The Bad Guys Strike Again…

I fight because I want to be a better person. I fight because I deserve better. I fight for my future generations. I fight because I deserve happy and healthy. And I fight because life is worth living.
And it’s tough. Very very tough. The battlefield in my head is bloody and harsh. I fight demons. Demons that want to kill me and tear me apart. Demons that are my own. And still, I fight. I fight for life. For dear life.
Do people know? No. Do they care? Not really. People get tired quickly of hearing other people’s stories. People ask how are you because they need to be polite not because they care to know if I’m having a good day or bad day. And still I fight. A secret war. A silent fight. Nobody knowing. But I do it for myself; for my life. So who cares, right?
But maybe just maybe if people would know how tough it is they would say something nice. Chocolate maybe. A hug maybe. Something to tell me that my fight matters and I’m not alone. Cuz right now I feel like the loneliest human being alive. 
I am not disabled. I am human. Like you and you and you. We just fight different battles. It’s not that I’m giving up. But maybe I need a break. A break sounds ideal. But isn’t my life one big break? Spending my days at a coffee shop, idling in bed, walking the streets… That’s a break. Only, it’s a break that causes more trouble. 
I don’t know what I need right now. Lots of practical and technical assistance. But maybe I just need to hear that people care and they want me here and my fight matters to them.

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Safety First!

During my first hospital stay in NYC, I was given numerous worksheets daily in regards to mental health. There was one for coping skills, another one for thought patterns and yet another one tracking behavioral responses. It was my adult version of homework. But unlike my school homework which I despised, I found those exercises engaging, thought provoking and extremely helpful.

My most important worksheet was my safety plan. In my safety plan, I identified my triggers, my stressors and helpful methods for dealing with anxiety. It also listed contact information for supportive friends and mental health professionals. I reviewed the worksheet with my professional team and had it officially nominated as my safety plan. For a while, even after I was released from the hospital, I kept this worksheet close by so I can refer to it should the need arise. 

Whenever an anxiety-triggering emotion rose to the surface, I tried to engage in one of the soothing activities I had listed or call one of my friends to talk about it. Slowly, one baby step at a time, I have learned to override those dangerous thoughts. My safety plan is in the drawer now, instead of being out, but I still call my friends to ask for support. The importance of having a support system can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. I am grateful to all of my wonderful friends who have been there for me and continue to do so. All of you are my safety plan. 

And to all of you, think about your safety plan. Not because you’re in danger, but, because it’s important to remember what our triggers and stressors are and what we can do about it. It’s important to know who the supportive friends in our life are and to whom we can reach out if we need to. The friends who are there for you in your tough times are your true friends. Love them, appreciate them and let them know how much they mean to you. They are your support network. They are your safety plan.

To all of my supportive friends, safety begins with teamwork, so thank you for being a part of my team. 

And you? You are the key to your own safety. Don’t let anything or anyone ruin or steal that key. Take care of that key, keep it in a safe place, nourish it, treat it nicely and remember your importance. 

Stop and Smell the Roses

My supervisor at one of my former jobs used to constantly remind me and my colleagues to stop and smell the roses.

Whenever we hit a particular rough month at work, she would order in lunch, insist that we take a break and just breathe. I always liked and appreciated the positive vibes that came with it. And even now, five years after I left the office, I still remind myself every once in a while to stop and smell the roses.

Life can be overwhelming, hectic and stressful – to name a few. And oftentimes, we get so caught up in the whirlwind of daily chores and responsibilities that we forget who we are and what we love. We begin defining ourselves by our stressors and weaknesses. Even when we are having a good time, those troubles are lurking in the back of our minds – on call – for when we need them. 

Dealing with mental illness has intensified my stress and brought it to a whole new level. Little things, like going to sleep and waking up, have become a source of great tension. Sometimes, my sadness makes me forget about all the good things in life I still have. Depression is a skilled thief, robbing me of my joie de vivre. And when my focus is entirely on surviving another day, it is tough to remember  the reasons for life and joy. And yet, because the scent of happiness seems so far away, specifically for people with mental illness, it is especially important to remember to take a break from stress and tension, breathe and smile. Breaks, every now and then, are what fuel us in continuing to give life our all. 

When life gives us lemons, it’s hard to remember the little things, like the sugar. And when our paths are strewn with pebbles and thorns, it’s hard to think of the fragrance of the flowers. Still, it is not the earth-shattering events in life that will make us feel better, but the little things here and there. 

I am contemplating putting up a poster in my room reading, stop and smell the roses. This way, I can wake up in the morning remembering to smell the coffee and smile. On tougher mornings, maybe it’ll remind me of how good a warm shower and vanilla lotion feels.

Each day is bursting with a million little things that would make us smile if only we learned to notice those. A baby’s smile, a friend’s hug, pleasant weather and so much more. And while those things don’t heal depression, they sure help you feel better. And when we feel better, we fight depression a lot better.

So, stop and smell the roses.

