Tag Archives: self harm

Depression Is

1 Oct

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Today, October 1st, is the start of Depression Awareness Month. Well, for those of the social media sphere who’ve had no contact with depression, it is. The rest of us, the ones with depression, and the ones next to those who do, we’re already pretty damn aware.

You see, depression, when it’s there, is a hard thing not to be aware of. The harder part, really, is not misconstruing what’s being seen. Because depression, you see, has a whole lot of flavors. And no, none of them are pumpkin spice.

I’ve been fighting depression since… well, it’s hard to pinpoint it, really. Because I came from an environment where people weren’t aware of mental health, let alone depression. I didn’t know anything could be wrong, let alone that it was. I just thought that my constant misgiving, the vague and perpetual sensation that something was wrong for years on end, my bent to remember the less-than-stellar in my life than the few moments of real sparkle – well, I just thought that was normal. I was aware of my sensations; I just wasn’t aware of their diagnosis.

Until my senior year of high school, that is. After years of walking the line between “kinda sad but functional” and “ragingly falling into a dark hole inside,” I finally teetered over the edge. Call it hormones. Call it stress. Call it whatever.

I’m calling it depression.

You see, while I was aware of my accelerating and nauseating hurtle into clinical depression, the others around me didn’t see all those sensations inside, or didn’t want to see them even when I tried to throw them in their face. I used isolation. I used words. I used self-harm and the knife I hid under my bed. I used suicide. The increasingly screaming kettle of pressuring self-hate inside me was something too loud for me not to be aware of, as day after day I just felt wrong, and, left to my own devices to deal with it, eventually came to the conclusion that must have been the thing that was wrong. Guilt guilt guilt guilt. Never mind those other circumstances – a broken home, an ailing sister, a fracturing best friend, flat-out broken brain chemistry – no no, clearly it was all my fault. I just wasn’t trying hard enough. If I were just better, trying harder, I would have been able to fix it all. And then I would have been okay. So clearly, I was the problem. Hey, if I were the problem, then the solution seemed pretty damn apparent, right? In this equation, if X is wrong and unfixable, just remove X…

I wasn’t aware that wasn’t actually the equation.

Let’s fast-forward about six years. So you know, about nowish. I’ve still got depression. But I’m older, wiser, yada yada.

Yeah, it doesn’t suck any less.

If anything, dealing with depression, even though it’s not the blinding, numbing, mind-haze of my high school years, has become harder. Why?

Well, I am more aware.

Let’s fast-track through the past six years. I found words for what I was experiencing. Slowly learned that it’s not my fault. Went to therapy, through treatment, started meds. I’ve seen psychiatrists, psychologists, MFW’s, LCSW’s, PsyD’s, MD’s, RD’s, and fuck knows however many lettered people. After four years of concentrated obliteration, I’ve finally essentially quashed my comorbidity, the ugly Eating Disorder.

But.

There is always a “but,” isn’t there?

I’m not sure I consider myself “better.”

I have learned a great deal, yes. Become more aware of what’s going on with me. I’ve learned how to recognize patterns, spot symptoms, reroute maladaptive coping mechanisms, derail negative thought patterns, notice when my current round of meds are starting to fail again.

Yes, in the mindwork of my depression, self-awareness has helped a shit ton. At least I know what’s going on now.

Yeah, knowing what’s going on doesn’t mean I feel any better.

It’s like… so, imagine if you were shot in the leg with a bullet. Painful, right? You’re bleeding all over the place, leg is throbbing, bullet’s probably still lodged somewhere around your tibia and fibula. If only you could pull the bullet out and adequately wrap up the wound, over time, it would heal, and you would feel better.

Yeah, bullet’s still in your leg and your bleeding out, sweetheart. This mental analysis, even knowing how physiologically your leg needs to heal, that all doesn’t actually make you feel any better when you’ve still just been FUCKING SHOT IN THE LEG.

My depression, now, is kind of like I’m walking around having just been shot in the leg all the time. Yeah, I know what happened to cause me to be in pain. I know what’s going on. I know that hey, maybe one week my psychiatrist and I will finally find a way to pull that goddamn bullet out of my leg and the writhing muscles and nerves and blood vessels will finally stop having to make due with a shitty, bloody situation and heal up once and for all and start working properly again.

Yeah, all that “maybe” kind of hope doesn’t mean I’m not walking around with a fucking bite of a limp.

“But you’re working on figuring out how to get the bullet out!” People will say, as if this is supposed to mean it’s not still painful while it’s in there.

