Don’t Give Up!

I’ve been wanting to share a song with you guys for some time now (it’s not sad, I promise). I found it at the beginning of summer and I liked it because it conveys a message of not giving up. My struggle through life is not so uncommon after all! This song described it perfectly. I’ve included the lyrics, just in case. Hope you like it.

The Fold Ivan & Alyosha

All the years that you have wasted.
Now you want them all back.
Long ago you stopped counting,
Because you couldn’t keep track.
You were faced with a future,
That was bright as the sun,
But the pressure, it was mounting.
You decided to run, run away.
Which direction does the wind blow,
In the valley there below?
And brother how should I know,
The way that you should go?
There’s a dream on the horizon,
That’s calling out your name.
Better go and find your reason,
Better find your claim to fame.

(Chorus)
Don’t you fold,
When the mountain is high,
When the river is wide.
Don’t you fold,
When you’re out of your mind,
When you’re walking the line

An oasis in the desert
Where the waters run clear,
And the only way to see it,
Is to believe that it’s there.
Well we all must fight our battles,
No matter where you came.
So be done with your excuses,
You’re the only one to blame.

(Chorus)

And all this time,
I was living a lie,
I was lost and petrified.
But I know that things can change in time.
All the years dreams can buy,
Between the heart and the mind

(Chorus)

Love you guys ; )

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Keep Your Head Up

“You are worth a lot. Always keep your head up!”

These were words my husband wrote to me not long after my attempt. At the time I didn’t grasp their full meaning. I thought he was wrong for thinking I was worth anything! As for him telling me to keep my head up I had no idea what he meant.

In the “Expressing Grief” post, I wrote about when a person has unexpressed grief it reflects on their body. Being the keen observer that he is, he took note of this in me. My body language screamed “shame”! I would spend most of the time looking at the floor, avoiding eye contact. I don’t remember smiling much either. That was all I could do at the time. It must’ve been hard to live with me!

I don’t think I ever sensed him giving up on me. I felt his frustration (sometimes) because I couldn’t see in me, what was obvious to him. During this time he began to write me poems, words of encouragement, and little love notes. He made sure there was a positive thought in my day because I was full of negative ones. It was clear I was only tearing myself to pieces.

This made me think of when marine mammals beach themselves and people try to help them. Sometimes they’re successful, depending on the size of the mammal, at helping them return to sea. There are times though, when the mammal(s) go right back and do it again. Scientists are dumbfounded by this behavior. Why would a creature do this to itself? It has a wide ocean to roam, food, and apparent health. It doesn’t make sense. In my last post I mentioned that a person in their right mind doesn’t want to die. I’m sure it’s the same with these creatures. We just haven’t come to understand them yet.

My husband was like those concerned people trying to help those stranded mammals, and I wasn’t budging! What else could he do but use his words to hopefully draw me out? They didn’t sink in back then, but they’re starting to now. I’m finally beginning to understand his words! It’s like he’d been watering a seed and waiting for it to sprout. My seed just needed some sunshine. Those much needed rays of light had been blocked by my layers of grief and shame.

When grief started to leave my body I began to lift my gaze off the ground. Now I look ahead. Maintaining your head up definitely sends a message of confidence to your body, and others. This is what my husband and family had been waiting for. The inner confidence that hadn’t existed in me for so long was starting to grow. My husband believed I had nothing to feel ashamed of. What had happened didn’t diminish my worth in his eyes. I therefore had no reason to hang my head in defeat. What I repeatedly failed to grasp was that I needed to deal with the toxic memories in order to start freeing myself from the guilt and shame. Our mistakes, past and present, don’t define who we are but give us a picture of what needs to be addressed and fixed. Making them is human. Learning from them and moving on, is living. Shame on the other hand, doesn’t let us move on and learn. We truly come to believe that we’re a mistake and a bad person. Having this distorted view of oneself is painful. It’s too much for anyone to bare.

