How I survived suicide…

I’ve tried to kill myself twice. Thankfully, I failed.

Suicide has been in the news twice in the last week. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain are two talented people gone when the world wanted more time with them.

My brother posted this article. It inspired me to talk about life after suicide attempts.

Don’t kill yourself. When you die more people are sad then you will ever know. Live for yourself. Live for your children, your friends, and those silly third party people we friend on LinkedIn. Death is forever.

It took me thirty years to find happiness on this earth. I’m melancholy by nature and went through some tough stuff as a child. Trauma shapes you by forcing your body to believe things will always be bad. You have a small stressor and your cortisol levels shoot through the roof. Emotions hurt mentally and physically. A trigger sets off a large ripple. Anxiety kicks in and you think the pain will never get better. Death seems better than the pain, but trust me – it isn’t.

I’m here to let you know that I found the light. It takes work to get here but it is real. I haven’t had a depression episode in three years. I am – actually – deeply happy.

More than that, I no longer worry about depression overcoming me. I see that I am surrounded by people that love me and would do anything for me.

People. People will get you though. People are how you survive suicide attempts. There are light in the dark and Jesus in a fallen world. Rely on people. Trust in people. Tell people you need them, because they need you too. The secret of life is that we need to live for others. Culture may tell us to live for ourselves, but it’s living for our loved ones that make everything worth it.

Depression does not have to be forever. There is more beyond this short time of sadness. There is so much to live for. If I had succeeded in my attempts I’d never have known the love of my husband, or have gotten to hold my perfect daughter the moment she was born. I would have missed morning walks, mango sorbet, and Lake Michigan in summer.

Lift yourself up. Dust off the broken bits. You can do this. I did. There is so much to live for.

On coping with this depression…A guest post…

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I cope with depression.  I told my husband that I really did not want to write the post, because it felt incredibly personal.  However, I wrote it because it seems selfish not to share something that might help other people.  I then told my husband that if one person might be helped by sharing (gosh, that sounds cliche, but whatever) that the whole post would be worth it.  After I wrote, I got a few responses from people.  I cried as I read the words people sent to me about what they were dealing with.

What brings me to this post, is that one of my dear friends requested to share her experience dealing with depression.  Bri and I met in grad school and have stayed in touch as we have celebrated getting jobs, getting married, buying houses….  We have also called each when we need help – like when I called a few weeks ago after a slight panic attack (thanks again for talking me through it).  So here are the wonderful words of a dear friend.  Honestly, she does not share very personal details like this to strangers very frequently.  So the fact that she was willing to share so much of herself means a lot to me.  I hope it is helpful.

On coping with this depression: A guest post from Bri…

After reading Steph’s great post on how she copes with depression I wanted to share some of my own ways of coping. She was nice enough to allow me to post that here on her blog (thanks, Steph).

I was around 2nd or 3rd grade when I started to realize I saw the world differently than others. By middle school I was diagnosed with depression. That was over 15 year ago and while I continue to struggle I also continue to survive. Despite years of self-harm, sever depression, endless anxiety attacks, and suicide attempts I am still alive. Here are some my coping strategies.

I Write

I began writing when I was about 12 after my therapist encouraged me to keep a diary. Though I never stuck with keeping a diary I did learn to write when I am overwhelmed. No matter where I write- on a napkin, on a post-it, in an unsent email, in a Goggle Doc-  it gives me a chance to get out of my head and sort through my thoughts and feelings. When something is bothering me my mind clouds and whirls with information. Writing gives me a chance to piece out each of my thoughts so I can see them and piece the parts I need together. I often find that writing in itself is enough. Sometimes, it gives me a sense of validation for my feelings. Sometimes, it provides answers. Sometimes, it just gives me a few moments to cry and let it all out. Sometimes, I use it to communicate by sharing my writing with others. No matter what the outcome writing has become one of my greatest coping tools.

I Try to Know Myself

When it comes to keeping relationships, despite my depression, I find knowing myself and my depression are key. I know that if I don’t get sleep I cry, if I don’t eat I yell, and if I don’t go out I withdraw.  Because I know getting out of bed is one of my biggest struggles when I’m depressed I schedule things in the morning that make me get out of bed.  I have also  learned to recognize when my emotions may not match the situation (at least from others perspective). I don’t ever attempt to change my emotions but I do recognize it. That way if someone comments on it I don’t get offended because I already know. I recognize when I am depressed and need people around or to be out. Even if a big part of me is saying “don’t get out of bed” I know that I HAVE to get out of bed. I know that if I want to live, if I want to smile, I need to try to keep moving.  It all starts with knowing me and recognizing my own needs.

