At any given point, I usually have two or three of these posts in the works, swapping places with a handful of others in the trash. The topics range from the less personal (e.g. talking about seasonal affective disorder – which y’all should definitely read up on if you haven’t before – or some other mental health condition), to those that are deeply personal – ones that I’d always struggle to share.
Over a year ago, I decided to start this blog to share a lot of what I had and have been struggling with in an effort to help myself and others heal. I would give myself a year to turn my mental health around. It was never easy, I was never fully comfortable telling my stories, and – I’ll admit – most times I didn’t want to. In every case, though, what made me share was the fact that maybe I’d be able to help just one person who was going through something similar. I became terribly passionate, not about sharing my life, but about helping someone.
I’d like to think I did.
Now, sixteen months after I began, I think it’s time I call it. This will be my last post for the indefinite future…I need to get back to being myself. I unknowingly took on an incredible task, and didn’t realize just how far this little project would go. I am tremendously happy with the results, both internally (within myself) and just how much positive feedback I’ve received from various people and groups.
Before I sign off, though, I’d like to leave my readers with a few of the lessons I’ve learned during this journey – and hope I’ll be able to give you something worthwhile one more time.
Being vulnerable is ridiculously difficult.
I get a lot of messages from people along the lines of “I don’t know how you do it”, or “you make it look so easy.” It really isn’t. Being open is very, very hard for me – especially in such a public setting. Being vulnerable can – to many – be seen as a sign of weakness, neediness, and a source of shame. It’s definitely not something I would willingly sign up for all the time. What made me share, though, was the hope that by being vulnerable it would inspire others to do the same, and to show that it’s not always a bad thing to ask for help.
Sometimes, people will get the wrong impression of you.
If you met me seventeen months ago, for example, you’d probably never think I would have been capable of doing something like this. I greatly enjoy my privacy and personal space, and it’s not a regular thing that I would be so willing to open up. By sharing so much of my personal life, I may have made myself too available, too open, in certain situations. While I enjoyed receiving messages, both for help and for encouragement, I’d often need to take a step back and re-evaluate if I was really ready to keep doing this. At this point, I think I’ve had my fill of the spotlight.
It may seem wrong, but sometimes, it’s OK to be selfish.
Selfishness is usually looked at as a bad thing, but sometimes it’s necessary to protect yourself. I’ve always believed that everyone needs a recharge sometimes, and as of late, I’ve been stretched thin. I think I’m a pleaser by nature, and love taking care of other people and other living things (if my dogs and plants could talk, they’d tell you)…but sometimes taking care of myself needs to come first.
That being said, I’m looking forward to being just a bit selfish over the next few or more days. Time for a little social media purge and do a little retail therapy! *googles closest Designer Shoe Warehouse*
All fun aside, for my readers: if you’ve been following my writing since the beginning, or have just recently found this blog…thank you so much for taking some time to read it. I’ll probably leave this site up for a while, so feel free to share it with someone you feel could use a little reassurance, or even just a break from their own struggles. I could definitely use a break myself. For my friends: you know how to reach me.
Hope y’all had a good weekend! If you’ve been as busy as me, you probably needed the break.
Besides playing way too much Fortnite (xchilphilx on XBL) and bumping new Travis Scott way too loud…I’ve been working on a few things behind the scenes. While those are cooking, I wanted to stop by and have a quick (but important) discussion on a topic that’s been on my mind for a while.
How y’all doing?
Several weeks ago, Instagram began providing an option for users to ask questions on their story and have them answered by their followers. I’m always looking for topics to continue the mental health conversation, so I decided to ask my peeps if there was anything they wanted to read about. One follower and good friend (thanks, @theycallmetap) in particular started a conversation about whether or not I think mental health words and terms such as “depression” and “anxiety” are overused (spoiler alert: I do), and before too long this post was born.
You’ve probably experienced it in your daily life. Someone says “Ugh, this weather is depressing,” or “Have you seen the latest episode of X, so depressed Johnny died,” or “this traffic is giving me anxiety.” Regardless of the situation, it’s becoming (at least to me) a disturbing trend – both in my day-to-day life and social media. Trivializing and colloquializing (had to double-check the spelling on that one) mental health and its terms have unfortunately become a norm – more often than not, it seems, by people that just don’t seem to understand mental illness.
Using something too much, like a word or a term, can dilute it and remove the significance of its meaning. “I’m depressed” these days has really become equivalent to “I’m a little sad.” “This gives me anxiety” really means “I’m just a little stressed about it,” and so on. I once read that we would never use a serious physical illness (like cancer) to mean “a little sick”, so why do we use mental illnesses this way?