I now view myself like the people on the beach with the mammals, wanting to help. Unfortunately, you can’t always physically save someone who’s decided to end their life. But if you think about it, they’ve already ended it, emotionally. How do you draw them out? With your patience and physical presence. They may not always want you around, but they need it. Offer your non judgmental love (remember they’ve already judged themselves enough!) and words: words of encouragement, love, and acceptance. Also, there’s a lot to process after surviving an attempt and routine is comforting because it adds structure where there’s chaos. It won’t take much for the person to feel overwhelmed either, so don’t push. Instead, slow down. Life is hectic enough as it is. We wouldn’t want someone who’s just had major surgery to go up and down a flight of stairs! It’s gonna take time to heal and everyone does it at their own pace, not others.

I’m so glad my husband had the strength to help me get through some of my toughest days. And there were many others who could only offer their presence, in one way or another, for a lack of not knowing what to do with me!!! There is no instruction manual for dealing with people who have attempted suicide. So the survivor and the family go about it confused, not knowing if what’s being done is enough to help. Remember, what got them there was not knowing how to ask for help and voice their pain in the first place. Learning to voice things will be a struggle, but if we control our reactions, it encourages the person to keep sharing.

An experience like this shouldn’t make anyone feel they’re unworthy of love, understanding, compassion, reassurance, forgiveness, and more LOVE. We all deserve to have these things regardless of whether we’re suffering from a mental illness or not.

Remember to keep your head up, you are worth a lot.

Love you guys ; )

 

Losing the Will to Live

Have you ever felt so desperate and hopeless that the thought of death seemed like a welcoming relief or know someone who has entertained this thought? At one time, thoughts of suicide were constantly with me, but what made death seem like a better option than living?

As a little girl I was petrified of death. The finality of it was terrifying. I didn’t understand it. It was enough to keep me awake at night. I thought going to sleep meant I could lose my life! It had been explained to me that when you die you lose consciousness, similar to when you’re asleep and not conscious of your surroundings. That fear never really went away as I grew up, but I began to obsess over it when I entered my teen years.

I don’t know how many times I attempted, in my mind, taking my life. I never had the courage to physically end it. But I imagined all these different scenarios. The most prevalent one was overdosing. Going to sleep and never waking up. A permanent solution to the emotional pain that had built up through the years. I had already judged and discarded myself in my mind. This was desperation at its worse in my life. I thought the solution was to find someone to love me and whom I could love in return, but that was like putting a band aid on a deep gash that needed stitches. It only delayed my sentence, instead of nullifying it.

Five years ago today, I finally acted on my thought of attempting suicide. I had a terrible sense of failure. I felt like I had failed my husband, my kids, my family. My failure was coupled with shame and the feeling that I could never live up to my expectations, or that of others. That night I gave up. I convinced myself that everyone would be better off without me. I wrote a few goodbye letters and told them I was sorry. I took my remaining prescription meds, and went to bed. Looking back I’m surprised how calm I remained, but I didn’t want anyone to interrupt what I had already decided. As I watched my husband sleep peacefully I thought, “he deserves a better wife, one who will make him happy”.

When I awoke a few hours later, I was so disappointed. My body was getting rid of what I had taken and I felt like such a loser. I hadn’t been successful in my attempt. My relief hadn’t come. Now I had to tell my husband what I had tried to do. At first he didn’t believe me. Then I mentioned what I had taken and the letters.

I think my mind was on a natural high because of the fact that I was still alive, and I didn’t think I needed medical attention, but my husband insisted. When the kids left for school that day he took me to the hospital. I thought they would look me over, see that I was okay, and send me home. Instead I was admitted to the psychiatric ward and required to stay there for three days. I still wasn’t grasping the scope of what I had done. It seemed surreal, like a bad dream. What had I put my family through? All I could do was cry.

I could’ve used this experience to begin healing, but I didn’t. I went on living as if in a trance, disconnected and feeling defeated. I couldn’t see the good things, nor the wonderful people that surrounded me. I was self absorbed in pain, and trapped in a downward spiral of shame and guilt. Only a few people learned of what I did that day. I’ve never openly talked about it until today. I decided it should no longer be a source of shame for me. I’m tired of that feeling. So my way of releasing the shame is by talking about it.

Unfortunately, suicide continues to plague people around the world. The stigma about it hasn’t gone away. It’s true that when someone is successful in their attempt, they cause a lot of pain to their family. But an individual doesn’t reach that point without inner turmoil. No one in their right mind wants to die. It’s a cry for help they weren’t able to, or aren’t able to voice.

