Tag Archives: depression

National Suicide Prevention Day

Today, September 10, 2012, is National Suicide Prevention Day. In 2007, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death for all ages. In 25-34 year olds suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death and among 15-24 year olds it’s the 3rd leading cause of death (CDC).

1 of over 200 signs created in response to why you should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Click on this picture to view the others.

Risk factors for suicide (characteristics that make it more likely that an individual will consider, attempt or die by suicide) include:

  • Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and certain personality disorders
  • Alcohol and other substance use disorders
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Major physical illnesses
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide
  • Job or financial loss
  • Loss of relationship
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Local clusters of suicide
  • Lack of social support and sense of isolation
  • Stigma associated with asking for help
  • Lack of health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
  • Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and Internet)

Warning signs of suicide (may mean that someone is at risk for suicide) include:

  • 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 the 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.

If you, or someone you care about is struggling, feeling stuck, hopeless or disconnected, there are ways to get help and support. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has also created a partnership with Facebook to make crisis services more easily assessable to those in need. If a Facebook friend posts something that causes you to worry that they may harm themselves, you can now report suicidal content on Facebook. The person who posted the suicidal comment will then immediately receive an e-mail from Facebook encouraging them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  or to click on a link to begin a confidential chat session with a crisis worker.

The purple and turquoise Suicide Prevention Ribbon symbolizes suicide awareness and prevention and serves as a reminder that suicide is an issue we need to talk about. Download a ribbon avatar and make it your profile picture on Facebook and Twitter during National Suicide Prevention Week (September 9-15).  Awareness ribbons can be found HERE.

Even in the darkest, most desolate moments, YOU matter. Please, please know that there is always help and support.

Advertisements

Asking for Help

Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

I am going to come right out and say that I have been struggling. Recovery from my tonsillectomy was much more difficult than I had imagined it would be. Progress was extremely slow-moving and in very small increments. I had expected recovery to progress quicker and in larger increments.

I had great difficulty in being patient. Of course, I wanted to feel better right away. It was excruciating to allow myself to just be where I was – in my recovery and in a broader sense.

It has felt like I have struggled my entire life. Never seeming to “get” what I had expected. Always looking ahead to where I wanted to be. And always letting pieces of the past seep into where I currently was.

In many ways, it was easier that way. By always living in the past and the future I didn’t have to confront and deal with what was happening in the present. Avoidance is one of the oldest tricks of continued struggling.

For the past two weeks I have been in an outpatient hospitalization program. Perhaps in previous times I would feel embarrassed or ashamed by this admittance but, as I have grown wiser and gotten further in my self-progress, I can view this only in a positive light.

I knew that I was struggling and heading into a very dark place. I also knew where, historically, that could take me and it isn’t a place I’d ever like to visit again. I referred myself to the program, planning my attendance around a time of increased struggle for myself (my father’s second birthday since he passed away).

I recognized that I was in a place where I needed help – and I sought it out. Asking for help is one of the most difficult things any of us can do. We often view it as admitting weakness and exposing vulnerabilities. And yes, often when we are in a place of struggling we are vulnerable but asking for help is never weak. In fact, it’s one of the strongest things we can do. To identify that we are in a bad place and to ask/receive help is an incredibly mature and amazing thing to do.

I truly try to do the best that I can with the knowledge and resources (tools) I presently have. Most often my struggling isn’t because I’m not “trying hard enough”. It’s because I need additional knowledge and resources to help me more forward.

Sometimes my struggling isn’t because I don’t have the knowledge and resources that I need or because I’m not trying my best. Sometimes, when we are in a dark place, we can’t see the tools that we possess. It’s difficult to see anything in the darkness. Seeking out help can be a way to “turn on the light” and allow us to recognize and use the tools we had all along.

Life isn’t easy. Keeping constant momentum and living in the present moment isn’t easy either.

We will struggle. We will get caught up in the past and all the “should have, could have, would have” thinking. We will get caught up in the future and worry about what will be. We will face tragedies and heartaches and losses and disappointments. We will work to move forward a step, only to be unexpectantly forced three steps backward.

