Posted in mental health, Personal Post, Uncategorized

And so she placed a semicolon at the end of her sentence and turned the page

If I were to think of my life as a book, it would be infinite. I would never run out of pages to write new things on, nor would my pen ever go dry. If you would have asked me just a month ago what my life would be like, I would have simply said “Nothing…I can’t see any hope right now.” Or I would have put on a brave face and tried to look happy—pretending that I wasn’t thinking about suicide or dying; Pretending that I was okay and I could “handle it.” Each night I would go to bed and secretly hope that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning so I wouldn’t have to face my life again, so that I could get some real peace and rest because I was so tired. I was tired, I was beaten down, and I was beginning to think that death was the only release from all of this.

However…

On the other hand I was still grasping on to the that tiny little sliver of hope that maybe, just maybe tomorrow would be better. That I would wake up and actually be okay—that dying was easy, living was harder and I could do this. I had to do this. I didn’t really want to die, there was a desperate part of me that wanted so much to live…no matter how painful it was.

This is the real struggle of someone with a mental illness. Someone who is trying each day to try to see the positive through all of the fog and muck, through all of the intrusive and obsessive thoughts—the feeling that you “should” be able to control this but can’t. The facade that you play a part in is society thinking that mental illness isn’t really a thing, it’s not real—and if it is you’re really crazy and belong in a home. If you can’t see it, then it can’t be real right?

Society doesn’t give people who suffer from a mental illness nearly enough credit. Imagine having someone follow you all day long and say things like:

“You’re stupid.”

“You’re worthless.”

“You are not enough.”

Then imagine this person getting louder and more aggressive, and there’s nothing you can do to defend yourself or make them go away. You can’t get away because they follow you where ever you go, and they continually berate and taunt you. Pretty scary isn’t it? That’s the closest analogy I can use, that’s what it’s like—those voices, those thoughts—they can be dangerous and all encompassing. You start to believe them even though you don’t want to, because it’s woven into your very heart—or so you think.

“You are not enough!”

That’s what I kept hearing over and over again, no matter how hard I tried to not think it—I did. I had no idea that there was any other way to think except negatively about myself. If I was too confident I was arrogant, if I was too humble I was annoying and didn’t know how to take a compliment. I wanted so much to just run away but you can’t run away from you—no matter how hard you try or how fast you run. I hated the person in the mirror, I hated the person in the shoes I was wearing, I hated everything about myself because I had sunk so low in my depression that I couldn’t really think of anything I liked about myself. I couldn’t really do anything that I wanted to do because I didn’t want to be around people and bring them down either. So I isolated, I regressed slowly into solitude because that was where I thought I belonged.

That’s when things really got bad.

Human beings are not solitary creatures. We are not meant to isolate and escape for long periods of time. I would spend hours upon hours in my room alone, either playing video games or sleeping because those were the only things I was good at. I sunk deeper and deeper into depression. I became more and more anxious, and suffered from more and more flashbacks from my past that I had pushed away in hopes that it would just go away and I wouldn’t have to face it. If I hadn’t continually went to my doctors appointments or lived with my dad, I shudder to think what may have happened. It was about the end of September when my therapist flat out said to me: “Lauren, I’ve never seen you this low...” That’s when I realized that I was in desperate need of help. I knew that if I continued down this road it would lead to my suicide. My consciousness had become so warped and collapsed….

You’re stupid

You’re worthless

You are not enough

That I believed in my heart that I was worthless and there was no point being here in this life because I really had nothing to live for. Even though I knew it wasn’t true, that I had a family that loved me, friends devoted to me, and a future ahead of me (even though I wasn’t sure what it held)…I still had to fight with this demon that told me:

You’re stupid

You’re worthless

You are not enough

That is depression. That is anxiety. That is mental illness. You feel so much and you love so much that you’re so afraid of loosing it all.