“Aw, come on, you were shot like five weeks ago, can’t you just let it go now?” NO, THE BULLET’S STILL FUCKING THERE AND I’M BLEEDING OUT AND IT’S FUCKING PAINFUL, THANK YOU.

And then, should I manage to find a position to stand where the weight’s not on my leg, and it doesn’t hurt so much, and someone makes a funny joke and I manage to pull up a half-sort of smile – “Oh look! A smile! That bullet in your leg can’t hurt that badly then, can it?”

Excuse me, clinic doctor that I visit a couple weeks ago for a sinus infection, while I punch you in the face.

So, I walk around, bullet-in-leg, never knowing if it’ll ever come out, leaving the situation to fester and fall into feeling hopelessness. I wonder if maybe, instead of walking around in life with this limp that I can remember what it was like to run and skip and dance without, instead of always being reminded that if I’m not cautious my heel will slip and my leg will jolt with pain, which it wouldn’t have had I still had that life unencumbered with a bullet in my calf – well, I start wonder if maybe, it would be better if I just cut the leg off. If I can’t pull the bullet out and let the leg heal, then I just need to get rid of the leg altogether.

Problem is, the issue’s not in my leg. It’s in my brain.

Suicidality is no longer an impassioned, pained sort of self-destructive urge. The thought becomes not “I am a problem” but just “I am not working out.” It’s a weary sort of defeat. The wish is not to be dead, but to no longer live in pain. Death, this time, is just a side-effect.

That is the kind of awareness depression has for me.

I am still here, writing this blog, obviously. I have friends that pull me back, friends whose selfish wish to keep me here for themselves is something I am grateful I can keep my life tethered to. They, thankfully, are aware of what it’s like for me to carry that bullet in my leg, and they help carry me, so that the bullet doesn’t finally make its way to my brain.

They see me, and I am grateful for it.

What do you need to be aware of, around you? In you?

As despondent as I may get about my own prospects, I wish hope eternal for everyone else with those goddamn depression bullets. It’s not fair, guys. It’s just not. And I’m sorry about that. I hope that one day, we have better, more effective options than chasing after “maybe’s” or translocating where that bullet is.

It’s a fight, guys. I know we’re all way too painfully aware of that. But hey, if we’re still here and trying, at least we’ve given the world something to notice, too.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Envy

21 Nov

I am envious, sometimes – most times – of those who get recognition. Evanna Lynch, who “beat anorexia” to become Luna Lovegood. She is praised and lauded, called determined and strong.

What of all of us still out here, who know that you don’t just “beat anorexia,” that you fight every fucking day just you can hope for a life where maybe you won’t have to think about this fucking disease, day in and day out, in fear that if you ever drop your vigilance, it will get past the years and years you had covered over it, and in the end it will kill you, by making you destroy yourself. What of all of us who are still fighting, who know that your own mind is not something that can ever truly be “beaten?” What of those of us who still fight? Why for us is there no acclaim, because we did not become the lucky one, the movie star?

Or there’s the friend I drove to my tattoo parlor, helped her pay so she could get her first tattoo. One simple word, “strong,” inked over the scar where months ago she’d carved “weak.” The tattoo artists called her brave. They congratulated her on having overcome. Her struggle was obvious, and so was her cure.

They didn’t say anything, the two times I’d been there before to get my own tattoos. Just images – one to remind who is really me, one to remind me that I have flown from those chains that I once let define me.

But to everybody else, they just look like a dolphin fluke and a butterfly.

The artist who’d tattooed my arm had said nothing about my scars.

Where, then, was my recognition?

I know I should not care. But I think that’s what this has really been about, all along. The need to know that on some fundamental level, I am important. I have spent a life trying every fucking day to prove to everyone – and after that, the trickier part, to prove to myself – that I am good enough. That yes, I am strong. That yes, I am capable. That yes, I am beautiful and so because I am beautiful I can be looked at and loved, instead of ignored or cast off. I wanted to be worth noticing. I had to know that I was worth noticing. And so I tried to become extraordinary enough that people would be able to just look at me, and know I had proved it.

And then there was the pain. I was clawing for a way out of myself, out of the web of distrust and lies and abuse that I was caught in, because I had to call it my family. I talked and I talked and I talked, but no one listened. I told people I was hurting, and it changed nothing. I was not heard. I was told, actually, to shut up.

And so I shut up. But that didn’t change the fact that I still needed a way to keep screaming.

Because the pain wasn’t over yet.

And so the scars came.

“Can’t you see that’s something’s fucking wrong?” they asked.

