Arbour titled “Dear Fat People” and if you haven’t then I’ll just give you a quick rundown of what it said. This video was essentially a hate letter to “fat people” that was then played off as “humor.” I’ll be honest, I was pretty upset after watching this video. The thought that someone who has so much influence in the social media sector could just go and spew hate all over the internet and that it could get over six million views.

What I did think was amazing was the overwhelming number of responses to this video where people were speaking love and truth. I really loved what Tessa Violet had to say on this topic. Check out her video below.

What Tessa talks about is why we should choose kindness. And the position that she represents is not “Eh, we should choose kindness because, why not?” But she poses the question “Is there really any reason that we should not choose kindness?” And I think this applies to so much of life.

Since we were freshman in high school, Meesh has always told me:

I will never tell my kids to be nice, they will learn to be kind.

And that is something I will remember for my whole life. You see, kindness is not just an action, kindness is an indication of how you view and respect other people. When we look as all people as individuals and when we choose to respect them we cannot help but be kind. Kindness can be as simple as showing regard for someone’s feelings. Kindness is not always sunshine and roses, but kindness is always best. I read a lot of horse books when I was growing up (every little girl goes through a horse phase, OK? Mine was just longer than a lot of people’s) and there were many times when a horse was injured so bad that it had to be euthanized. The thing the vet would always say to the crying heroine of the book was “it was the kindest thing to do.” And this comforting, fictional vet was right. Kindness was the hardest choice to make, but it looked at the feelings of all those involved and decided what was best.

Whether or not we acknowledge it, we do this every time we speak or act. In a split second we catalogue the effects of what we’re about to do and then we decide. I know, sometimes you think before you speak (I am endlessly guilty of this), but typically we know what someone’s reaction to our words or actions might be before we do them. And here’s where I want to talk about Brutal Honesty.

Carrie Hope Fletcher did this amazing video on this topic.

Carrie’s main point is that there is almost never a time where you need to be “brutally honest” with someone. Now, there are a lot of people who have spoken truth into my life (often when I least want to hear it) in pretty straightforward ways: my mom, Meesh, Cindy, Penelope, Grace. And even though it has sometimes been hard to hear those truths I’d be willing to say that it’s never been “brutal” because I have always know that these truths are coming from a place of love.

Honesty should always be rooted in love. If what you are pointing out to someone is not so that you can see them become a better person or because you are honestly concerned about them then it’s not being honest, it’s being a jerk. It’s one thing to pull someone aside to say they have their skirt tucked into their tights (the number of times I’ve nearly walked out of the bathroom with my butt hanging out is ungodly) and another thing to yell it loudly across the hallway. Maybe you’re right in both situations, but one of them is showing kindness and the other is being an ass.

No person is perfect, and I know that I’ve been guilty of being hurtful in the name of “honesty” but this is something I have worked really hard to not do because I’ve seen just how damaging it can be. Maybe it’s really naive of me to think that all people should be in the business of building one another up, but that’s not going to stop me from trying to live like that. So the next time you go to say something “brutally honest” stop and ask yourself why you’re saying it in the first place.

Love you!

Abby

Feeling sad is OK.

Hello there friends, it’s been a while hasn’t it? I’m not going to lie, I haven’t missed this all that much. I think I’ve found some better outlets for my feelings and that’s what I want to write about today: feelings.

This Sunday I was having a talk with my parents about all of the things I’ve been worried, upset, frustrated, excited, and scared about and my dad just looked at me and said:

You know it’s OK to just be sad sometimes, right?

To which I just responded “yea, I suppose so.” I guess this wasn’t a good enough answer for my dad so he took me to go see Inside Out (which, if you have not seen I would highly recommend doing so,) because he said it will help me talk about my feelings. I’ll admit it, he was right.

I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone but essentially the main theme was that, in order to be a healthy and functional human being, you need to allow yourself to feel Sadness. Things can’t always be happy and perfect and sometimes you need to just be sad. In theory, this is a concept I understand very well and am very familiar with. Sometimes I get sad because of fluorescent lights! I know about sad. But I think what my dad wanted me to recognize was that I’m not very good at being openly sad.

