Year End Review

 

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As another year draws to a close, I’m still here. Alive.

Now, that may not sound like that big a deal to you, but all my fellow depression sufferers out there can appreciate the significance of that statement, because they know.

They know how much of my time is spent in absolute indifference to everything and everyone, and much of the rest of my time I’m depressed or angry.

They know nobody wants to see any of that, so I try to hide it around other people. Except my poor wife, who gets the whole experience, making her life much tougher than it ought to be.

(I truly hate that.)

They know self-care is not much of a priority, despite focusing most of my attention on me. My doctor tells me exercise helps with depression, but if I don’t care about exercising…

They know that, deep down, I actually hate feeling like this, that I actually want to get better, but I’m my own biggest obstacle to that process. I stopped seeing a therapist; I mean, if I haven’t taken to heart the suggestions she’s offered me already, what’s the use going anymore?

And they know the indifference can occasionally skate out onto the thin ice of desperation, hopelessness and even suicidal thoughts.

So, to still be here – living, breathing, at the end of another year – is, if not an accomplishment, a relief, at least.

Fortunately, I know, worst-case scenario, I have lifelines to hold onto so I don’t fall through the really thin ice.

Which is good to know.

 

I know this is the time of year to be jolly, and I’m sorry if I just dumped a bucket of cold water on that. I just wanted to let you know how I am as we approach a new year. I don’t know what’s in store next year, but somewhere in me is the hope that I can begin to move forward, mentally and physically, toward better health.

Meantime, I promise to have as Merry a Christmas as I can. 😊 Please do the same, all of you. Enjoy family, friends, food, music, decorating, shop…no, not shopping, forget that. But all the rest.

’Tis the season, after all.

 

 

 

For the Fellas

 

Men. Guys. Dudes. Brothers.

Listen to me right now. If I could, I would grab every single one of you by the lapels on your coat, pull you right to my face, and say, “Pay Attention!!”

Here’s why: There are two professional basketball players who have something very important to say to all of us guys.

So, I want all of you to go straight to The Players’ Tribune, a website where professional athletes connect directly with fans, in their own words. Once you’re there, read Everyone is Going Through Something, by the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love, about the panic attack that woke him up to his mental illness.

Then, read about DeMar DeRozan, of the Toronto Raptors, opening up about his struggles with depression and anxiety.

Go ahead, do it now. I’ll wait here.

 

Done? Good.

Could you identify with some of what you read? I sure could. I think lots of men can.

But nobody ever knows that, because to speak up about it is to admit to a “weakness”, which, of course, no real man can admit, right?

Plus, in our culture, “mental illness” is synonymous with “looney toons”, and it’s time we all get past that way of thinking.

What I hope sticks with you, fellas, from Kevin and DeMar’s stories, is that it’s okay to talk to someone about your mental health. You’re not any less of a man if you have a problem.

You hear me? You’re not any less of a man if you have a problem. And you’re not any less of a man for talking with someone about it. The fact I have to practically shout it to you just shows how much STIGMA is attached to mental illness in America. Especially, with men.

And, the way to make that go away is for more of us to talk openly about it, like Kevin and DeMar, and so many before them, and not just athletes, either. Men from all different walks of life.

Because, the truth is, big boys do cry. We just never see them do it.

Mental illness isn’t something that will just go away with time if you wait it out, and it sure as hell isn’t something you can fix, yourself; I don’t care how badass you think you are.

I’m gonna keep talking about mental illness. My mental illness. My depression. Because it’s something men need to talk about a whole lot more. Not just about sports, or cars, or politics, or women, or our physical health.

Our mental health is as much a part of who we are as the rest of it, guys. So, let’s make it part of the conversation.

I just want to remind you of what Kevin said at the end of his essay:

“So if you’re reading this and you’re having a hard time, no matter how big or small it seems to you, I want to remind you that you’re not weird or different for sharing what you’re going through.

