Continue the Story

I wanted to write about the therapy session I had yesterday but a piece of news had shocked me so much last night that I feel it pertinent to address.

The mental health community has been rocked by the news that Amy Bleuel, the founder of Project Semicolon, has passed away from suicide. She had been an amazing advocate, a strong voice within the community against the stigma of mental health, a positive, and encouraging person to all those who struggle with suicide. So when the news came to me, I was shocked. Not only that she had passed, but that she had died from suicide.

I felt it ironic because just last night, when my temporary tattoo kit had arrived, I decided to tattoo my arm with a semicolon. When I have something tangible that I can see, touch, and read daily, it helps me keep going. So I figured if I had a tattoo of the semicolon, I’d be able to look at it and realize that my story isn’t over.

Then the news came.

It made me think.

I told my psychologist yesterday that sometimes I feel guilty for being an advocate, or for doing something contrary to what he and I have discussed because I know I shouldn’t beat myself up, I know I shouldn’t feel the way I do, etc, but I still end up in the anxious/depressed situation.
“S, sometimes I feel really guilty… I feel guilty because I hear your voice in my head saying, ‘Jules, these thoughts? They’re not your reality. They’re just thoughts. They’re fleeting, which means they won’t stick around for very long. But they don’t define your reality’ and I think to myself, ‘S’ is right. Why am I moping then? Why can’t I stop moping? Why do I want to just die?’ and I feel guilty,” I’d said to him.
He sat up. He always pays extra attention when I talk about something that relates to our therapeutic relationship. He’s always very conscientious of the fact that sometimes the things he says could affect me.
“Oh yeah?” He asked.
“Yeah… I feel guilty because I know that recovery isn’t a straight path upwards. That sometimes I may regress. I know that…”
As I said that, S smiled because I had answered myself. Recovery isn’t linear.
The news of Amy Bleuel’s passing gives a lot of clarity to the issue. It teaches me that every single day is a battle, and sometimes, you may lose but hopefully if you have a good support system, you’ll never have to consider losing. Or ever find yourself at a place where you could potentially do some serious harm.
 
It’s awful to lose someone to cancer, or a disease, or old age, or accidents, but how much more awful is it to lose someone to suicide? This is in some ways a wake up call because it’s telling us that if we don’t check in with the people we love or give them our support, we may lose them forever.
 
All it takes is for one person to say “I care” to the person struggling with depression, for them to realize that they are worthy of love, and life. All it took for me were people who cared. The staff at CAPS had been that for me, but since then, my support system has grown. I’ve slowly learned to start loving myself as well through that.
I know what it’s like to stand in the dark, feeling like I’m all alone and that my only choice is to kill myself. And now, I also know what it’s like to be in the dark, but then have someone reach out their hand to me to walk me back to the light. Knowing these two sides, I really want to encourage anyone and everyone who is reading this to reach out to their loved ones, to let them know how much you care for them.
If you’re hurting, afraid, or need someone to talk to, please reach out. Someone will reach back. Please stay. You are so deeply valued, so incomprehensibly loved—even when you can’t feel it—and you are worth your life. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada), or The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. If you’d like to talk to a peer, http://warmline.org contains links to warmlines in every state. If you don’t want to talk on the phone, you can reach Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. (**Note: I stole this from Facebook, from Dese’Rae Lynn Stage)
RIP, Amy Bleuel, you have made an impact to many – and I was one of them.

Monday Blues

Today has definitely been a rough day.

I had one of the worst falls in my experience of skateboarding. I was distracted for just a split second and had leaned backwards a little too much which caused my heavy backpack to pull me backwards. As I fell on my elbow, almost all of the force was directed to it. The backpack absorbed a lot of the impact as well which made it so that only a little part of my hip was hurt as well. I was glad that my laptop didn’t break.

The good thing about all this was the fact that the two guys who were walking behind me rushed up to help – one of them was quite polite. “Are you okay, ma’am?” he’d asked as I pulled myself off the hard brick pavement. I told them that I was okay – even though the only reason I got back up so quickly was just because I didn’t want to be laughed at for falling in a high traffic area because the pain was so jarring that I actually needed some time to recover from it.

As I type this now, my right arm is complaining, while the scrapes on my arm and elbow still burn. My wrist hurt as well because the bottom part of my palm had braced myself against the ground as I fell – I should have known better than to have braced myself though.

So it felt good to have 3 different people rush up to me to make sure I was okay – the third person was a girl who had retrieved my runaway skateboard. It was nice to know that people still care and that I’m in a campus with people who really care and are conscientious of everyone else.

So physically, I’d hurt myself – the only good thing was the fact that it had happened before the last class of the day. Otherwise, I’d have had a bad time going through the day. When I got to class, I decided to wipe my arm with my left hand. As I did so, I smeared blood all over my left palm. I hadn’t realized it but my arm was pretty scraped up and the bleeding took a few minutes to stem.

I was also extremely sleepy. I fell asleep in every class I was in. It was annoying. I had also received poor grades for my Calculus test and I was very frustrated because this is my second time taking this class – I should be better at it, not getting worse! I am definitely not motivated in school at all – besides that, I also don’t have the energy or focus to finish my work. It’s like my brain’s had enough and it doesn’t want to cooperate anymore.

I feel stupid, unworthy, and lazy. I feel convinced that I am going to drop my GPA again because of how poorly I’m performing in school. Today, I beat myself up and told myself that I am not going to succeed. Today the stronger side of me was not present to convince myself otherwise so I was depressed for much of the day.

It doesn’t help that exhaustion and sleep deprivation makes it even harder to be stable emotionally.