Sometimes we will be able to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and continue forward. Sometimes we will realize that we are unable to do so and, if we can find the courage, we will ask for help.

I am beginning to accept myself, who I am, and the life that I currently have.

I could spend every second of every day wishing to be things that I am not. Wishing that I didn’t have chronic, life-long illnesses. Wishing for a level playing field. Wishing things happened differently in the past… All that wishing won’t change a thing. I am who I am. I have the body I have and the mind I have.

I have the illnesses I have as well. And fighting against them will never propel me forward nor allow me to become the person I would like to be. I could be in a perpetual state of conflict and anger and darkness, fighting against forces that I have no ability to change.

I ask for help because when I’m in a place of darkness, of struggling, I cannot see any other way than to fight or to submit to the darkness. These past two weeks while I was in the outpatient hospitalization program, a light was shone on me. It was my choice to use that light and allow myself the opportunities to create my own light.

This is who I am. This is what I have. If I want anything to change I have to make that choice. And I am.

It’s quite likely that I will need help again, but I will view it not as a setback or a weakness but instead as an opportunity to grow stronger, to learn more and to make the choice to continue to work on improving myself and my ability to move forward.

——————————————————

Resources:

If you or someone you know is in an emotional distress or suicidal crisis – the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (8255) 

If you are concerned about your own alcohol or other drug use or that of someone you care about – the NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) hotline 1.800.NCA.CALL (622-2255) 

Free. Safe. Confidential. 24 Hours. 7 Days. – RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)  National Sexual Assault Hotline  1.800.656.HOPE

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder – the National Eating Disorders Association information line 1.800.931.2237

If  you have questions about or are affected by serious mental illness – the  NAMI (National Association on Mental Illness) information help line 1.800.950.NAMI (6264)

Is There a Bigger Picture?

Recently it seems wherever I go there are people having a tough time. Having difficulty making ends meet, finding jobs, paying for all the expenses that somehow creep up at the worst possible times. Struggling with sicknesses, addictions, chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia, deep depression and other mental illnesses.

People are working their asses off at jobs they don’t enjoy, that they aren’t appreciated in or compensated for. Racking up large debts to pay for secondary educations with the foresight that there may not be careers available to them when they graduate.

Parents who are stressed out from all of these things and still need to find a way to hold it together to be the moms and dads their children not only require but also deserve. Losses of jobs and houses, and lifestyles and dreams. Losses of people, expected and unexpected, but felt just the same.

Religious arguments and politics. Social injustice. Internal feelings of inadequacy; of lacking. And an overwhelming feeling of despair and disappointment.

It all leads to, let’s be honest, feeling like shit. Feeling like the world is on your back. That bad things just keep happening and will just keep happening. That no matter what you do, it isn’t enough. It will never be enough. It might make you start questioning what the “bigger picture is.”

Is there a bigger picture? What is the point of all of this? And will it ever get any better?

I can tell you this, I don’t have the answers and I won’t try and act like I do.

Or rather, I don’t have the answers for you.

However, I have found the answers for me. Right now. In this moment.

Is there a bigger picture?

Do you want there to be? You are the captain of your life, whether you feel like it or not. In this moment, the bigger picture for me is this: Much of life has been beyond difficult, filled with trauma and tribulations and shit stacked so high against me that at many points I couldn’t see around it.

To be honest, my current life isn’t really any less difficult than it has ever been. But the bigger picture, for me, is that I can’t see having gone through all that I have and survived to just let my life be wasted. For me, the bigger picture is a trap. Looking too far in the future (or the past) blinds me from looking right here in the present, which is the only place I am truly capable of being in.

What is the point of all of this?

You know, I’ve mulled this question over since I was, at minimum, 15 years old. I haven’t ever come up with a definitive answer mainly because there isn’t one. There is no one answer to this question. The point of “all this” is whatever you want it to be.