“Just the opposite. It could be the most important thing you do. It was for me.”

It was for me. And, with all my heart, guys, I promise you, it could be for you.

It really is okay.

A Ray of Light, Part 4 (Yes, Cain, You Are)

 

And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?

Genesis 4:9

 

For Cole

 

As I alluded to before, suicide has made its presence felt in my family, a few times.

One family member completed it.

Another attempted it. More than once.

Another decided, at the last second, to choose life. (Fortunately)

And I came really close once to attempting it. And have thought about it many times since.

So, that’s why this issue is rather close to my heart. When I discovered that this was National Suicide Prevention Month, I knew I needed to do what I could to raise awareness, and to erase some of the stigma attached to suicide. Most of us aren’t comfortable talking about it, so we don’t. Unfortunately, we may be paying much too high a price for our silence; too many precious lives lost.

Well, we need to start talking about it, folks. Especially, parents, to your kids. Suicide is occurring more and more among teenagers, as well as elementary school kids, some as young as five.

Think about that for a minute. Five. How heartbreaking is that?

The Bible verse I started with features Cain lying about Abel (who he had just murdered), then passing off any responsibility for him. The truth is, we are all our brothers’, and sisters’, keepers; one of the reasons we’re here is to look out for each other, showing care and compassion.

And that includes a health care system in this country that provides adequate care and support to anyone with a mental illness. Because, while most mentally ill people do not kill themselves, the majority of suicides are completed by people with some mental illness.

There are many homeless people who have a mental illness, but can’t get access to the treatment they need. There are many veterans who, because of snags in the system, are not getting the treatment they need, which is criminal. Who will fight for the ones who willingly fought for us?

Fortunately, there are several mental health advocates in Congress, including Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, John Cornyn and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who deserve our thanks for their efforts to effect positive change in mental health care in America.

I know, a lot of people won’t seek help for mental illness, because it’s so stigmatized that they won’t admit they might even have one. And that needs to stop.

If you have a mental illness, you’re not crazy, you’re not a nut job, you’re not cuckoo, or psycho, or looney, or any of the other derogatory terms commonly used.

You’re simply ill, and you need help. Please, don’t be ashamed to ask for it.

 

If you’re thinking about killing yourself, please read this first:

We may not know each other, but I love you. I care about you. I’m sorry you feel like that. I’ve felt like that. And I want you to know, you deserve to be alive.

You absolutely deserve it.

It’s something I have to remind myself of, often. My depression puts me through round after round, fighting the feeling of complete worthlessness, the feeling that all I ever do is screw up, so maybe, I should just put a stop to it, for good.

But no; I deserve to live. And so do you.

I know, sometimes, life just SUCKS. It’s confusing, frustrating, unfair, tragic and cruel, offering no explanation whatsoever as to why.

But, fortunately for us all, it’s also full of beauty. And wonder. And laughter. And love.

I promise you, it’s there.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, at 1-800-273-8255, if you need to talk to someone. Please.

And let me recommend one more amazing website to you: http://livethroughthis.org/

Here, you’ll find stories from 95 different people about attempting suicide – and surviving. People who were molested. People who were bullied. People who were body shamed. People with depression. People with addiction.

I’m willing to bet, one of their stories matches up pretty closely with yours. Because, you’re probably sitting there thinking that nobody has ever been through what you’re going through, but I’m pretty sure you’re wrong about that.

So, let’s live, okay? Let’s live, and see what happens.

I wish you healing, peace, love and life.

A Ray of Light, Part 3

 

For Cole

 

Recently, I’ve written some posts regarding suicide, as September is National Suicide Prevention Month. It’s a major public health issue, and it’s on all of us to do what we can to prevent it.

In my previous post, I’ve presented the warning signs of a suicidal person, and some steps you can take to help someone who exhibits one or more of those signs.

And, once again, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. The call is free, and the line is open 24/7.

Today, I want to pass along some information from the World Health Organization, regarding some popular myths surrounding suicide, along with the facts that dispel them.