Did watching an episode on Netflix make you have trouble breathing, or make you want to lock yourself in your bedroom and spend the rest of the night under covers? Did a little bit of rain give you heart palpitations, sweaty palms, or make you feel you don’t deserve to live? I’m not here to police language or take away from your experience, but I’ll put a few dollars on “probably not”.
In my experience, using terms in this way really takes away from those who are going through serious mental health struggles…and it isn’t fair to us as a whole. In addition, it can further add to the stigma of mental illness by contributing to its misunderstanding and making anxiety, depression, etc. seem less serious or important. Mental health and mental illness are serious issues, so we should treat them that way.
So, all that considered, the next time we choose to use a term such as “depressed”, “anxiety”, or “OCD” and the like, I hope we all consider what those terms may mean to someone else.
To be honest, I’ve been trying to write and finish a blog post like this for a while – over a year, at least. I would start writing, then stop, then start again…always being torn between wanting to share one of the most personal and darkest moments of my life, and wanting to not pick at that scab again.
I was ready to move on, to move forward. I had survived the longest and most difficult period of depression I had ever faced, and was ready to never go back to it. Ever.
Then, almost immediately after I had resolved to leave it in my past, the world lost Chris Cornell. Then Chester Bennington right after that. Reeling, I came back to this post, got halfway through, and stopped again. Cue June 2018, where we would lose Kate Spade, and then Anthony Bourdain. I decided that maybe it was time to spill again, to own what I had been through and share just one more of my experiences with the hope that it can help someone struggling.
This isn’t an easy story to think about or tell, but I’ll do my best. With disclaimers for the possibly triggering material, here’s “The First Time I Ever Wanted To Kill Myself“, by Phil.
It’s a warm day in April 2017. My day started as they usually do…wake up, shower, eat, pill. That evening was Easter supper at my aunts (a welcome break from being alone in the suburbs). My car was out of commission, so I rode my bike from my house to the train station. I remember feeling just fine at dinner – it was great to be in the company of family and people who care, and nothing was out of the ordinary. I would have never guessed that later on that night, I’d go through hell.
On the bike ride back from the train, I felt a huge wave of hopelessness set in. I got about halfway up the overpass near my house, and stopped. I felt like I couldn’t go on, both physically and mentally. All the negative things that I’d been through leading up to that point – the breakups, the fights, the car accident, asking my doctor for medication, the lack of direction I felt at my job – were taking turns flashing in and out of my head, and I felt an overwhelming urge to jump and end it all.
Thinking about killing yourself is a horrifying thing, and for so many reasons. I felt all the strength and determination I had previously built up over so long just wilt away, and my will crumble. I wiped tears and sweat from my face and I thought about just how I would go: I’d just leave the bike there and topple over the edge with my eyes closed. Would I hit metal or pavement first? Who would find me? What would my parents think? Would anyone else care? These thoughts and questions flew in and out of my brain at rapid pace, and I eventually physically crumbled as well. Feeling my legs give out from under me, I dropped to my knees and then just sat there leaning against the concrete barrier separating me from the fall. I spent the next several minutes convincing myself that I needed to press on, and that I wanted to live.
Talking yourself down from something like that, and having to convince yourself that you are worthy of living, is both a shameful and humbling experience. In what felt like the hour that had passed, I realized that I wanted so much more out of life. That there were so many goals and accomplishments left to achieve. That I wanted those dreams way more than I wanted it to end. I was ashamed that it had come to that point, but I felt proud that I had survived yet another low. With that, I dusted off my jeans, wiped the sweat from my forehead, got back on my bike, and pedalled home.
I don’t think I ever flat-out wanted to die before that moment, and I don’t think I really wanted to die at all. Rather, I just wanted the pain I felt to end. I once read a quote that suicide doesn’t end the pain, but rather it passes it on to someone else…someone you love, someone you care about. If you’re reading this and have been going through pain, I know it’s difficult to, but please try to reach out to that someone. You deserve to live.
I am happy to say that since this experience, I am doing well. Through a lot of hard work, a dash of therapy, and the belief that I can do better, I have been doing just that. If you are like me and aren’t currently struggling personally, but you care at all about someone else…check on them. Sometimes it’s the ones who seem the strongest that need it the most.
For more facts and information about suicide prevention and to find help, visit here and here. Help is closer than you may think.