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

I know exactly who I am. 35 to go…

A little over a month ago I went to visit my wonderful boyfriend and see one of my favorite comedians, Mike Birbiglia.

10590529_10153161376099972_4210245501013494918_n
A lady on the street took this in front of the theater we saw Mike Birbiglia in. It’s entirely too adorable not to share. 

We had a really amazing time, and if you’re super interested in our weekend you can read about it here but what I want to talk about is my drive there.

It was a six hour drive from my school to the campsite we were staying at and a good stretch of that was through the frozen wasteland that is Canada where there is no internet and no GPS signal so I found myself listening to the same couple of albums in a row. Naturally, there was lots of Pat the Bunny, FIDLAR, Lana Del Rey, and Ben Rector but there was one thing that really stuck out to me. My roommate and best friend Grace has been making me listen to all sorts of new things and one thing I’ve loved is Marina and the Diamonds. Her album Electra Heart is kind of killer and I’ve probably listened to it a hundred times. Well I was listening to her other album, The Family Jewels, and a couple of things really stuck out to me.

Most of this album is really good, there are some weird bits, but I like it lots. (Tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, 11, and 13 are my favorites.)

I listened to the first song, “Are You Satisfied?” sixteen times on the way there. I’m not kidding. Sixteen. The words just echoed and bounced around in my head for weeks afterwards.

Are you satisfied with an average life?
Do I need to lie to make my way in life?
Are you satisfied with an easy ride?
Once you cross the line, will you be satisfied?

I’ve sort of always believed that no one is satisfied with an average life, (more on that here) but having those words sung to me over and over I realized how much I’m not OK with an average life. Sure, everyone wants to be remembered and immortalized once they’re gone but I want to be noticed while I’m still living. I want people to see the things I’m doing, the places I’m going, the things I’m writing, the words I’m speaking, and see that my life is different. I’ve always wanted to be unique. One thing that frustrates me endlessly is when people say things like “Oh my gosh! You’re exactly like my friend so-and-so.” Public Service Announcement: No one wants to hear that. Tell me that I remind you of someone you know, or that you think I would really get along with your friend, or that we have similar traits, don’t tell me that I’m not enough of a unique person to stand on my own. I understand that I can’t stand out in the mind of every single person I come across, but I don’t want to be forgettable and comparable. I want to make beautiful things and change the people around me for the better.

“Oh No!” has quickly become my new all-time-favorite song. Every time in comes on in my car or while I’m walking around on campus I have to seriously fight the urge to start dancing like a maniac. I lost count of how many times I listened to this song on my trip but it was an ungodly number of times.

I know exactly what I want and who I want to be
I know exactly why I walk and talk like a machine
I’m now becoming my own self-fulfilled prophecy

I’ve been singing these words over and over again for weeks on end and I have no intentions of stopping any time soon. These words have meant so much more to me than I could possibly say. I’ve realized recently that this is the best version of me that has ever existed and I’m really proud of that. I’ve worked really hard to shape myself into the person I am. In a conversation with Grace this week I said “this is the skinniest I’ve ever been in my life,” and it wasn’t until much later that I realized how true that was and how happy that made me. This is the thinnest I’ve ever been, and it’s also the healthiest I’ve ever been. This is the most proud I’ve ever been of my body. This is the most proud I’ve ever been of the person I am. I’m proud of the choices I’m making and the person I’m becoming. I’ve realized that not everyone is going to approve of the person I’ve chosen to be, and I’ve realized that I don’t care. I feel like I’ve stopped trying to please people with my choices, my clothing, my taste in music, the way I talk, the things I write, and the way I am. I’m done trying to fit myself into boxes to make other people happy. I know exactly who I am and who I want to be.

So I’m going to keep dancing to those words and invite you to join me. Dance along to knowing who you are and who you want to be, or dance along to not knowing and trying to figure it out as you go.  We are our own self-fulfilled prophecies. We decide who we are.

