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mental health awareness
  • Summer Meltdowns, Loss of Control and Missing the Hospital

    Today was one of those days. It’s been coming for a while. The type of day where I recognize my mental health is in a precarious state due to many circumstances I have zero control over and I’m all at once slowly and rapidly losing my shit to the point I miss the hospital. I want the hospital. I meet zero criteria for the hospital, but the hospital is controlled, with rhythms and routines and predictability. My life presently is not. My brain and my body are seeking it in any way possible.

    I’m not sure when I began to recognize the tides were turning. Was it when my two “best” friends turned on me inexplicably and iced me out without word? Perhaps. That wound is still bleeding from lack of understanding and closure. There are three sides to the truth. All I know is my truth is I was always kind, always there when asked, willing to lend a hand when needed, there for every child birthday party or major event invited. I am not perfect, so sometimes I was needy with my mental illness and needing someone to listen at perhaps inconvenient times. Or just needy. Maybe that’s what did it. I’ll never know. I do know that my children’s birthday party is not prioritized the way I would and one person was supposed to have a major role in the surprise twist to my children’s birthday party. But not anymore, I think they actually forgot.  BOTTOM LINE IS: take all that away, my heart hurts, I still lack closure and a major portion of my mental health support system is gone. Poof. Just like that.

    I did learn I had another support system around me, subtler, less in your face but equally precious. One that I’m grateful this ‘ice out” has given me the opportunity to grow and blossom, though not healing the wound any less. 

    Perhaps the tides were turning when we grew more and more suspicious with the behavior of one of our children. Despite extensive evaluations, our guts kept telling us it was something more than what every doctor had told us. We kept watching and tracking and adding up symptoms. No sleep. Limited food intake. Irritable aggression. Going on for over a week. My faulty genetics being passed down the line and parental guilt kicking in as I never wanted to pass this wretched disease onto one the boys. It has been and always will be my worst nightmare and my worst day as a mother: diagnosis day for my son. 

    I already feel a bit like a parental pariah with his other diagnoses, and now to add this to the pile. I can’t publicly advocate for him, loud and proud the way I do for myself. He has to understand his disorder first. Then, when he’s older, it will be his story to tell. In the meantime I need to figure out to fill up my fuel tanks for puberty for this will be a loathsome combination.

    Perhaps the tides began to turn when I did publicly advocate for my children. One in particular was subject to racial slurs two years in a row by classmates and as a family we took it public to bring about community awareness and change. Being a maven and fomenting change is exhausting and uncomfortable at times while being exhilarating at it’s best. I am confident not everyone is on board with my loud message of preaching diversity be it skin tone, mental health, or being neurotypical/atypical.

    Then we have my grade in my current class for my doctoral program. I am used to being a very high achiever. I graduated UVA with masters summa cum laude. To get punched around in a doctoral level class and be one point below a passing grade is humbling. It’s not reflective of the hours of work I put in each week and my capabilities as a student. It wears on my psyche week after week after week.

    I needed to ugly cry today. I needed to get it out. I needed to ask my husband to hospitalize me. I needed to hear from him that it wasn’t the right thing to do, that I have better choices (and days) ahead of me whether I have the ability to recognize it or not. Right now, I need stability, routine, calm, and peace. I need the chaos, lack of control, zero predictability and no sense of routine to stop. Most of all, I need to my support system is there when I need it.

  • Don’t Call It A Suicide

    I took a HIIT class at my gym this morning. That’s high intensity interval training for those gym neophytes like myself. It was my first one and I wasn’t sure what to expect other than my body wasn’t going to like me very much later today. You see, I joined a gym in January determined to incorporate more exercise into part of my care for myself. Medications: check. Sleep hygiene: check. Regular visits with my team: check. And now regular exercise: check in progress.

