Monday, June 29, 2015

Struggling with mental illness & a list of resources.

Note: There's a list of helplines and helpful websites dealing with suicide prevention and mental health resources under the actual blog post so feel free to scroll down to that if that's what you're here for. :)

One of the hardest things about struggling with a mental illness is going through it alone. You can know without doubt that you have a friend or multiple friends or a family member or three that you can go to but sometimes you just can't bring yourself to do that. 

Maybe you've always been seen as "the strong one" and going through depression or having suicidal thoughts or wanting to cut yourself or developing an eating disorder makes you feel like you're weak. (You're not weak. Not even a little bit. Not at all.) Those people that see you as a tough cookie can often be the last ones you want to reach out to and say, "hey, I need a hand here." You worry that they'll think less of you. You worry that they won't take it seriously because you're strong and you can handle it. You worry that they won't know what to do because you're so often the one that's helping everyone else. 

Maybe you feel like you don't want to bother anyone with your problems. If they truly care about you, they'll NEVER see you reaching out to them as bothering them. It's not. Please, don't ever look at it that way. You aren't a burden to them on your best days and you're certainly not one on your worst days. 

There are tons of reasons why you might not want to reach out to someone close to you. Mental illness is still so stigmatized that people worry and even at times fear admitting they're not okay, even to the people closest to themYou shouldn't be embarrassed because depression can hit anyone. An eating disorder can happen to anyone. Mental illnesses don't have a specific type of person they prey on, they can strike anyone at any time. 

There's always someone to talk to if you need someone to hear you but don't feel like you can go to anyone in your daily life or if you just don't want to go to anyone in your life.

Suicide is a permanent end to temporary struggles. Even if it seems like there isn't any relief in sight, it can get better. It doesn't happen immediately or even as fast as you might feel it all started in the first place. It takes time and work to get there and a good support system, whether that's two people or ten people, help so much. And the hardest part after realizing and admitting that you're not just having a lot of bad days is reaching out and talking to someone. It's so damn hard to take that first step. I opened my mouth so many times only to close it again and force a fake smile back on my face. I typed out dozens and dozens of text messages thinking if I could type the words instead of say them it would be easier only to delete them because I couldn't bring myself to hit send. I even wrote, yes on actual paper with pen, a few times only to shred those papers without any one's eyes but my own seeing them. 

In the last few months since I started getting more and more vocal about mental health issues on twitter and on facebookI've been surprised more than a couple times by people reaching out to me for various reasons. Some because they wanted to talk to someone that understood, some that just wanted to ask questions and a couple that wanted to make sure I knew they had my back if I ever need them. People that have followed me on social media for months or years, coworkers that I didn't know were going through or had gone through similar things, even a couple friends that just wanted me to know they were there and would be any time I needed them. 

I know it can be scary and intimidating to do so but please reach out to someone if you need to. Be it the suicide prevention lifeline, online chat services, a friend, a family member, your neighbor buddy, someone at church if you go, that person on social media you see advocating mental health, a work friend, a therapist or anyone you trust and feel comfortable talking to.

If you don't know where to start, here are a few places to start and a couple websites that list resources. There are so many ways to get information and get help if you need it. 
Please don't struggle alone. 

Trans Lifeline is a non-profit dedicated to the well being of transgender people. We run a hotline staffed by transgender people for transgender people. Trans Lifeline volunteers are ready to respond to whatever support needs members of our community might have." Call:  US: (877) 565-8869 or Canada: (877) 330-6366

The Trevor Project offers accredited life-saving, life-affirming programs and services to LGBTQ youth that create safe, accepting and inclusive environments over the phone, online and through text." The only national 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ young people (ages 13-24), available at 1-866-488-7386. They also provide online chat and text message service as well for LGBTQ youth, information found through the link.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers their services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Free. Confidential. They also have help specifically for young adults, victims of bullying and veterans, information can be found through the link.

7 Cups of Tea offers people a free, confidential, completely anonymous chat service. You can call or chat online with any number of trained active listeners. They're not a suicide prevention line but they can help you find the resources you're looking for if you need someone to point you in the right direction. Or if you just need someone to talk to about something that's bothering you or just need to vent, they have listeners available 24/7 and they have a free app for android and iphone so you don't even need to go through their website to do it. They also have message boards and group support to help you connect with others on everything from eating disorders, self-harm, addiction recovery and much more.

HopeLine focuses on providing the community with a free and confidential crisis and suicide prevention helpline and instant messaging service. HopeLine specializes in providing suicide and crisis intervention, supportive and non-judgmental active listening, gentle and understanding discussion of crisis resolution. Crisis Line: 919-231-4525 for locals in Raleigh, NC or for anyone else 877-235-4525 They also have a Teen Talkline available, as well.

