A huge thank you to my loving parents for supporting my journey of becoming an Chemical Addictions Couselor. Today I had to make a mock patient case study and I had my mom’s incredible journey to draw from. This month marks her 1 year anniversary gambling free- I couldn’t be more proud. LOVE YOU PARENTS!
I was hospitalized for depression at 13 after I told a friend in a heated phone conversation that I was going to kill myself. Within minutes her mom was calling frantically to speak to my parents and within days I was in the psych unit in Fargo, ND. I spent 7 long days there and saw more than I have time to mention in a blog, yet that mind blowing and somewhat harrowing experience saved my life.
In leu of the endless (and in many regards IGNORANT) posts I have read over the last week about Robin Williams, something inside me raged. A fire of sorts. A strong urge to give input from someone who actually experienced that darkest hell of depression and suicidal thoughts first hand- not just by way of spectating with popcorn, a loud mouth and good seats. Maybe it was the massive amounts of judgmental slurs over the last week- indubitably stemming from fear and lacking any compassion that frankly- pissed this lil’ hippy off. So juuuuust in case you’ve been living under a rock or chose to ignore the suffering of your fellow human, let me reiterate a very simple fact. Mental illness is real.
I’m only one example. I don’t represent all humankind but I can tell you what i’ve experienced. Suicidal thoughts can feel like a never ending dead end, not a mindless turn you make along the highway of life. It isn’t something you follow through with just to get attention. When someone reaches the darkest realms of existence-when they enter the blackness of suicidal thoughts- it isn’t because they are trying to hurt the people around them. It isn’t because they have flippantly thrown in the towel after a tough game of life, it’s because in that dark pit of hell that they reside in- they can’t find their way out. They have arrived at what they think is the only destination and can’t see outside of the situation. Regardless of wrong or right, the overwhelming fact of endlessness remains. In layman’s terms- They. Need. Help. It isn’t a circus for us all to watch, to be entertained with or engulfed in- pointing fingers and blaming with opinions and speculations. It’s as black and white as life or death, yet as gray and vague as everything in between. Our society is at the bottom of a staggering precipice in mental illness. The human mind is complicated and most of the efforts over the last fifty years have been trial and error. The good news is it is getting better and organizations are turning up everywhere to help those suffering from suicidal thoughts/tendencies. I have been lucky enough to work with suicide prevention organizations that spend their time/money and energy to help those before it’s too late.
I was fortunate enough to get help in time. Some don’t get that lucky. Not all who commit suicide are in Hollywood where everyone can read about every last detail- or shall i say- embellished hearsay. Not all have them have such lavish stories as Robin Williams, but let it be known that suffering is one in the same. The news of his passing is still ringing in my ears because I know THAT pain. The lowest of lows AND the loss of someone you love who has lost their battle to mental illness. The biggest influence in my life-my brother committed suicide. The love of my early adult life committed suicide. My beautiful cousin committed suicide. Many of my dearest friends have committed suicide. They weren’t on the cover of People and won’t be read about worldwide, but they are written in the stars and finally free from the shackles of their own mind. They may have felt they were out of options but I can only hope we find more of/for them someday soon. We need to be proactive and band together in patience and understanding to set a solid foundation for future recovery. We can save lives by being gentle and knowledgeable. Judgement won’t keep our loved ones alive and shouldn’t be tolerated. Be kind. Be gentle. Be the change you want to see and help those who need it. If you need more information on suicide prevention- here is a great link.
I’m 34 years old. That has been rolling around in my head for the last hour as I contemplated how to start writing again. THAT’s the profound first line that pushes against my brain and needed out?!? So what is so special about that statement? Well. Today a friend of an old friend- Dayna- died from her battle with pancreatic cancer that she was diagnosed with when she was 34. She was the real deal- like the true hero that should become celebrated with a National Holiday (as is everyone who fights Cancer or life threatening disease).She was given 4 months to live and lived for 4 years. She was bubbly, happy and did her best to cheat death. She spent her days writing blogs about all the little things that made her smile- even with death knocking at her door. It’s stinking sad, dammit. Death that young..38. but you know what? Her life wasn’t. She never let it stop her. So here I am. I’m 34 years old and she inspired me to be a better human.
I spend time being grateful- but I feel like I also spend a substantial amount of time planning my life without actually living it. Without even recognizing that my appreciation somehow gets lost for those things that I may not have forever. The first one that comes to mind is my health. I’m 34 years old and i have battled smoking as an addiction since i was 13. I would have been nicotine free for 3 years but started again three days before the that anniversary back in March. I could make excuses- like excruciating pain in my heart, substantial life changes but there really is no excuse and I know it’s nothing compared to what Dayna went through…and she never smoked. I know I’m dancing with chances yet here I am. American Spirit in hand…
I’m 34 years old. Since i was a little girl- i have hated my body. Like really really really hated it, more like shamed by it - which is hard to admit (but you’re so confident! uhmmm..no. I’ve just gotten really good at deflecting). I did a songwriting seminar once at the Eating Disorder Unit for Children’s Hospital- seriously life changing yet my struggle with terrible body dismorphia remained. There it is. From my skinniest to my largest I could always find a way to pick myself apart.