I Express My Needs

Since I “know myself” I also know my triggers and let others in on them so they can help me avoid them. So, when I yell my friends they normally pass me a cracker rather than engage in an argument with me (thus avoiding loads of useless drama). My husband has almost literally dragged me out of bed because he knows that I only get worse when I stay there. At the time I was not happy with it but he knew, because I told him, that it wasn’t good for me. He cooks me dinner and make sure I eat because I have told him how important that is to prevent me from picking stupid fights. Remember, those around you are not mind readers but they probably do want the best for you. So, if you can tell them what you need you could all be better off.

I Remember My Support Network (Even If I Don’t Use It)

A support network is something that Steph mentioned but to me it is very different since I don’t really utilize my support network, other than my husband. But I do remind myself that there are people who love, care, and root for me. When I was 16 I lost a close friend to suicide and as I watched those around him grieve I realized that everyone has people on their side who love and care about their continued well being, even me. I focus on those I love the most and remind myself that they need me in their lives just because I’m me. Sometimes it may be advantageous to ask your support network for help but remember you don’t have to, just remember they are there.

I Found a Hobby

Oh, hobbies. I remember when I was young being told over and over to find a hobby and it always fell on deaf ears. I never understood why a hobby would help. Now that I have one, I get it. A hobby can keep you active and engaged as well as help you feel productive. I was lucky to find a physical hobby. Steph didn’t mention it in her coping blog but she is an avid exerciser. She said to me once “now that I exercise if I go a day without it I just feel blah. You know what I mean?” Yes, yes, Steph, I know what you mean. When you are physically active  your body naturally produces “happy chemicals” (endorphins). It takes awhile but eventually you crave the activity because of those endorphins. Most of us don’t really notice the significance of physical activity until we do it for a while and stop. But whether or not you notice it, it’s still happening, and it has saved my life.

I Recognize When I Need Help

Sometimes shit is just too much. As Steph mentioned, none of us have it all figured out. When I find I’m really stuck, I get help. Steph talked about how hard that can be. It can also be expensive but I’ve decided my happiness is worth a lot more than a new pair of jeans. It can also be hard to find the right person that you can openly talk to. When I first started therapy and was about 12 and I went to at least 5 different therapists before I found someone that I would go back to. In the end that person helped save me so it was worth the trouble.

I Took Anti-Depressants

Drugs are not for everyone but I feel the need to touch on the topic since they did play a role in my coping. I was on antidepressants for 10 years. I fully believe that they are a big piece in me making it through what I hope to be the hardest times in my life. I lived through my parents’ divorce, death of people close to me, moving away from family, getting bullied, losing friends, lots of heartbreaks, and so much more (you know, like, being a teenager). All of that was hard but I know it would have been harder and possible unbearable without medication. Again, this in not for everyone, but if you are to the end of the line it may be worth talking to your doctor. Just like finding a good therapist this can also be a challenge. My medication and dosage was changed so many times I couldn’t keep track. But eventually I found something that worked and it helped me get to a better place with myself.

Coping with depression is different for everyone. Like Steph, I am not an expert or medical professional. Everything above is based on my experience alone. I hope that sharing my coping strategies will help someone with their own personal struggles.

On how I cope with this depression…

Sooo…. Here’s the thing….

I do not enjoy or like talking about the depression I have experienced in my life, or that fact that I have tried to kill myself.  Depression and suicide are not simple and easy topics for me to discuss openly, and I still worry about being judged. Also, I usually do not put up blog posts within days of each other.  However, something happened recently.  The same sort of thing happened that caused me to write my first post on depression.

A few days ago, a sweet person I know (pseudo) named Damon had a meal with my husband and I. During that meal we discussed our struggles with depression.  Damon discussed his recent bout with seasonal depression.  My husband (who gave me the okay to write about this) discussed being the first person in his family to openly talk about having and dealing with depression.  I discussed having depression for about fourteen years, and the coping techniques I have learned along the way.

I told my husband I wanted to re-post the entry I had written.  He responded with, “You should write a new one.”  I am writing a new one.  I am not writing it because I particularly want to.  I am writing a new post because for some strange reason God has spared my life.  The love of God has overcome what should have been my death.  To not be thankful for the re-gift of my life and to choose not to share my experience would be selfish.

