Sick days. Everyone is allowed to have them, right? But what happens when they occur all too frequently? What happens when they’re not a result of an illness that’s easy to explain?
As you probably know, today’s World Suicide Prevention Day. And because I’ve struggled with depression & anxiety my entire life and have been pretty vocal about those struggles on this blog (especially of late) I promised myself I’d write a post. For myself and others.
However, when I got to my apartment just an hour ago, after a long day of work, I wasn’t feeling up to it. Not because I was having a bad day but because I was fine. Also what could I say that hasn’t already been said? That’s when I reminded myself that everyone’s story is different and even if only one person connects with mine, well, that’s more than enough.
Like I said, I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety or rather anxiety that causes depression since I was a little girl. Back then I just didn’t know what to call it. Now we could have an entire discussion about the pros and cons of labeling a child as depressed, etc. (and I still don’t know where I stand) but I can say that there’s some comfort in being able to “label” my struggles so that I can seek out people who understand and the help I need. Especially since it can be really hard to feel like something is seriously off with you but then have everyone tell you “oh, it’s just a phase,” “smile more,” etc.
Speaking of getting help, that’s such an important step. But it’s hard, right? In addition to people telling me what I was going through was just a phase, when it came to anxiety I had to wade through a sea of people who told me again and again to “just calm down” (as if it were that easy) before I found people who got me.
I write this as someone who used to say that to people. I write this as someone who’s girlfriend often reminds her that what works for me doesn’t work for everyone. (For instance, I’m a big planner (thanks, anxiety) and I’ll be like Zoe what’s your plan, just make a plan, and she’ll give me this look and then I’ll be like oh…right, sorry.) I probably have posts on this very blog about just making a plan and pushing through it. Before this year, I was a “pusher” (Mean Girls reference, (obvi) haha). And then this Spring happened and it became a lot harder to push myself through anything. You can read about some of it here.
But, this is a post for suicide prevention day. And like I told myself this morning I need to say something encouraging. So here it is, my truth (I hope you find it honest and comforting):
I’m not over any of it.
Here’s my life: I go to therapy once a week. (I’m three weeks into it…it took a while to 1) convince myself to go to therapy 2) find the right therapist and 3) make sure my insurance covered it (thank god for copays)). I still have bad days. But I also have a really strong support system. I get it’s not like for everyone. I wish it was but I know it’s not. The point of this is to say, I’m still going through it. This past summer was rough and I did some things I wasn’t proud of doing. I was lucky to have my girlfriend by my side. She shared with me a very personal story and got me on the right track. If anything it’s been the love of others that’s kept me going.
It’s been a lot of loving myself, too.
I know it’s hard. I know how easy it is to imagine a world without you in it. And since this post is all about honesty, I can’t say the thoughts just poof away. If anything, we need to change how we talk about why people commit suicide and the causes of it. We need more honest tales. So that when you’re in recovery and then boom, you’re hit with a horrible day that makes you want to go back on every promise you made to yourself, you don’t think you’re a failure. You don’t think, this isn’t how “getting better” is supposed to feel like. Instead, you forgive yourself and get through the day.
Forgiveness. That’s another important step. I read this amazing article yesterday on forgiveness and writing (by Daniel José Older <333). It can be applied to anything, really.
“Getting better” is hard; it doesn’t happen overnight… it’s painful sometimes. Just last Friday I walked out of therapy feeling like a boss only to have life slap me in the face.
I guess the real question should be why go through it all? Why survive? Because that’s really what this is about, isn’t it? …it is about survival. As one of the guys I work with says, think of yourself as a chess player not a checker player. I played chess competitively when I was younger and as a teen I taught it to young kids. It’s still one of my favorite games. A chess match can go for hours. It can also go really fast. It’s all about strategy and patience. You have to be patient. You have to be strategic like you’re in your own version of the Hunger Games except you’re fighting yourself.
Forget all those cheesy quotes about the world needing your wisdom and creativity, etc.
You need it.
You deserve life.
We, unfortunately, don’t get to choose some of the problems we’re dealt in life: I’ve always been kinda gay and that gave me a lot of problems when younger. Not because I came out but because I didn’t feel safe enough to come out so I kept it all in. Whenever kids made jokes about some girl being a lesbian or flung around the ‘faggot,’ I laughed it off even though I was hurting. Everything became a cut against my soul. My skin got thicker and yet I was withering away. Anxiety runs in my family. My mom has it, her mom has it, oh, and my little 10-year old sister has it. It hurts to see her going through it but it’s comforting knowing that unlike when I was younger, she’ll have me to support her for when it gets rough.
