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

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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

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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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

A changed me. 41 to go…

One of my favorite things about my college is all of the random and encouraging graffiti around. One of my favorite places on campus is the third floor bathroom in the library because it’s always full of honest and encouraging things written all over the walls. Well I was in there for the first time since last semester and I came across this map on the wall. 10625148_10153110326829972_2636383318552121710_n

This all began as a part of a question in the top left side of the picture “what are you guilty of?” I remembered seeing this last year and as I read the various comments surrounding it I recognized my own handwriting. “Not telling you how I feel.” As I stared at these words that past-Abby had written I was taken back to the moment when I wrote this in April and how I felt. I remembered the stupid and beautiful things he made me write. I remember thinking that I loved him and thinking that the physical pain of him not noticing would kill me. It all came flooding back and honestly it shocked me.

Those feelings suddenly feel so foreign to me. They feel so far away and sad to me. They feel like something from a dream, a sad dream. Part of me wonders if it’s because I’m in a happy and fulfilling relationship that I don’t feel like this anymore, but the rest of me knows that it’s because I’ve changed.

I’m not the same person I was when I wrote that back in April. I’m not the same girl who pined after him for months.

I’ve grown a lot and learned so much over these past couple months. I’ve become more confident in myself, I know what I want, I’ve learned how to say what I want, I’ve learned how to rest, I’ve become more OK with being me.

It has occurred to me as I’m writing this that I’ve written things like this before, and then I realized that this isn’t going to be a one time thing in my life. I’m going to continue to learn and grow and experience and become more of the person I want to be.

I was in a conversation with the person I’m with about being an awkward middle-schooler and about how much I’ve changed even since graduating high school and he told me he’s definitely noticed a difference in me since the end of high school. I’ve definitely noticed a difference in me to, and I think it’s come from living on my own, making better friends, learning from my mistakes, becoming more confident, and making my own decisions. I’ve changed in so many ways and I like this version of me so much better than every previous version, but I know there is still change to come.

So this is just something I’ve been thinking about a lot and that was really brought to the front of my mind by seeing this little note from past me.

Question of the Day – What are you guilty of? How have you changed?

Love you!

Abby

I’m baaaaaaaaaack!!! 55 to go…

So I haven’t posted in about 2 weeks. Let me tell you, that was not by my own doing. I have had two weeks of madness. It’s been like two weeks of Mondays.

Last Monday, I got locked out of my blog due to some errors with my cell phone and such. That may or may not have caused a mini two week panic attack. Then on Tuesday I broke my phone after just getting a new one about a month ago. On Wednesday I lost my University ID card, which means I couldn’t get into my building or buy food. The rest of the week was OK, but I found myself really really homesick over Easter weekend and I had no way of calling my parents and talking to them. I watched a super depressing movie over the weekend which threw me into a funk and I also had the realization that this boy I’ve had a crush on for a long time just doesn’t like me. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it was kind of crushing. I mean, I haven’t asked him about it or told him how I feel (you know me, it’s just not going to happen,) but it just kind of hit me that he didn’t like me and he probably isn’t going to change his mind. It was just something I suddenly understood. This week started fine, but then I got really sick on Tuesday and have just felt awful (I literally spell that wrong every single time,) and didn’t get out of bed for several days. I’ve just been feeling rotten and it’s been raining and I haven’t been able to call my mom and whine to her about how much everything sucks.

Thankfully this week is almost over. I just took a Biology exam and I’m done for the week and can just relax. My phone came in the mail and I didn’t have to pay a penny to get it fixed. Basically everything has fallen into place in the past 24 hours. I’m still coming off of the stress wagon I’ve been on for the past 10 days, but I am most certainly relieved to be done with all of this.

Not being on here has given me a lot of time to do some writing on my tumblr and a lot of time to think. But in the end, I’m really glad I’m back.

Love you!!

Abby

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. 64 to go…

So this week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week and this is a cause that I’m super passionate about. I feel like our society both refuses to acknowledge eating disorders as a serious issue and alienates and shames those who are suffering. This is the kind of stuff that makes me absolutely furious. You see, I struggled with an eating disorder for many years and I know what it feels like to be struggling and to feel like you can’t tell anyone because no one understands and no one believes you.