Solving The Mystery

Mystery creates wonder. And wonder is the basis of a man’s desire to understand. -Neil Armstrong 

The human mind likes solving puzzles and that is why we enjoy mystery so much. The mysterious comes with a unique thrill that is stimulating, exciting and will draw us in. And that is precisely why mystery novels are one of the most popular read genres. It is the reason why so many will spend hours on a crossword puzzle. There is always something fresh and thrilling on a clean, white sheet of paper for writers. 

Yet, in addition to the exciting and thrilling side of mysteries, there is also an element of fear; the first day of school, the first step of a journey and the first day on the job. Then there’s the part where we say, “that is so weird.” We look at the things that are unfamiliar, analyze and then come to the conclusion that because it’s different, it must be odd.

Since my initial diagnosis of anxiety and depression, I have become an object of mysterious wonder to many people. I’ve seen the thrilling component; that exciting determination of I will figure this one out. And I’ve seen the fear; the I’m not sure I want to do this, it might be contagious look. And I’ve also been branded as weird and rather odd. 

What we don’t know becomes a mystery. And mysteries are different and strange. But mental illness should never be the object of anyone’s fear and shouldn’t be considered odd. People suffering from mental illness are people just like anyone else and they deserve to be treated as such. 

Dealing with anxiety, depression and PTSD hasn’t made me lose my personality. I still enjoy listening to a good song as a means of winding down, I still like to write poetry so I can reflect on my thoughts and I am still funny and witty sometimes. I get sad sometimes and I cry; I also get really happy and excited sometimes. Just like you. And you. And you. We are not different as a people, we only fight a different battle. 

Fortunately, though, we live in a world where mental illness is becoming more and more talked about. There are so many different resources that discuss and teach about different aspects of mental health. If someone in your life is in any way affected by a mental disorder, do them a favor and educate yourself. Firstly, because there should be no fear or panic associated with mental illness. The more you know and understand a subject, the more comfortable you are being around that subject. Also, admittedly, because as humans we want to be treated as such; we are not a thrill or a matter up for research and discussion. And most importantly, let the odd apply to three-legged aliens. When you will learn more about mental illness and how it affects us, you will realize that if you look past our struggles, we are just people trying to live life to the best of our abilities. 

Recently, we had some guest over for the weekend. After the house quieted down and most people went to bed, I struck up a conversation with one of the guys. While we were chatting, my suicidal attempt somehow got mentioned. That seemed to have piqued his interest, for he soon had loads of questions as to how and why and where and what. When his curiosity was finally sated he found it perfectly fine to tell me that my story is the weirdest story he’s heard by far. Weird? You find a suicidal attempt weird? Is that the word you use to describe depression, anxiety and mental illness? Weird is the last adjective that comes to my mind in relation to suicide; sad, depressing or inspirational seem to fit better. When you use the term weird you don’t only hurt me, you hurt all of us suffering from mental illness. And by saying that, you state how poorly educated you are. 

Why am I writing about this? To tell all of you, that we are not weird and we don’t have to be a mystery. If there is something that puzzles you in regards to mental health, please do some research before you make assumptions. We don’t have to be feared. No, mental illness is not contagious and we are generally not violent. Honestly, we are also not very thrilling; in fact, we might be depressing sometimes. 

One out of four people is affected by a mental health condition here in the US. That is a lot. And that means that the chance of you interacting with one of them is very high. And that is why it is important for all of us to educate ourselves on this subject. Because knowledge replaces fear. And if you know it, it isn’t weird or exciting anymore; it becomes a mundane reality. So, read up on it because educating yourself about those illnesses is really the foundation of support.

There you go. Mystery solved. 

Let’s Meet on the Road to Recovery

I am currently in the process of healing, having been through several suicidal attempts due to my anxiety and depression. Recovery is a rather slow course and a long road. Yet, each day I am one step closer to my final goal. I say it is a long road because sometimes I fall back. They say, old habits die hard. And they’re right. It is hard to tackle stress when the only coping mechanism my brain knows is suicidal thoughts. Still, I don’t let those instances of relapse define me. I am patiently teaching my mind and heart new and healthy strategies on how to cope with pain.

I know what despair feels like; I’ve been there not too long ago. And, nobody should ever have to feel what darkness is like. That is why I am writing. I have launched this blog to talk about the bittersweet and to spread awareness. In no way though, is this in place or instead of professional help from a trained or licensed individual. 

I am profoundly touched and honored when people come forward and tell me that I have made a difference. Even more so, when it is the people in pain who reach out; for I know their world and I know what strength it takes to break the silent and isolated suffering. Yes, it is for those of you that I write. I want to give that secluded world of heartache a voice; the voice it so deserves. Furthermore, I want to encourage you to take a step out of that world, reach out and ask for help.