Love you!

Abby

i am a woman. 36 to go…

i’m not a
delicate teacup
for you to
enjoy without
touching

nor am i a
simple mug
for you to
drink from
daily

i’m not a pretty
thing
meant to be
left on a shelf
and looked at

nor am i a
kitchen utensil
for you to use
as it suits you

do not try
to personify me
into the manmade
objects
around you

my heartbreak
is not art
and my tears
are not poetry

my pain is not
a painting you can
sit and stare at
and attempt to
find meaning in

i am not
some beautiful
porcelain jar
that can hold
my thoughts
and sit quietly

i was made
from the mud
of this earth

i am dark
and misshapen

i have been dropped
and cracked
and slowly
chipped away

so don’t look
for me
in the things
you have made
look for me
in the things
you cannot control

find me
laughing in the
colors of fall

find me
singing in the
babbling brook

find me
dancing in the
spring breeze

find me
screaming in the
waterfall

find me
running in the
rolling hills

i am not
something you
can understand
and i am not
something you
can stop

I don’t typically share my poetry on this blog, but it took me several hours to write this one and I’m very proud of it. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we try to write about people so we can understand and capture them, and this came of that.

Love you!

Abby

Pat The Bunny. 37 to go…

I’ve really struggled with depression for several years and one of the main ways I have chosen to self-medicate is through music. I’ve spent a lot of time pumping happy, lovey-dovey music into my head to avoid the darkness that creeps around the corners of my mind and preys on me when I’m weakest. My friends at school would make fun of my taste in “white-bread” music that all sounds the same, and I didn’t have it in me to tell them that it was the only thing I had to help me hide from my demons.

Well things have changed. I’ve changed. I’ve started to deal with my depression openly and honestly, and I think it’s come with being physically healthier, being more honest with the people close to me, and acknowledging that there is a problem. I’ll write a little bit more about this in detail later this month, but I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I don’t have to numb my mind with sappy music.

Living with Grace and Mike means that I have listened to a lot of new and interesting things. From K-Pop, to Wu Tang Clan there is almost always music playing in our house. Recently, we’ve been listening to a lot of Pat The Bunny and it’s kind of been changing my life. I’ll warn you straight up, his music is not super family friendly. It’s abrasive and angry and honest. It’s also full of hope. You should definitely take a listen to it though, it’s sort of been changing my life.

A couple of weeks ago I drove with my dear friends Grace, Evan, and Brandon to see Pat The Bunny at a tiny stone church in Vermont.

10392429_10153229400704972_2181917609722813811_n

The show was absolutely amazing. I cried. A lot. I got to shake Pat’s hand and in that moment I couldn’t put the words together to tell him about how his music was changing my life. There was a moment when everyone in the room starts singing along to “We Are All Compost in Training” and everyone screams along THE WORLD NEEDS MORE SPINACH, NOT MORE MOTHERF****** LIKE ME and I just sort of lost it. How true is it? The world doesn’t need more people like me, the world needs more spinach.

A lot of his lines are funny, and Grace and I sing them loudly while driving.

Seat belts are for people with time to die, hell, I don’t even have time to sleep.

And then some are so incredibly relatable.

Nothing’s free but time when you’re so damn poor.

And there are some that make me cry every single time.

Your heart is a muscle the size of your fist so keep on loving, keep on fighting, and hold on for your life.

These are words I’ve been listening to over and over again, reminding me that there is hope and that choosing to numb my mind in any way is not the way to deal with the pain I may feel. It’s been serving as a reminder that I’m going to make it out in the end. It’s been showing me the importance of being socially informed and speaking up. It’s given me something to laugh at and sing along to and a way to say a lot of the things I’ve been feeling.

So maybe this isn’t your style and maybe you don’t connect with Pat’s music at all, but it’s a 35 minute album that’s worth listening to in depth at least once.

Love you!

Abby