Then the need for approval comes in (cue the men) and that of course throw a wrench in everything. From when I became sexually active around 18 to my late twenties I realized that every man I dated had something in common- they were what i later learned to be referred to as ‘ass men.” (I3- that’s my homemade butt emoticon..ok i got it from Tina on Bobs Burgers but i digress..) Constantly telling me about how much they loved it. Small and tight sure-but that’s a pooper for godssake!l :D. I could not understand- for the life of me (i’m not an ass woman, clearly.). See- what I thought I REALLY wanted was what was up top. I dreamed of having boobs, supple, firm- sheesh a hand full would have been great. I felt like it would accentuate my inner woman and give me some sense of confidence I had yet to find. Whelp. Thirties came and so did the curves. Yes I worked hard for that money:) I was spending less time obsessing over what I ate, having no more smokes to curb my appetite and revolving all of my plans around family dinners and happy hour. Having foods so decadent that I wrote blogs about them, eventually joining Yelp and researching all my fellow foodie’s favorites and savoring the subtleties of my taste buds. Yes- the most elaborate meal I had ever eaten was Outback steakhouse(can I get a fried onion please!!!) until my 21st birthday- so I am sure I felt like I had some making up to do in the food department. There is of course some analyzing we could do with that (Thank god for therapists and don’t worry i have a good one:). Needless to say after a ‘many dinners coupled with my newfound appreciation for fermented grapes straight from the gods, that chest I had always wanted finally filled in- as did everything else. I guess I could say that I got exactly what I asked for.. and worked rather hard for- thanks to my indulgences:D Yet none of it felt right and I spent every morning in a front of the mirror literally seething.. Adjusting the too short shirt to cover my newfound rolls, changing one hundred times, looking at old show pictures that hung near reminding of my once skinny bod.(Angie- i saw an old picture of you- you looked so good and little! uhhhmm.. thanks? Angie- here are some clothes from when I was my biggest- thought you’d like them!) Maybe that boy body would be better than feeling like I was wearing a fat suit that I couldn’t take off. I had clothes from when i was 10 months pregnant that wouldn’t even fit. I had to face that I was the biggest I had ever been. Yet even then I was completely ungrateful for my HEALTH. What was missing was a lack of “I don’t need your approval anymore”. What was missing all along was an appreciation for what was inside. What was missing all along was…wait for it… Balance.
This isn’t the first time I faced this battle. I teeter-totter between skinny fat, eating starving, smoking feigning, drinking drying, loving disconnecting, pain excitement, diet purging. Fear love. Fear love. Repeat. Honestly when I stare it straight in the face- I’m fully aware of where comes from. Fear. And this beautiful balance that i have always longed for, that i dream of daily- has only been but a word I’ve been typing on a computer screen.
I’m 34 years old and I could be told tomorrow I have pancreatic cancer- shit we all could. I got up today and I stopped writing down things i SHOULD do. Instead I just did them. I did yoga. I meditated. I did sit ups and arm weights. I looked at my curvy body and acknowledged the beauty in my imperfections- I spent time being happy in the body I have right now- in this moment. Not boy body or the biggest I’ve been but somewhere in between- mostly healthy and curvy and yes sometimes plagued with body dismorfia. I participated in the balance of what I want my life to be. Two things came up for me during my meditation.
SURRENDER. to the answers the universe has. To the NOW that we are living, to the excitement for the future, to the chances we can take and the wonderful moment of anticipation before it unfolds. SURRENDER to the life that is waiting for me and let go of the life I once had just because it was-at one time- all i knew. Yes I’m a survivor. Yes I’ve had abuse that has caused me to hate my body but you know what?!? I know more now. I’m moving on. FINALLY.
I’m 34 years old. It’s time to PARTICIPATE). Life isn’t going to knock on my door. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a surfacy person who obsesses about materialistic things or how hot i should be. Yet behind close doors there I am. Insecure just like everyone else. Life is still waiting for the taking and sitting around paralyzed in fear will not allow the channel for change. I must PARTICIPATE in the lessons. PARTICIPATE in the love. PARTICIPATE in the balance. BE THE CHANGE. BE the LOVE.
I’m 34 years old and I’m damn lucky I have this moment. Right here. Whether or not I have another- this one right now is pretty special. I am using this moment to be truly grateful for all of it. Every last part of this crazy life. Of these curves. Of the lessons I learned. Of the balance I am creating here and now- one lil’ moment at a time.
thank you Dayna for your inspiration.