We do get some say in how we handle everything. For me, what helped was realizing I deserved to fight for myself, to give myself a chance at everything I’ve dreamed of since I was a little girl, everything I want. A while back I read this awesome Autostraddle article, and I decided to give myself a “best day” too. Not a “final best day” but just an awesomely amazing day just to prove that I could do it. The day wasn’t as amazing as I’d hoped but it was nice. I noticed things I hadn’t noticed in a long time. I found surprises, wonders around me I didn’t know existed. I rediscovered hope.
Sometimes nice is what you need.
Life, living, isn’t a race. It’s not about who can live better first. And when someone commits suicide it’s not like they just gave up. I hate when people say that. It’s more like the pain was so much they wanted it to stop. If you haven’t felt pain like that, I’m going to be honest, you need to think twice / just don’t even start to say someone “gave up.” What you can do, though, is be compassionate and aware. We’re often so busy that we, consciously or not, ignore the suffering of others. If you’re someone who wants to help, I promise when you take that extra time you’ll start noticing there are people struggling around you: friends and loved ones who need you by their side (even if it’s just to distract them and do something “normal”).
And if you’re in the struggle, whether you’re recovering like me or in the thick of it, think of those you love. I know it’s so easy to think that you’re a burden, but they will 1000% miss you.
That being said, like I stated earlier, think of yourself first. I’m in no way a psychologist but if there’s anything I’ve learned from my therapy sessions it’s that I don’t take enough care of myself.
I rarely put me first.
Most of us don’t.
You have to put yourself first. You deserve not what that horrible voice in your head tells you… that voice is big meanie (& that’s an understatement). You deserve to live, you deserve to thrive, and you can and will do just that.
This isn’t about pulling yourself up with your bootstraps; it’s about realizing it’s going to take time to get in a good place but that you’ve got this. It’s about realizing that there’s someone out there who’s on your side and that reaching out to them is one of the first steps. It’s also about realizing you’re freaking awesome.
Write it in the corners of your notebook (I do that sometimes). Write it on your body. Whisper it to yourself before you go to bed, say it loud and proud when looking in the mirror every morning. Whatever it takes.
I don’t even know you and I know you’re awesome.
Why? Because I’m awesome. (haha, couldn’t help myself) Not to mention, I went to Wellesley College and the students at that school, well, some of them (especially some of my close friends) have really been through the worst of it and yet are here, awesome, and prospering beside me today. Some of the most creative people in the world, the best of writers, inventors, etc. have looked suicide in the face and said not today. Some of us do it once a week. Some do it every day.
For me, I’ve learned that writing is also the answer. When it all seems to be too much, I grab a pen and paper and let the words flow. (I have pens and notebooks in every bag I own.) Letting the words flow is similar to other things I used to do, other things that are still painful to talk about, but instead of fighting pain with pain, writing is cathartic. Writing heals rather than scars. I used to think I deserved the scars and the pain, but I didn’t. None of us do.
You have to find your answer, your thing. If you can’t, you must create it. Odd sounding, maybe, but having an outlet helps. A lot.
If you’ve never heard this from anyone before, I believe in you. I believe in you just as much as I believe in myself and everyone else I love and know. And, for the record, that’s a lot too.
Something I try to remind myself is that I never stopped loving me. I really don’t think I did. I just stopped caring for me and started being real hard on me. The love was still there. I might’ve found faults with parts of me at time but, as a whole, I loved myself. I’d seen myself accomplish some amazing things. I just had to start valuing those more than I remembered my mistakes. Once I looked at it that way it was easier to begin to make amends, to forgive myself, rather than feeling like I had to start from scratch.
You’ve got this. I know you do. And I cannot wait to witness the amazing things you do.
Place your thoughts in the comments (I’m catching up on comments from previous posts but I promise I’ll reply). Also, if there’s something you’d like me to write a longer post on (rather than just a reply to a comment) contact me!
Sweet dreams, everyone 🙂 Or, happy night for the night owls (ahem, moi) among us.
P.S. for another, more in depth, post about writing & depression read this one by Libba Bray <3