I’ve mentioned before that I no longer care about appearing weak. But now that I’ve been sharing my weaknesses, I feel stronger. I’ve gained strength by being weak! Now I need physical muscles to show off that strength!

I didn’t share my experience to make anyone feel sad or sorry for me. I did it because I know there are people out there who are where I was five years ago, and feel desperate. I don’t know if I would’ve listened to someone tell me back then that things would get better, but that’s the message I want to convey here. No matter how bad the storm gets, it will end. The sun will shine again. Never doubt you have the strength to get through it.

We weaklings are stronger than we think!

Love you guys ; )

Afraid to Know Myself

“Who am I?” I have been asking myself this question since I can remember. That’s how I imagine a person who has amnesia going about life in an effort to figure out their identity. But when did I lose mine? Did I ever have one?

In “A Good Actress”, I wrote about me ‘putting on a performance’ for people so they wouldn’t see the real me. I did this for so many years that it was even hard for me to know who I truly was! I’m not talking about split personalities here. It’s just the fact that I never took the time to get to know me, because I was too busy wanting to be someone else.

When is it that we refuse to get acquainted with someone? Is it when we learn of their status in society? Maybe we’ve heard they have a bad reputation. Or their appearance may not be to our liking. What factors are involved when we make an effort to get to know someone? It may be an overall attractive appearance, or having heard good things about such a person. So when it comes to ourself, why do many of us (I’m aware I’m not alone) walk around confused about our true identity? I personally didn’t want to know myself. I hated my entire being! Don’t we avoid people we hate? I do! Self hate kept me hidden away all these years, but why?

Showing others my true identity meant that I was comfortable with who I was, and I wasn’t. This involved a lot of denial on my part. I lied to myself because I didn’t want to face things. It had been a good coping mechanism when I was a child, but in my adulthood it was the source of my loneliness. I didn’t understand how withholding my true self from others kept me from forming meaningful relationships. How would I describe it now? Imagine yourself going over to hug someone, but first, they made sure to place a pillow between the two of you! How good would that feel? That would drive me crazy! Yet that’s what I was doing.

In order to begin the process of knowing me, I had to deal with the self hatred. That hate came with plenty of hurt feelings. It was all a heavy load I could no longer carry. It was time to let it all go. I needed help with this. I had tried doing it by myself before, but it became overwhelming and I gave up. Having someone who will be neutral and non judgmental is essential for this step. You need to feel safe in order to open up. And if the nature of all that self hatred is sensitive, a professional will be better equipped to help you through it. I went through two different therapists, a psychologist and a psychiatrist before I found my current therapist. The fact that they are professionals doesn’t mean that just any one will be a good match for you. Don’t give up!

I’ve always had an identity, I just wasn’t aware of it. Now when I look in the mirror, I no longer see confusion in my eyes. I probably still look ‘spaced out’ from time to time, but that’s because I may be processing something profound (for ex. the weather)! It seems like every new thought nowadays is like discovering something wonderful. I don’t dread getting to know me anymore. I look forward to it. I have a lot of catching up to do. This gal is not so bad after all, she’s pretty cool!

So how well do you know you?

Love you guys ; )

I was Simply Existing

“When will the pain end?” “Am I alive only to suffer?”

Reading these two questions still makes my heart ache. I would often ask myself these and other questions when I felt utter despair. It felt like life had been a successive series of painful events. Sometimes one after another. My head was still spinning from the last blow when I got the next! I just couldn’t understand.

One thing I failed to notice was that I have never been alone while going through life’s struggles. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by people who care, and yet, loneliness consumed me. The responsible girl in me, who took care of others, couldn’t allow anyone to help. Doing so would mean I was weak, and I wasn’t going to allow them to see that side of me. Putting up a strong front takes a lot of energy. And like all things it took its toll.

At my worse I would simply get out of bed to go to the couch. Sleeping every moment I was alone was my escape. Not being conscious was one way to not feel anything. I didn’t care to make myself something to eat during the day either. Sugary food was my comfort and I indulged in it. This of course didn’t help my energy level or overall health, but I didn’t want to bother with taking care of myself. That would require effort on my part and I felt I wasn’t worth it. I didn’t bother for myself, but I did for my family. On the days my husband found me in the kitchen he knew I was feeling okay enough. When I wasn’t, he knew it was bad.