Or – “What’s wrong with you?” they would scream, at me.

“Somebody, anybody,” they said, “can’t you see I’m hurting.”

They’re all scars, now. Old and white, some smooth and some still raised above my skin. They are ghosts, now. Sure, all ghosts show a story – but I think I’m the only one who can see it.

Can’t you see that I have hurt? Can’t you see that I have fought? Can’t you see that I have fallen apart and sewn myself back together so many times you can’t even know where the stitch marks are anymore? Can’t you see all the fucking hard work I’ve done, all the tears I’ve cried, all the sacrifices I’ve made and injustices I’ve put up with, just so that I can finally get to a place where I, at least, can look in the mirror and think that I am beautiful, and that I am important, without killing myself for that in the process?

Can’t you see any of that?

I envy those, whose struggle and triumph have donned them heroes. I envy those, who get the recognition.

On Silencing

8 Sep

face in hands

Hello lovely readers. Today, September 8, is the start of National Suicide Prevention Week.

So, let’s do some talking.

I’ll likely write a slew of articles this week. Book reviews, rants and ravings, maybe a poem or two. But to start it all off, I thought I’d start with a more personal article.

Because for me, suicide is a highly personal topic.

I cannot point to a single day, a single moment, and say “that’s when I first became suicidal.” I cannot even say when I first learned of suicide. It’s one of those things – and perhaps that is sad – that I have just always seemed to know about. I can remember being six or eight or maybe even as old as ten (though I think that is less likely), sitting on the couch of my house’s “play room,” surrounded by the trappings of a middle class American childhood, and wondering about running a knife from the silverware drawer downstairs across my throat. I don’t remember what in particular I was wondering – perhaps how much it would hurt, or what it would feel like, or how long it would take to bleed out – but I do remember hastily shoving the thought back to some dark corner of my mind and thinking no, that’s not a good thought. Jesus wouldn’t like it, because suicide (according to what I’d been taught somewhere along the line by my Catholicism) was a sin. And because suicide was a sin, it was out of the question. Period.

Again, I don’t know why I was thinking about suicide at the age of six or eight or less-likely-ten. Perhaps my father had gone into an alcoholic rage at my mother again. Perhaps there had been yelling. Perhaps there had been crying. I’m not really sure. You see, at that young age of six or eight or just-maybe-ten, the thought that something might be “wrong” with my household hadn’t really registered in my consciousness yet. Things like parents’ having separate bedrooms and the sound of yelling echoing upstairs after bedtime – that was just the way things were. That, for me, was normal.

For years, all I had was the occasional twinge of a particularly painful cramp in my soul that made me wonder if the constant vague sense of unhappiness that colored my life was, perhaps, something out of the ordinary.

Why do I go into so much backstory? To make the point, perhaps, that when over my junior and senior year of high school I progressed from “vaguely unhappy” to “clinically depressed” to “self-injuring and suicidal,” it was so much a progression of the natural order of things for me that there really are no milestones to remark at. One year I’m unhappy but still counting on that future tense. The next I’m going home every day after school wondering if it will finally be the day I kill myself. Try to rewind or fast-forward or pause somewhere between those two, and it’s all just a blur.

I suppose I mention all of this to give grounding to my opinions when it comes to suicide. No, I cannot speak for everyone on this point. But hey, I’ve had a fair amount of first-hand experience (not to mention second-hand experience in the way of mental health counselor training and acting as a peer mentor), so I do know a thing or two.

If you really want to know more about the nitty gritty of what my experience has been like, I suggest you look into my memoir, Drop Dead Gorgeous (more info here). But I suppose that what I want to say in this particular thought stream is that if I were limited to making only one statement about suicide, it would be this:

We need to talk about it.

Suicide should NOT be lauded, but neither should the dead be scorned. I know it’s scary as hell to say “I want to kill myself” and scary as hell to hear, but the taboo that so pervades most society and leads people to die silently so they don’t have to face the disapproval and disgust that appears all too often in other’s eyes – THAT is unacceptable.

I know suicide and depression are excruciatingly tricky to tackle effectively. I’ll write more on that later. But hey, practice makes progress, right? Parents and friends and doctors and teachers and police and janitors are never going to develop muscles capable of supporting someone if they never try to use them.

So first off, let’s ditch this condemnation of people with mental health struggles as “weak” or “weird” or “incompetent” or “lazy” or “untrustworthy” or “to be avoided.” I know that suicide is horrible and awful. But that doesn’t mean that people thinking about it are, or that talking about it is.

So let’s talk, people. What do you have to say?