My first reaction to feeling sad is to get angry about it. I’m angry that I’m crying, I’m angry that I’m upset about something that probably isn’t that important, I’m angry that I can’t keep it together. And this is just multiplied if I’m sad around someone else. If I’ve ever cried in front of you it means that either I really trust you, I’m really upset, or we’re watching an Anne Hathaway movie together. To me, crying has always felt like a sign of weakness. It’s something I do frequently enough that I feel comfortable joking about it (here,) but I’m always mildly frustrated with myself when I cry in public (which I do frequently as well.) Joking about it is really the only way I know to make myself feel less stupid about it. I’ve also always been the “fun” friend, so being openly sad feels like I’m failing this role that I have.

I’ve been trying to find ways to deal with my sadness on my own: writing poetry, writing in my journal, playing the same sad song over and over until I pass out, etc. And some of those things have been really beneficial for me, but there is value to sharing openly with real people. It’s hard, I’m currently way too many miles away from the people who I am most likely to share my sadness with and I don’t always want to share with the people right around me. But I’ve been getting a lot out of talking with my mom and dad about my feelings; the good ones, the bad ones, and all the stupid ones in between. And I’m starting to understand that even though I’m trying to look like I’ve got it all together, the more I cover up my sadness the more I hurt myself.

NOTE: all of this makes it sound like I’m perpetually sad, don’t worry, I’m not. My life is good and full of wonderful things and I am really happy a lot of the time. I’m just really poor at dealing with sadness in the times when it does come.

So what was the point of writing all of this?
1. This is my encouragement to you to share your sadness with people in your life instead of just feeling things silently and alone.
2. I’ve been thinking about this for four days straight and needed to put all of my thoughts in some sort of order.
3. I want to know how you deal with your sadness.

I make no promises to write consistently, but I’ve had a bunch of time to think this summer and I think there are some things I would like to share with you.

Love you!

Abby

Twenty. 30 to go…

It’s official, folks, I’m no longer a teenager. I’m twenty. Twenty. TWENTY. I actually have no idea how to process this. I’ve been a teenager for so long and now what? I’m twenty. Twenty is “in your twenties.” “In your twenties” is graduated from college. Graduated from college is married with four kids. Married with four kids is a midlife crisis. And a midlife crisis is basically the same as dead. UGH. I’m freaking out. What am I going to blame my angst on? I no longer have the excuse of being a hormonal teenager. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO???

I definitely am sad to see nineteen go, it has been a truly incredible year. I honestly didn’t have particularly high hopes for nineteen, it’s an odd in-between year where I thought nothing would change. I was wrong. This has easily been the best year of my life thus far. It’s been a year of me figuring out who I am and taking big steps to become a healthier and happier person. I’ve grown in my relationships with my friends and with my family. This was the year I fell in love for the first time. I’ve spent the better part of this year with someone who makes me happier than I know how to put into words and who makes me a better person. I have learned how to truly love this year.

Last year I posted that:

I want this to be my year. To be young and free of fear. But I also want to continue to learn and grow as a person. I want to be deeply rooted in Peace and want to flower with Joy.

and that is exactly what this year has been for me. It’s been a year of being young and wild and reckless. It’s a year that I’m walking out of with many happy memories and no regrets.

As scared as I am to jump into this new stage in my life I’m also so excited. This is the year I’m going to hopefully get my first co-op doing something in my field. This is the year I’m going to speak up. This is the year I’m going to be self motivated. I am so excited to fall deeper and deeper in love with my life and with the people in it.

Thanks for sticking with me through another year.

Love you!

Abby

New Semester Resolutions II. 31 to go…

Here I am, back at school, ready for another semester. I have to admit that I’m a little bit nervous for this semester. I know it is going to be academically challenging and emotionally draining, but I’m trying to be positive and excited about all of the exciting things that I’ll get to do this semester. As I wrote last spring I’m not a fan of New Years Resolutions, but I’m a big believer in New Semester Resolutions. So here are mine for this semester.

Keep my room clean:
This was one of my resolutions last spring that didn’t go particularly well… But I had a much better time with it this past semester and I just notice how much better I feel about my life when my room is clean.

Make my bed EVERY FREAKING DAY:
I’m pretty sure that when I’m able to make my bed regularly I will officially be an adult.

Get out of bed when my body wakes up:
I’m starting to realize that I think I am a morning people, but I have a terrible habit of waking up and then laying in bed for hours instead of just getting up. I’m super productive in the mornings, so all I need to do is get in the habit of just getting out of bed when I wake up,

Be in bed by midnight:
Doing this “getting up when I wake up,” thing is so much easier when I get enough. Plus, I turn into a pumpkin around 1am. Exceptions include Friday nights and certain Saturdays.