    We started the class with an exercise the trainer referred to as “suicides.” It consists of running back and forth to various points ultimately across the entire room with the goal of being able to do five sets of these. It’s a hard, exquisitely challenging exercise without a doubt. It’s defined as “a high intensity sprinting drill, suicides consist of running to multiple progressively distant lines, within a set, as fast as you can. Speed, endurance and agility are all highlighted when running suicides as they test your ability to push through mental and physical fatigue to meet your goal.”  livehealthy.chron.com/suicide-running-drill-8784.html 

     Challenge met. My mental and physical fatigue was peaked. In between the “suicide” drills we had other exercises to perform as well. Perhaps I’m being overly critical or picky today but I hate that they are called suicides. Call them hell burners, call them your least favorite drill of the day, but don’t call them suicides. We aren’t there as a class running back and forth in the depths of despair plotting how to end our lives. We aren’t there contemplating methods of lethality and how we can avoid people so that our plan to complete actual suicide goes unnoticed.

    I’ve been there, both contemplating suicide and attempting suicide with failed completion. It’s not an exercise. It’s pain, but it’s not an exercise to be found in a gym. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say again and again and again until I’m understood. Language matters. Words matter.

     There was a piece of my brain in class this morning thinking about my attempts and the aftermath.  I got dizzy – I suspect from low blood sugar and couldn’t complete the last twenty minutes of class. I have to question the mind-body connection to a degree; thinking too much about the past and what I had done before, residual effects on my family, the thought of my children being raised without a mother versus now just asking me where I’ve been mornings and hearing my cheerful reply “oh, the gym.”

    In the end what mattered today is that we were there in HIIT cheering each other on, lungs burning, and gulping water as quickly as we can, alive. Gloriously and amazingly alive this morning, enjoying how magical it is – what our bodies are capable of. And it’s not called suicide. 

  • Oh Dear Logan, Apology NOT Accepted

    Turning on the news today one read how a YouTuber named Logan Paul with 15 million subscribers got himself into a bit of a pubic relations disaster overnight and that’s putting it mildly. Logan Paul is a 22-year-old video blogger who posts daily short “shows” to his channel and had managed to garner quite a bit of fame doing so. However overnight a video was posted by him of himself and his team in the Aokigahara forest at the base of Mt Fuji, Japan – most commonly known as the suicide forest. He took the time to bleep out his curse words, but posted the body of a deceased person in full-view. The video got 6.3 million views in the day it was available prior to being taken down. http://nymag.com/selectall/2018/01/logan-paul-suicide-forest-video-youtube.html

    The video since been taken down, reportedly by Logan himself only after he came under fire for having the lack of decency and let’s face it – balls – to be so disrespectful to the family who lost a loved one by suicide. He claimed at one point they stumbled onto the forest, but last I checked, no one “stumbles” into Japan’s infamous suicide forest incidentally. He then claimed he did it for mental health awareness, but my god, I can think of a million and one ways to promote mental health awareness that do not involve a corpse and re-traumatizing a family whose loved one is in the forest or all the other families who lost loved ones to suicide.

    As a suicide survivor, I don’t accept his defensive, tearful apologies. There has to be a point where you, Logan, understand your actions and that you took your fame too far. Stick to your silliness and comedic acts. Hold a fundraiser if you want to raise some awareness. Participate in American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)’s Overnight Walk and encourage your followers to do the same if you want to raise some awareness. Do something for the seriously mental ill, the ones who get ignored, who can’t get care, who get funneled into the prison system; raise awareness for them if you really want to get serious about mental illness and mental health. I’d be happy to give you some names and point you in the right direction. Let’s start with Treatment Advocacy Center, huh?

    But Logan, please let’s just be honest with the public and with suicide survivors like me first. You knew what you were doing and you did for views. The American public is not stupid. You underestimate your followers. And my children, who used to watch you for kicks and laughs? I say used to because as of 6:45 this am your content in any format is banned in my home. My nine-year-old is pretty savvy and has an impressive level of awareness regarding mental illness and mental health thanks to having a mother with bipolar disorder, so he knows EXACTLY what you did and thinks you lack morals. My nine-year-old. Sleep on that tonight.