MYTH: “Once someone is suicidal, he or she will always remain suicidal.”

THE TRUTH: “Heightened suicide risk is often short-term and situation-specific. While suicidal thoughts may return, they are not permanent and an individual with previously suicidal thoughts and attempts can go on to live a long life.”

MYTH: “Talking about suicide is a bad idea, and can be interpreted as encouragement.” (I believed this one.)

THE TRUTH: “Given the widespread stigma around suicide, most people who are contemplating suicide do not know who to speak to. Rather than encouraging suicidal behaviour, talking openly can give an individual other options or the time to rethink his/her decision, thereby preventing suicide.”

MYTH: “Only people with mental disorders are suicidal.”

THE TRUTH: “Suicidal behaviour indicates deep unhappiness but not necessarily mental disorder. Many people living with mental disorders are not affected by suicidal behaviour, and not all people who take their own lives have a mental disorder.”

MYTH: “Most suicides happen suddenly, without warning.”

THE TRUTH: “The majority of suicides have been preceded by warning signs, whether verbal or behavioural. Of course there are some suicides that occur without warning. But it is important to understand what the warning signs are and look out for them.”

MYTH: “Someone who is suicidal is determined to die.”

THE TRUTH: “Fact: On the contrary, suicidal people are often ambivalent about living or dying. Someone may act impulsively by drinking pesticides, for instance, and die a few days later, even though they would have liked to live on. Access to emotional support at the right time can prevent suicide.”

MYTH: “People who talk about suicide do not mean to do it.”

THE TRUTH: “People who talk about suicide may be reaching out for help or support. A significant number of people contemplating suicide are experiencing anxiety, depression and hopelessness and may feel that there is no other option.”

Did you see any myths you thought to be true? That’s why it’s important for us to learn what the real truths are, so that we can clear up the misunderstandings in our society regarding suicide.

I hope I’ve passed along some valuable information to all of you. You can find much more at http://www.bethe1to.com/ or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or several other terrific websites related to suicide prevention. It’s something we all need more education about, so that we can be better equipped to help family members, friends, co-workers, who we see all the time, yet may not have a clue how badly they hurt inside. Knowing this information just might make a difference.

I’ll wrap this up next time with some personal thoughts and observations. Wishing you all well.

 

A Ray of Light, Part 2

 

For Cole

 

(This one’s long, but bear with me. It’s important.)

Hey, friends, I’m back to remind you that September is National Suicide Prevention Month, so I hope to, in my own small way, help in doing exactly that by writing about  it. Suicide is a very important public health problem, and I’d like to see us all have a part in preventing it.

First, a reminder from my last post, courtesy of http://www.bethe1to.com/

 

Do You Know the Warning Signs?

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun.
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
Talking about being a burden to others.
Increasing their use of alcohol or drugs.
Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
Sleeping too little or too much.
Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
Displaying extreme mood swings.

 

So, be mindful of these signs, folks. How many times have you heard the people closest to the ones who kill themselves say, “I wish I’d known”, “I should have seen it”, “Why didn’t she tell me she was hurting?” Perhaps, knowing these signs, you can be more aware if someone is at risk because, chances are, they’re never gonna just tell you.

Realize, too, this is something that affects children, senior citizens, teenagers, veterans, men, women, straights, gays…no segment of society is left untouched by suicide.

So, what do you do if you notice any of these signs in somebody? Again, I refer to http://www.bethe1to.com/ , an excellent, informative website, and their Five Action Steps. You can get more complete, detailed information on each of these steps on the website; I’m just introducing them to you, here.

ASK

This one can be tough, I know; just initiating the dialogue with a direct, non-judgmental question. But, studies show that asking someone who is at risk can reduce the likelihood of that person actually following through on his or her thoughts. Remember, though, if you’re going to ask, be prepared to listen. Take what that person says seriously, but – and this is important – do not promise to keep his or her suicidal thoughts just between the two of you.