My first post on depression was in October of last year.  In my first post I mentioned a few things I do to deal with my depression.  I mentioned that I: 1) admit that I have a problem, 2) accept help and 3) understand that I cannot do this alone.
After the conversation with Damon, I wanted to write about other things that I have done throughout my journey with depression*.  Writing this now is hard for me, but whatever… okay…. just go……

First, I have made it through the darkness and come out alive.  The darkest day of my life was the day where I honestly believed that death and nothingness would be better than living.  The weeks that followed my suicide attempt totally sucked.  I was eighteen, scared, alone and terribly sad.  That was almost ten years ago.  I made it.  I overcame my darkest day, and I know throughout the depths of my soul that I can always keep going.  That is how we get through life – the only way – we just keep going.

Second, our society can kind of suck at finding fast help for people with depression – but good help is out there if you look.  A few months ago (before we were married) my husband was looking for a mental health counselor.  He was not suicidal, but just needed help.  We had to call the insurance company once to get a list of covered counselors.  When that list of six didn’t answer, didn’t call back or had no appointments – we had to call the insurance company back to get a second list of people to call.  After we got through the second list a nice guy answered and said he could help.  I would say this experience was an anomaly, but I have been around the depression block and a lag time in finding care seems to be standard.  The good news is, every time I have sought out help – I have found it.  I have never reached out for help and had my hand slapped.  Help is there.  If you need it, you can find it.

Third, it is okay and necessary to reach out to ask for help, but you cannot expect that the person that reaches back can make decisions for your life.  I once saw a counselor when I was feeling suicidal.  Half-way though our session the counselor stopped me mid-sentence to say “You can do this.  You have the power not to hurt yourself.  No one else can do this for you.  Only you.”  Until someone said those words to me, I had never thought them.  I never realized that I did not have to be a victim, I have power over myself and my thinking, and I have the power to make good decisions for myself.
Forth, it is so important to have a good support network.  I wrote about this one before – but it has been my saving grace.  I believe that we experience God through other people, and when I have been down and dumpy – people have been there to help.  Finding a good support network has taken me some time and effort.  Case in point… I use to be (emphasis on use to be) friends with a married couple, where the husband was an aspiring counselor who had never experienced mental illness a day in his life.  Now, I am not saying you need to experience an illness to have sympathy for a person.  But I was talking to the couple about my experience with mental illness and the husband proceeded to dump words and phrases on me that were ignorant, alienating, and altogether just plain shitty.  From that experience, I learned to create a good support network.  I learned the value in picking good friends.  I also learned the value in getting rid of not-so-good friends.

Fifth, it is important to do things for yourself.  After a first counseling session, I once had a counselor say to me, “And what are you doing to feed your soul?”  I was so dumbfounded by the question that I became offended.  That following week I couldn’t get the question out of my head, and I quickly realized… I was doing nothing to feed my soul.  I was doing nothing for myself.  So I made a list of stuff I wanted to do, and I started doing it.  I started baking, I started going to church, I started taking walks, I started a little blog.  Doing things for myself has helped me find value in the person God created me to be.  I don’t need to be better than anyone else, because there are tons of people that are better than me at everything.  I don’t need to be perfect, because that is impossible.  All I need to do is be myself, and feed the gifts God has given to me.

Sixth, I accept the fact that I do not have it all figured out.  I don’t know everything.  I never will know everything.  I have issues that come up all the time.  When they come up, I just go through it and figure it out.  I also accept the fact that change happens in a zigzag.  Every time I have wanted to change a habit, I start off great – then fall back – then get a bit better – then fall back – then do more – then fall back.   Making big changes in my life has rarely happened over night, and sometimes I do okay – then fail.  And whatever, that is okay.  I just keep moving.

Seventh – last – perfectly … it must be said that…. you are loved.  You are loved beyond measure, despite what any person has ever told you.  Despite your faults, your sins, your past or your pain – God loves you.  God will always love you.  There is nothing you can ever do that will destroy that.  The love of God is stronger than anything we can ever imagine or dream.

  •   * This post is about I did and what I have done to cope with my depression.  I am not a counselor or therapist.  I do not have formal training on depression.  If you have depression or a mental illness, I recommend seeing a trained professional first.  I hope that if you need help with depression, you use my words as a voice of someone who has found coping techniques to deal with a tough issue.  Do not use my words as your exclusive medical advice.