To make things worse, my classmate had asked me if I watched a certain TV show – when I said that I haven’t, she asked if I’d watch TV. When I responded “no” to her again, her eyes grew wide as she tried to fathom how someone can survive in this world without TV’s… She then said to me, “So you don’t watch TV, you don’t do anything fun at all! Man… Your life sucks. If I were you, I don’t even know what I’d do. Aren’t you stressed? If I were you, I’d totally be stressed…”

“Yes, I am stressed. I’m stressed all the time. Haven’t you wondered why I’m always so edgy?” I said, feeling my irritation creeping up. I wanted to say, ‘No shit, Sherlock’ but bit my tongue.

I was a little hurt by the insensitive comment about how my life sucks. I didn’t think it was helpful at all for me to have heard that. Although I knew that they didn’t mean anything nasty by their comment, it was still hurtful – especially since that is my reality. Daily.

Then during the end of the last class that I had for the day, one of the classmates that I’m most close to, had asked me why I was at the LGBTQ+ center. He’s a conservative Christian.

He said, “Why were you at the LGBTQ+ center? What, are you batting for the other team now?”

I wanted to explain to him that I do indeed struggle with same sex desires and that I’ve become more and more cognizant of my feelings and attractions. Still, his question caught me by surprise – I went with my gut instinct and go-to knee-jerk reaction. I lied.

I told him that I just had a quick question that I needed to ask the Director. He didn’t seem to buy it but he dropped the subject. His question though made me think. It made me think about the uncertainty that I still feel over my sexual orientation. It also made me still feel guilty and unworthy – it was the usual religious uncertainty that I’ve been grappling with since I was young.

He told me that he doesn’t believe that people are born gay but rather our brains get used to the idea of being one thing or another – that  homosexuality is a choice. I then explained to him that I struggle with my attraction to women. He was surprised that I would tell him that because I seemed like a conservative Christian like he is.

I explained to him all the struggles I had to deal with and all the pain and struggles that the LGBTQ+ community has had to deal with. I told  him that no one chooses a life like this. Especially not when we live in a conservative state like Indiana where you could still legally lose your job if you were in the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

It was an interesting conversation. He didn’t end up being swayed by my arguments but at least, I was able to stand up for myself and disagree with his opinion. I also pointed out the fact that today was World Mental Health Day. I told him that the way Christians (some, not all) have approached homosexuality is also the same as how they approach mental illnesses. That is to say, they don’t. I was told by someone that I wasn’t praying enough or that I didn’t have enough faith back when I first revealed to them that I suffer from mental illnesses.

It was a triggering conversation for me. I felt good to know that everyone is allowed to have an opinion and that they’re not silenced for expressing it but it was also bad because I thought about my salvation and my faith issues again.

The only positive thing that had happened to me today was the fact that my college had organized a Mental Health Awareness Day event and they had dozens of vendors from organizations like The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Mental Health America (MHA), and American Society for Prevention of Suicide (ASFPS). I spoke to a lot of people at that event and made contacts. I told them that I was a Peer Educator and that I’m part of the group that creates the programs for mental health related topics. I excitedly shared my passion for mental health advocacy with the volunteers. I was told by all the different organizations that they do want to collaborate with us and that they would be happy to have me be a part of their organizations. I had a great time just hearing about all the different ventures and resources that were available for people. I was also inspired to come up with a bunch of ideas of what the mental health team could do next semester. Going to the event also really just affirmed to me that I am really passionate and excited about the topic of mental health. It fired me up again to be a great Peer Educator!

Note: I was falling asleep while writing this and may have written gibberish or nonsensical sentences. If I did, I do apologize. It’s been a long day.

Inspired to Inspire

I went to a mental health presentation by Ross Szabo tonight that was really inspiring.

Ross Szabo is the CEO of Human Power Project and also author of “Behind Happy Faces”. He’s a mental health advocate and has travelled all over to spread the message of awareness and empower others to learn healthy coping skills to improve their mental health. He’s an amazing speaker and tonight, my school had invited him to talk about mental health and its impact on college students.

Initially, I wasn’t able to attend as my husband and I were supposed to have gone out of town to celebrate his birthday but because I have been pretty ill for the past couple of days, we were unable to go. So, I was able attend the talk after all. (I’m bummed that my husband didn’t get the birthday celebration he deserves and despite him saying, “Oh it’s just another day. No big deal. I never get a birthday celebration anyway”, I still feel really bad for him)

Anyway, Ross spoke about the traumas in his life and shared his story about struggling with bipolar disorder with anger and psychotic outbursts. He also shared coping skills that could be used in our day to day life.

One of the things he said was that when you share your story, others will too. That really stuck with me because I realize how much truth there is in that. It was because I saw some stories on The Mighty that I realized that I could share mine too.

So, that said, I can’t wait to share my story tomorrow at my campus.

I was invited to a coffee house session and given 20 minutes to talk about me, my experience with mental illness and my artwork related to that. I’m nervous but at the same time, inspired and excited.

I don’t know what the crowd will be like. Or even if there will be a crowd. I don’t know how my speech will turn out – I haven’t actually written anything down or practiced anything. I figured I’d wing it – I have a bunch of ideas written down on a card but I’m usually pretty good at articulating myself at a moment’s notice. I just need to make sure I don’t use “um” too much. I don’t know how the night will be.

My social anxiety wants to keep me home but I can’t allow it to run my life the way it has for the past 29 years. It’s time I take over and start to live.

It’s time I start to inspire not only others, but also myself. It’s time I stop hating myself and learn to live. It took me all these years to finally realize that.

I may not be able to make my changes quickly but like what my post yesterday has said, at least now I realize what I need to do.