I enrolled in a local partial hospitalization program for mental health. Basically it’s 2-3 weeks of intense group and individual therapy that gets you to look at what you’re real issue is. The big issue for me was unresolved trauma, trauma that I don’t want to go into here, but know that it was bad enough for me to be diagnosed with PTSD. That’s the other thing I struggled with was acceptance. I didn’t want to admit that I had PTSD because I felt as though I didn’t deserve it because I hadn’t been in a war zone. The truth is that PTSD can happen outside of a major war zone, it’s called “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” for that exact reason: It happens after someone witnesses or experiences severe trauma. That trauma can be sexual assault, witnessing something deplorable, etc. Society has no right to dictate what is traumatic for some and not others—we are human but we are also very different. It has taken me a long time to accept that I will have this illness for the rest of my life and I will always have to monitor it like someone has to monitor their blood pressure or blood sugar or diet. Acceptance is huge in the path to wellness, and I am learning that I can’t just run away and avoid past trauma. I didn’t get here overnight, and my journey is still well on the way—however I’m in a much better place than I was a month ago.

I’ve become fascinated with the semicolon. The purpose of a semicolon is to start a new sentence where a period would go. There’s a project named after it and as a writer I have to say I approve, because it’s an excellent way to promote hope.

To those of you struggling right now I have this to say to you:

You are enough. You are validated. You belong. The best part of your story is still being written my friend. Stay and find out what you were made for and find out what happens after the semicolon. Turn that page, I promise you it will be worth it.

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Posted in mental health, Personal Post

An Open Letter to Those considering Suicide

Dear Friend,

I want you to know that you are validated in your pain. My feet are a different size than yours, but I have walked in your footsteps. You’re hurt, you can’t bear the ache in your soul–it has penetrated and left you weak, and exhausted. You may not even want to die–and yet you do. It’s not a black or white issue I know that, it’s not simple or everyone would understand. Your brain has collapsed, your consciousness is foggy, and you feel nothing but the sheer agony of whatever pain your depression brings you. It’s so…loud.  Louder than any voice you’ve ever heard, it’s deafening, and it’s so powerful that you believe everything it’s saying to you:

You’re stupid.

You’re worthless.

You are not enough.

You would be better off DEAD! 

Friend I’ve followed down this dark path for many years…I’ve struggled with those thoughts that you may be feeling now. And I say feeling because they burn, and sear through your mind like molten lava. I want you to know that your pain is real, that you’re not crazy–your feelings…they are important. I want you to know that it is okay that you hurt, it is okay that you cry “for no reason.” It is okay that you feel so much, and you wear your heart on your sleeve. It’s okay my friend…

You are a human being. You are not depression. You are not your diagnosis, you are a human being of this universe who has a purpose. Human beings were meant to feel friend, to not do so would take away an integral part of you. An extremely wise individual told me once that our emotions are not us. Yes we are responsible for our emotions, but they are not who we are.  You are the greatest person in your world friend, you are important and you matter. You are enough.

I know it sucks, it hurts like hell and you are broken–but you can rise dear friend. You are not just an empty space, you have something beautiful to give to this world. I know you’re teetering on the precipice right now, and it feels so agonizingly lonely–but you’re not alone my friend. I want you to know that there is hope, for someone to feel so much you must know that. To have made it this far…that’s an accomplishment. You have made it to a new day each day, a new hour, a new minute–all the while having those demons following you. Do you know how much strength it takes to do what you have done? Do you know that you are one of the strongest people in this world? To challenge, even a little bit, those thoughts and feelings of worthlessness takes a tremendous amount of strength and hope.

Whatever plan you have at the moment, or even if you don’t have one, I am begging you to not go through with it. Please friend–you would create a void in this world, you matter to someone, even if you don’t think so.

You are not a sinner, you are not evil, you are not a bad person, and you’re definitely not selfish. You ache, you long, and you’re suffering. You’re sick, not selfish. If you had cancer everyone would understand, if you took medicine for high blood pressure everyone would accept it. Just because you can’t see a sickness, doesn’t mean it’s not valid or real.

Put it down friend. You are a beautiful story, a story that is continuing. You are at the semicolon, not the period–please don’t end your story now. Your story is important, you may not think so but I’m here to tell you that it is. It took two hospitalizations, many suicidal thoughts, and a bunch of medicine to help me realize this.

Life isn’t easy friend. It will beat you down and break you. But don’t loose hope, there is something in this world worth living for. You matter very much friend. To have a mental illness–it means many things to different people but you are the author of your story no one else. That’s the beauty of it friend, no one can take your pen from you. You are the author! You can continue, there is hope.

So take up your pen and begin again at the semicolon;