Be on time for EVERY FREAKING CLASS:
I am really terrible at being on time to things. That needs to change.

Go to church regularly:
It’s just good for my brain and my heart.

Go home more often:
I’m starting realize how important it is for me to be home to support my siblings and I just realize how much I enjoy spending time with my family.

Spend more time alone:
I know that most people would have resolutions totally opposite of this, but I’ve found that I’m far more introverted than I previously thought I was (which isn’t a big deal, because I was so extroverted that I was hardly functional.) I need more time alone to relax and get stuff done.

Eat less processed foods:
This one’s pretty self explanatory.

Read more books:
Just by being busy I haven’t had time to read books, which makes me really sad. My goal is to read three books this semester, including at least two that I’ve never read before.

Some updates on last year’s resolutions:

  • I’ve been regularly attending Cru.
  • I no longer eat meat of any kind, including fish.
  • I got a job! Two, in fact!
  • I have gotten a lot healthier, I’ve lost a ton of weight and I’m dealing with my emotional health. I’m super proud of all the progress I’ve made.

Some resolutions I didn’t meet:

  • I got pretty far into eliminating processed chemical products from my life, but I had to decide if it was worth all of the effort for the non-results I was getting so I’ve begun to use commercial makeup, but I have continued to use no commercial shampoos, conditioners, soaps, or moisturizers.
  • I didn’t end up eliminating dairy from my diet. I’ve decided that the impact of processed replacement products is worse than the impact of consuming dairy. Plus, have you ever had cheese?

I didn’t meet all of my goals in the last year, which is OK, but this semester I want to be very intentional about the goals I’ve set for myself and I understand that failure is always an option.

Do any of you have any new year/semester resolutions? I want to hear about them!

Love you!!

Abby

Update. 32 to go…

The past month and a half has been absolutely mad. I’ve been incredibly busy with school work, friends, and work. I’ve also been working through some issues in my life and between all of this I haven’t had the time or desire to write. I’ve also been trying to process through things on my own before I share them with the whole world. I guess this is what growing up is about. So here’s a little update on my life since early November.

I took my finals and finished the semester with a bang. It was a lot of work but I’m really proud of how I ended the semester and of the grades I got.

I went home for the first time all semester for Thanksgiving and had the most amazing time with my family and my friends. I have never been more thankful to be home in the warm arms of the people I love the most.

1799148_10153372325609972_2794151191504010471_oMe and my three best friends: my siblings.

My wonderful boyfriend came and stayed with me for a week before finals. We had an amazing time just being together, exploring, and going to Niagara Falls.

10850001_10153414127559972_860156450031299828_n
Us in front of the American side of Niagara Falls. We went over to the Canadian side, but it was so dark out that it was hard to get a good picture on that side.

I’m now home for winter break and have been having a marvelous time relaxing and spending time with my family and friends. We had a really beautiful and low key Christmas. I’ve been working and playing the piano and sleeping.

10891827_10153438730894972_9125212255972339615_n
My family has been taking Christmas selfies every year since my parents got married 23 years ago.

All of these things have been really great, but the biggest thing I’ve done in the last two months is a little less exciting. For many years I’ve dealt with depression in various different ways but this October I took a big step in the right direction. I went to the doctor to talk about this depression and see what I could do. The doctor told me that I have chronic depression and have been dealing with some PTSD after an incident that occurred last year. After talking about my options I decided that I wanted to try antidepressants. I was really hesitant in this choice because it felt like I was admitting that there was something wrong with me but the doctor told me something that really stuck with me.

This is an issue of brain chemistry. This isn’t your fault. You don’t refuse cancer treatments because you don’t want to admit that your cells are doing a bad job and it is no different with your brain.

I had never thought of it like that and I am so glad he said that to me. Let me tell you, I feel like a whole new person. I have had one day of unexplainable sadness in the past two months as opposed to three to five days per week. I have been so productive and motivated. I’ve done my homework, I’ve cleaned our whole house, I’ve cleared off my desk, I’ve slept. I can’t say how amazing it has been. I feel more alive than I have in years.

I haven’t really been able to write about this recently because it is so personal and because it has been such a process. I’ve found it really helpful to write poetry and I’ve been writing somewhat consistent updates here. As I continue to deal with this and continue to grow I think it will be easier to write more often and I hope to post here more consistently in the coming months.

Thank you for all of your support and all of the love you’ve all shown me, it means so much to me. I hope you’re having an amazing holiday season and that your new year is full of love.

Love you guys!!

Abby