THIS is a list of crisis centers and suicide prevention lifelines in your local area that you can call if you feel like you need to. It lists every state and lists multiple cities for each state.

THIS is an international list of crisis centers and suicide prevention lifelines. Click your country and find what you need closest to you, wherever you may be in the world.

National Alliance of Mental Illness is a great website to find resources and information through. They also have a helpline that can give you information about mental health disorders, symptoms, local support groups, local services & more at 1-800-950-6264. They also offer online resources for LGBTQ, minority groups, family members & caregivers, teen & young adult and veterans & active duty.

National Eating Disorder Association is the leading non-profit organization in the United States advocating on behalf of and supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. They campaign for prevention, provide improved access to quality treatment, and increased research funding to better understand and treat eating disorders. They have a lot of information and resources on their website and they also have a helpline you can call, free & confidential at 1-800-931-2237.

P.S. If you have any other relevant, helpful resources, websites, etc that I can add to this, please feel free to email me at amorousrocker [at] gmail [dot com] :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Death and Life

June is an odd month for me. There's a lot to celebrate as it's one of my younger brother's birthday month, my birthday month, my boyfriend and his sister's birthday month and Father's Day. There's a lot of joy in there but then there are things that were life changing events that make it a harder month to get through emotionally and mentally.

June 9th is one of my younger brother's birthday. It also unfortunately is the day our grandfather passed away. Yesterday was the 4th year since he passed and my brother's 29th birthday. 

The last several years of my brother's life, I've always felt a little guilty because I want my brother to have an amazing day on his birthday, as people should. But I also still get so sad on that day because I miss my grandfather a lot. And I know it's something that weighs on him as well and that sucks. I also understand how much it sucks to lose someone you care for on a day that's supposed to be a damn good one to celebrate life and love and the people in your life. I digress. 

I was lucky to have someone so great that's worth missing so much be such a big part of my life because not everyone's fortunate to have a pair of kick ass grandparents. At the same time, it makes it hurt that much more because losing someone you have a close relationship with sucks. Even if you're a little happy to see them go because you know their pain and suffering is now over and who doesn't want that for a person they love?

Last year on June 13th, my friend Amanda committed suicide. June 15th is my birthday and that also happens to be the day we found out that she had committed suicide. I've been thinking about her a lot lately. In part, because it's hard not to think about it considering my birthday celebration last year ended with me laying in bed only to find she'd been found dead in her ex's kitchen shortly after I'd laid down. Also because it's coming up on that one year and people have been posting things to her Facebook wall. Poems, art, random thoughts, prayers and various other things. All things she'll never see or read but things that make the person posting them feel connected still, in some way. Or maybe it just makes them feel better in another way. I don't judge because I can't bring myself to delete messages from her and can't remove her from my Facebook feed even though I'll never be able to talk to her again. 

Her death was, in several ways, harder to deal with. My grandfather had Alzheimer's (which is what got me into doing the Alzheimer's Walks and fundraising for the Alz Association) and he was sick for quite a while before he finally couldn't fight anymore. Amanda, I didn't see that coming because you rarely ever see suicide coming. I had plans to see her and hang out the following weekend. I went to her funeral that day instead, which wasn't the way I wanted to spend time with her.

It wasn't the first friend I'd lost like this but it's not something that gets easier. It's hard and you go through so many emotions. I still occasionally get so goddamn mad at her for being gone and then a few minutes later I'm crying because I just miss her and wish I could split fajitas and some margaritas. I know it won't be as bad this year as it was last year, though. I won't be shocked and devastated because she's already gone. And as hard as it is to cope with death, it does get easier the more time passes by.

My grandfather's death was the first death I'd gone through that was someone I was truly close to. I feel guilty saying that because I'd lost other friends and relatives that I honestly didn't know that well before him. Those deaths sucked in different ways but his was the first one that was heartbreaking and devastating for me. I kept having people telling me it would get easier the more time that went by and after that first year, I really understood that nothing would be as awful as the first year of adjusting to the fact that he was gone. There were so many things that I didn't realize would hurt that did. Not needing birthday cards or father's day cards for him anymore. Not needing to buy a present for him at the holidays. Addressing Christmas cards solely to my grandmother and not to both of them. Changing the name in my cell phone from "Grandpa & Grandma" to just "Grandma." Watching a basketball game and remembering the reason I even like watching basketball is because I used to watch it with him and got into it because of him. Tons of little things that never even crossed my mind but felt like punches right to the gut. Now, after several years, moments like that happen few and very far in between.