KEEP THEM SAFE

This step is about, after having the conversation and determining this person has had suicidal thoughts, asking more questions about if he or she has thought about the how and the when, if it’s already been attempted before, if there is easy access to the gun, the pills, or whatever he or she was thinking of using to commit suicide. If the answers indicate this person is in imminent danger of killing himself or herself, then you see about separating him or her from any easily accessible, potentially lethal methods of carrying it out. This is a good way of demonstrating your support for this person, taking action to make his or her environment safer.

BE THERE

Pretty self-explanatory; just be present for this person. Help him or her feel connected; reduce the feeling of isolation. Be supportive and encouraging.

Someone I knew committed suicide a few years ago, after dealing with intense physical pain for a long time. Later, I discovered, he had confessed to someone before killing himself that, had he received any words of encouragement from someone, anyone, he might have fought harder to keep living.

That’s how important this step is. Let people know they’re not alone. Tell them you’ll be there for them, but only if you’re actually going to be. Don’t say it, then not follow through.

HELP THEM CONNECT

Provide him or her with a safety net, made up of people and organizations, local and otherwise, to reach out to in times of personal crisis, like the Hotline, or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ . Speaking to someone trained to deal with these crises can reduce the risk of someone going through with a suicidal act.

FOLLOW THROUGH

Again, pretty self-explanatory. Once you’ve talked to someone about his or her thoughts about suicide, and provided a safety net of people to contact, stay in touch. Don’t just forget about him or her. Show you still care. Ask if there is anything more you can do to help. The need to feel connected doesn’t go away once a crisis is averted. It’s a lifelong part of the human condition.

I know I gave you a lot to digest, here, but this is serious business, folks. We can all play a role in the prevention of suicide. Educate yourself on what to look for, and how to help. Let’s all look out for each other. Life – with all its pain, tragedy and injustice – is still worth living.

More to come…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This One’s For the Cowards

 

It happens every time.

Anytime a suicide makes the news, such as Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington, you get these folks who disparage the act of suicide as “the coward’s way out.”

Well, if you’re one of those folks, I want you to shut up. Right now.

The reason anyone commits suicide, I believe, is because that person has completely run out of hope. He or she feels as though there is no other option left.

That isn’t cowardice; that’s the lowest depth of despair.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that suicides occur globally at the rate of one every forty seconds. It is predicted that by the year 2020, the rate will be one every twenty seconds.

Every. Twenty. Seconds. Someone is taking his or her own life.

And, also according to WHO, depression, substance abuse, or some other mental health issue is directly related to over ninety percent of all suicides.

These aren’t cowards afraid to face life. These are people not equipped to face life. They need help. They need treatment. They need someone to talk to. Yet we continue to stigmatize mental health disorder, as if everyone who has one is some kind of nut job.

Which is absolutely not true.

Having a mental illness doesn’t mean you’re crazy, and killing yourself doesn’t mean you’re a coward. Those are two severe misconceptions that need to be addressed and, eventually, removed from the public consciousness. The sooner, the better.

 

Now, for all you brilliant minds out there who maintain that suicide is “the coward’s way out”, let me present to you a few more stats, courtesy of militarytimes.com:

“Roughly 20 veterans a day commit suicide nationwide, according to new data from the Department of Veterans Affairs…

“In 2014, the latest year available, more than 7,400 veterans took their own lives, accounting for 18 percent of all suicides in America. Veterans make up less than 9 percent of the U.S. population.

“The problem is particularly worrisome among female veterans, who saw their suicide rates rise more than 85 percent over that time, compared to about 40 percent for civilian women.

“And roughly 65 percent of all veteran suicides in 2014 were for individuals 50 years or older, many of whom spent little or no time fighting in the most recent wars.”

These are veterans.

People who served our country. People who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us. People who look the enemy in the eye and don’t back down.

So, tell me how cowardly you think they are.

Then shut the f### up.