This illness has been especially hard on my kids. My oldest has never liked seeing me sleep during the day or past a certain time in the morning. Before I was aware that I struggled with depression, I remember promising him that I was gonna try harder not to fall asleep when I shouldn’t. I wasn’t able to fulfill that promise and I felt terrible. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t fight it. If I was confused, I can just imagine how my kids they felt. After a few years of many doctor visits and tests, I was finally diagnosed with depression. I felt relief at finally putting a name to what I was suffering from, but also despair, because I was led to believe that without medication I would never come out of it.

I acquiesced and took medications for a few years, and I waited. I waited for them to take effect. I waited for them to make me feel better. The doses went higher and prescriptions were changed. More drugs were added. All the while I became more restless. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t coming out of it like they had promised. After all, these medications were finally taking care of the chemical imbalance in my brain. I felt like a failure. They weren’t working because there was something wrong with me. What else could explain their ineffectiveness?

I’ve mentioned before that my depression doesn’t stem from a chemical imbalance. That was the reason why these meds weren’t working for me. The source of my depression was trauma, and pills weren’t gonna resolve it. It took 9 years for me to realize that! During the majority of that time I felt like an empty shell of a human. My body was present, but my mind wasn’t. I wasn’t living, I was simply existing and going through lifes’ motions.

I’m learning to use the pain that kept me down, to help me get up. You can’t heal without feeling pain. Picture it like a fleshly wound. You know it will eventually close, but it forms scar tissue in the process. What I didn’t know was that I had kept my emotional wounds from healing, and they had festered; that was the pain that kept me sick with depression.

I’m finally letting others be a part of my healing process. I don’t care about appearing weak anymore. That’s what makes us human! And, now I’m aware that some people were just waiting for me to stretch out my hand. I’m holding on to their hand with all my strength just like they are mine. You guys have no idea how grateful I am for that!

It’s time to start living!

Love you guys ; )

Learning to be a Gracious Recipient

“You did a great job”.

“You look beautiful”.

“Thank you for helping out”.

How does reading these compliments make you feel? Do you feel proud, uncomfortable, or shy when you get recognition? It probably depends on who it’s coming from and if we can read the motives behind the words. I’ve learned to view compliments differently now than how I did before.

I don’t know when it was that I became self conscious, but I remember it was before I became a teenager. Members of my family would at times tell me or my mom that I was pretty. Yeah, talk about an ego booster there! When it came from male members though, I quickly learned that sometimes there was an ulterior motive to their compliment, and it wasn’t good. I then became leery of hearing any male tell me good things about my appearance. I viewed them with suspicion. By then my self esteem was non existent. My perfectionism had heightened, and I was extremely self critical. So when teachers and other well meaning adults would give me a genuine compliment, I didn’t believe it. This came to include my husband and close friends.

This past summer my husband sent me a text in which he asked me if I had any idea of how much I meant to him. I was having negative thoughts that day and I replied by telling him that I could spend a lifetime asking myself that question, and never understand why he loved and cared so much for me. Although I meant what I said, I felt so bad for having turned his compliment into a discussion over how terrible I felt. I thought, “if he had spent time and money to buy a gift for me, would I have treated it the same?” Why was I treating his compliment as anything less than a gift?

Seeing it that way has helped me to appreciate words of encouragement, love, and approval. Compliments are gifts that are within the power of all of us to give to our loved ones; regardless of our financial status. If someone has taken the time to observe something positive in us and shared it, it’s a gift. Accept it, don’t throw it back at them. If we have a negative self image, this may be easier said than done, I know! But if you choose to see their compliments as gifts (I literally have to bring up the picture of a present in my mind), it will become easier to accept them. Soon they will look like gems, and these aren’t things you throw away or refuse!

This process does involve learning to distinguish a genuine compliment from one where the persons’ motive is selfish. Their actions will speak louder than words, literally. But you will find that those who love you won’t use their words simply to flatter you, but to build you up, and help you become a better person. That’s what we should want isn’t it? To help one another improve our lives.

Well, this is my gift to you:

“You are doing awesome!”

“I’m so proud of you.”

Love you guys ; )