But, I am not -and cannot be- in place of professional help. I am not a trained professional. I am not a licensed therapist. I do not have a PhD in psychology. Nor do I know you or your life-story. There is no way for me to know what makes you tick and what triggers you. Thus, I will say that asking me for professional advice is not a good idea. I am not in a position to give you that. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach out. You should. But please, reach out to someone who can help you; someone professional who will guide you through the ups and downs of mental illness. If you tell a therapist that you are thinking of hurting yourself he/she is mandated to alert the proper authorities and together they can work out a plan of care that works for you. So many wonderful and caring professionals are willing to assist you in your journey if you only allow them.

I am in recovery myself and I cannot allow myself to be dragged back into those dark places. I cannot afford to be triggered into destructive behavior again. I want to be a good friend and be here for everyone; but first myself.

Reach out to someone trained and professional who can help you with real, solid advice. Get started on the road to recovery and we can meet there.

 

Breaking The Silence

Fake smile
dried eyes
scratched wrists
bruised thighs

white pills
rope tied
gun loaded

suicide.

There, I’ve said it. The word. The word that has killed people in pain, has torn families and friends apart and has been ignored for far too long. And I’m here to change that. No, my words cannot change the world, but maybe it can ignite a small flame. A flame that with the help of others can turn into a fire too big to be extinguished by turning a blind eye.

Suicide. It is real. It’s out there consuming everything in its way. To suicide it doesn’t matter if you smile on the street and what others think. To suicide it doesn’t matter that nobody is aware of the fatal struggles taking place in the battlefield of your own heart. To suicide it doesn’t matter how many Facebook friends, Instagram followers, phone calls, family dinners or parties. When suicide strikes, you’re out.

I, myself, have dealt with suicidal thoughts for quite some time. I’ve contemplated my end and struggled to fight the urge. Yes, it is hard to fight alone. People struggling with suicidal thoughts or feelings generally feel very isolated and alone. They tend to feel like there is absolutely nobody out there who would care enough should they choose to disappear forever. They believe (and when I say believe I mean believe with utmost certainty), they are a burden to society and they will make everyone’s life easier by leaving.

You might argue that those thoughts aren’t rational. I will agree with you. But I will also tell you that suicide transcends logic. And when a person reaches that point it is a point of no return. Those thoughts, beliefs and emotions become who they are until there is nothing left of them but an emptiness that only death can cure. It’s frightening. And it’s not the kind of scary that passes after the movie is over. Because, whether we’d like to admit it or not, more people are hiding behind a facade than what we think. And so many of them are family, neighbors and good friends.

And therefore, I am writing today. If you have a friend who’s distancing or isolating him/her self, please, please reach out. If your friend’s smile doesn’t reach their eyes please ask them how you can be of help. If your friend talks of life as if it’s over, please tell them that you are there for them. And if your friend seems to be suffering, please reassure them that you care and they are not alone. Don’t believe them when they tell you they are fine. Behind the words ‘I’m fine’, lie the biggest demons.

You might be the one to save a life. We have lost too many and we cannot afford to lose any more. Reach out. Show your friends and family that you care. I am here today to write this, because people cared enough to worry about me. And I am eternally grateful to my lifesaver. And I know that I can only repay him by letting the world know that suicide doesn’t discriminate. Suicidal thoughts happen to the best of us and nobody deserves to suffer alone.

Now. Now is the perfect moment to reach out. Place that phone call. Send that text message. Check in with your fellow friends. You might be the person to prevent the next tragedy.

And to those of you suffering of suicidal thoughts. You are not alone. Please, reach out for help. People care for you; a lot more than you think they do. Nobody wants you to suffer alone. There are many resources out there that can help you. Been there, done that. And I am glad to be here today.

Life does get better.

Thank you to all of my good friends. And thank you, Mordechai. This one is for you, for you have saved my life.

Unsweetened Tea

Flare-ups. They happen to Crohn’s disease patients. They happen to me too, though I don’t suffer from Crohn’s disease. I deal with depression. Yes, I take care of myself and yes, things are under control. Still, sometimes, the monster inside me will pop its head out, my jack-in-the-box.

If I’m with you when this happens, don’t get scared. It’ll pass. If you want to help me, give me just a little bit of time and space and I’ll be right back. You might want to ask me if I need a hug. It is not your fault that my monster emerged in your presence. No, you didn’t say anything hurtful. Nobody hurts me more than my own thoughts.

Recently, I spent a week on vacation with wonderful friends. As we were grooving one night, a flare-up happened. I stopped dancing and walked away to be with my own thoughts. I stared at the city skyline, flashing lights and black sky and felt so alone in the universe.┬áMy friends found me and came to sit with me as I sorted my thoughts out in poetry version. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone anymore although they were silent all throughout.

Your presence makes a difference. Be there for your friends. They need you.

Unsweetened Tea

Black sky
Flickering star
Shimmering sea
Where do I belong?

Rolling in grass
Staring nowhere
Feeling the groove
Trying to write my song

Big city
A lost soul
Flashing lights
For what do I long?

Jumble of sounds
Confused brain
Search my heart
What have I done wrong?

Blank life
Unsweetened tea
Take me or leave me
I wish I was strong.