With both of them, I think I thought it would stop hurting much more immediately than it did despite really knowing better. Maybe I naively hoped I could get passed it and be okay faster than I really did.  Like it couldn't possibly keep being painful year after X amount of time because at some point, you're obviously going to realize you've cried all your tears and had all of your sad moments. Then you could just think fondly of them and remember happy times and feel gratitude at the time you had with them and nothing will hurt anymore because it's been long enough. That's a really nice thought but it's not realistic and that realization sucks. There isn't a "long enough" and another realization that this one brought on is that that's okay, too. It's okay to cry and miss them and hurt. As long as you're not dwelling there and do remember all the good, it's okay to not be okay after you lose someone you love. It's okay to not be okay sometimes even after it's been a while. There's no time limit and no reason to feel guilty or ashamed over how you feel.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Therapy and 20 things to be happy about.

*Dusts off blog*

I recently started seeing a therapist. I say recently because it hasn't seemed like long at all but now that I think about it, it's been several months since I made my first appointment. That's not really what this post is about though I mentioned it because therapy is what plays a role in me sitting here typing into this screen.

I love writing. I used to write often. I was even working on a book of short stories at some point last year. The worse the state of my mental health got, the less I wrote until I had stopped completely. Only a few people knew about the short stories I was writing and anyone ever asking how my writing was going once I had stopped was painful. I didn't want to admit that I'd lost my desire to do one of my favorite things. That my head was in such a dark place, all I could think to write was things I didn't want other people reading because it seemed so telling to me. So, I'd put on that fake smile I was so used to and oddly very comfortable wearing and would say it was going fine, that I just needed to make more time to write. Or some such nonsense to hide the fact that I'd stopped. 

In seeing a therapist, we got around to discussing why I wasn't writing. She suggested I try blogging again since I'd previously mentioned that before. She thought it would help, for a number of reasons. I sat down and tried more times than I can remember only to walk away sad and frustrated and angry at myself for not being able to put anything to paper. Once, she mentioned I could try blogging about mental health. I automatically rejected that because I hadn't even told anyone I was seeing a therapist. She mentioned it again a couple months later. I tried. Instead, I took to my Twitter account and started tweeting about mental health there more often, joining the #EndTheStigma crowd. 140 characters or less was pretty much all I could manage in terms about speaking about mental health but I was happy because I was making progress. My thoughts were coming together again and I was able to actually connect with several new people who were looking for people that understood what they were struggling with. 

So here I am today, writing this and feeling like a champ because this far exceeds a handful of 140 characters or less tweets. Though if you follow me on Twitter, don't think the mental health tweets will be going away because it's something I feel strongly about and I've found a little community on there where it's never discouraged to speak openly about mental health. I hope one day that's something that happens on a much larger scale and I think talking about it is a good way to break down stigma and encourage people to talk about it so it's not seen as something embarrassing or something to be ashamed of. I digress.

I decided that at least once a month, I'm going to post a list of things that make me happy because that gives me a goal to reach for in terms of getting some writing done. That's an easy subject because I've no shortage of good things in my life and oddly I haven't really lost sight of that. Which has made the struggle for mental health harder for a few reasons but that's another post for another day. Maybe. 

Anyway.... 20 things seemed like a bit of a challenge but not too difficult of a goal to reach so there's where I'll start. If you've ever done a list like this, you know it's never as easy as it sounds. 

20 Things To Be Happy About

1.) The rain finally stopping so I can get in some pool time. 

2.) I don't hate my job. So many people I know go to work every day dreading it so I'm thankful that the few days I do go in dreading it, it's just because I know the day ahead will be a particularly trying one or because I'm in a mood that has nothing to do with work itself.

3.) Short hair for the summer. 

4.) My birthday is June 15th and the boyfriend's is two weeks later. So we're having a joint birthday party on one of the weekends between the two. I'm looking forward to all the tasty food I'll get to make for that because I love cooking for others.

5.) Orange juice with a half a teaspoon of honey mixed in.

6.) Books, always and forever.

7.) An upcoming trip to Las Vegas.

8.) Our boyfriend and I just celebrated our 9th anniversary at the end of May.

9.) The smell of cinnamon rolls filling the apartment in the morning.

10.) How quiet the gym is at 6 AM.

11.) A friend is getting married next weekend and his pure excitement and happiness rises the closer the day gets and that's one of the sweetest things ever.

12.) My volunteer group. They're a bunch of weirdos but they make all the Saturday mornings I spend with them so much more enjoyable.

13.) S'more Oreos because I love almost all of the things that are S'mores.

14.) Supportive family.

15.) Having a handful of great people in my life that can always make me laugh.

16.) Vegetable and herb garden. Which is something I didn't ever think I'd enjoy but there's something awesome about being able to grow your own peppers and herbs.

17.) Board games and card games and all the games you can sit around a table playing. I grew up playing games with my family and thankfully I have a partner and a couple friends who enjoy playing games, too. 

18.) The days on the weekend where I actually manage to sleep in passed 6:30 AM.

19.) New running shoes that are actually comfortable from the start.

20.) Being comfortable in my own skin.

Happy Thursday!