I was always chubby growing up. I remember being teased about it all through elementary school and into middle school. It always hurt, but I always had some comeback to get the other kids to shut up. I remember going shopping with my mom and feeling like I didn’t look good in anything. I remember going to the doctor’s office and being told that I was at risk of becoming over weight. In my mind I didn’t hear “at risk” I just heard the words “Over Weight” echoing over and over again in my head.

There’s one very distinct memory that stands out to me. I remember riding the bus in ninth grade and the guys sitting across from me started making fun of me and at one point one of them turned to me and said:
“Abby, you’re so fat you should probably just kill yourself.”
Kill yourself.

I don’t remember when it started, but at some point I just started skipping meals.
“Sorry Mom, late to school! No time for breakfast!”
“No, I’m not hungry.”
“I already ate.”
“I’m just not feeling well.”
“We’re eating at her house.”

If I felt that I had eaten too much at a certain meal I would just purge it. I would tell myself that I had been weak and that I would be stronger next time. I punished my body for this perceived weakness.

But it didn’t matter what I did, I still felt terrible about myself. I couldn’t tell anyone because I was so afraid of people knowing how deeply insecure I was or knowing how much I hated myself. I covered up those feelings with false confidence and forced happiness. I found my own way of dealing with the deep pain I felt inside. I used physical pain to cope with (what seemed like) the unending emotional pain. And those scars, both physical and emotional, are still healing.

Now I don’t have an incredible recovery story about going to treatment for months and about suddenly becoming happy and healthy. It has taken time and is continuing to take time to become happy with the way I am. It came with making incredible and supportive friends, with building healthier relationships with my parents, and with growing in my Faith. There are days when it’s still hard, this isn’t a pain that just leaves you. There’s no immediate healing. It takes time.

Now I don’t tell my story because I want pity. I tell it for a couple reasons:

Telling our stories gives them validity. I’ve spent years denying my story for fear that it would bring judgement from the people closest to me and for fear of admitting to myself that I was deeply hurting and insecure.
We need to be encouraging those who are suffering to tell their stories and we must be willing to listen. Just by listening to people’s stories we tell them that we believe them and care. We cannot alienate and judge people for suffering. They deeply need us. They deeply need you.

I seemed happy and healthy. I didn’t look like I was suffering. I seemed OK. I look back at pictures from that time and can see that I wasn’t nearly as fat as I perceived myself to be.
If someone comes to you to share their story with you, don’t just assume that they’re lying or exaggerating because they seem happy and healthy. It’s not always the morbidly obese, the abused, or the stunningly beautiful who are suffering (not to say that they don’t.) If anyone comes to you and says they are struggling, you have to believe them. 

My story has the potential help. There are very few people in my life who know this part of my story. And I never thought that it would be something that I would be able to write about, but I was prompted by another friend of mine sharing her story. While I’m not thankful for this part of my story, I have had opportunities in my life to help others who are struggling because I understood. I understand.
If you have a story to share, share it. It isn’t easy and it isn’t fun and sometimes it comes with tears and deep pain, but your story is worth telling and I can assure you that there’s someone in your life who needs to hear your story.

If someone comes to you and tells you that they are struggling do not assume that they are just doing what they are for attention. That is one of the most unhelpful and destructive things you can do in a situation like this. Take the time to listen and be supportive.

If you’re suffering:
TELL SOMEONE: I assure you that there are people in your life who care and want to hear what’s going on with you and want to help you. This person can help you in getting help or can help to keep you accountable.

YOU’RE NOT ALONE: You are not the only person who has felt this pain. You’re not crazy, you’re not a freak, you’re not unacceptable. The worst thing you can do is alienate yourself. I know how deeply it hurts, and you have to know that there are others who have gone before you.

IT GETS BETTER: I promise you, this feeling will not last forever. It hurts and is terrible and seems like it will never end but it will. There is hope for Joy and normalcy and acceptance.  I felt like I was never going to be OK again. I felt like I was dying from the horrible pain and hatred I felt inside but I am OK. I am surviving. I am happy. I’m not saying it is easy or that it won’t take time but I promise that it is worth it. You will get out of this alive and there are people in your life who are willing to help you.

This was really hard for me to write. It’s never easy to tell my story but I know that I’m better because of it and that I am the person I am today because of the things I’ve gone through and the things I’ve learned from them. So let’s not sit idly by and ignore this very serious issue. Talk to the people in your life, do not shame those who are suffering, tell your story. I promise, you will not regret it,

Love you!

Abby

Here are some helpful links:

For those who are suffering
For friends and family
For more information