Do you want to be the wealthiest person in the US? In the world? Do you want to discover an unknown entity or invent the world’s next innovation? Do you want to be the best parent you can be to your children? Do you want to be happy?

The meaning of life is vastly different for each person. For me, in this moment, the point of “all this” is to do the best I can. Right now. With the knowledge and resources and abilities that I have right now. And if tonight when I go to bed I realize that the day didn’t go as I had hoped or planned or even liked, well then tomorrow I will get up and try again.

Will it ever get any better?

At various times throughout my life I have been in places that, regardless of what anyone said to me, I would argue that no, it will never get better. I could point to the current place I was in (which was horrible). I could point to every past place of agony and depression and anger and despair. As if to showcase my evidence of how much everything is shit and always was shit and always will be shit. But, you know what?, complaining and arguing about how much my life sucked didn’t do anything other than allowing myself to sink down into it even more.

So, right here and right now, let’s lay it out. Life sucks. Life is hard and sometimes it seems like horrible things will never stop happening to us. Fair assessment?

Now let it go. Really. Putting the majority of your attention on all the things that are shitty, it doesn’t help you. While you’re busy getting stressed and upset about all the things that, right now in this moment, you can’t change you are missing out on all the wonderful things that are right there.

Sometimes all you can do is keep moving. Just keep waking up and doing the best you can. Just keep swimming as it were, like the fish in Finding Nemo.

Sometimes you need to change your perspective. To acknowledge the bad and let it go. To choose to focus on the positive things you do have in your life. To be grateful.

Are bad things going to keep happening? Yes. And good things too.

Music as a Tool

Music, like other mediums, is a conduit of emotion. Singing or dancing along to a favorite song connects you to it, fully immerses you in the music and makes you a part of the experience.  Where your attention is focused – on the melody, the beat, the lyrics, the tempo, the various instruments, etc. – differs by the song, as well as differing by each individual’s own preferences.

Music can certainly affect mood. Certain songs may encourage you to be in a good mood, a “happy place” or even a “sad place” depending on the mood of the song itself and your relationship to it.  For example, listening to Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” can lift me from a sad, depressed mood and inspire hope. For me, the upbeat tempo and the lyrics, “Don’t worry about a thing,/’Cause every little thing gonna be all right”  provides positivity. For another person, the same song may not have the same effect.

Specific songs can bring you back emotionally to a prior time and place of hearing the song. Much like a  time machine, the song transports you to a previous time. Songs can connect you to those in your life who are absent, due to distance or death. I personally cannot listen to a Bob Dylan song without thinking of my father, whose favorite musician was Bob Dylan. As my father passed away in November of 2010, this can function in a positive manner or a negative manner. Listening to Dylan music has acted as an agent in my grieving process, both allowing me release through crying and allowing me closeness to my father through memories of times we listened together.

As music and memory are so interconnected, you must be aware of songs that bring up negative memories and emotion for you. I try to refrain from listening to music that produces negative memories (and emotions) in myself, such as songs that my ex-boyfriend frequently listened to. Certainly there are songs that bring up positive memories and emotions as well.  Music can inspire empowerment through lyrics that show triumph and overcoming. It can inspire connectiveness and the feeling that “I am not alone.”  Songs can tell stories, beg you to think about issues and, reversely, invite you to get absorbed in the aesthetics.

In this way, music can be used as a distraction from current unpleasantness or pain. In times of stress or crisis, listening to music can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Calm, instrumental pieces can be used in relaxation techniques.  There have been several studies that even suggest  music can improve memory. One such study reports that, “[a]utobiographical recall in patients with dementia improves significantly when music is playing…” (Lancet).

I am, by no means, even close to an expert on music. But I do know this, when I’m having a terrible, stressful day, when nothing seems to be going “right” and I feel myself sinking into depression and anxiety, music helps. As I listen to Andy Grammer’s “Keep Your Head Up”, singing along to the lyrics, it doesn’t solve my problems or make everything better, but in that moment I can focus on the words in the song and I can believe that I’m going to, “turn out fine.” Sometimes a brief moment, such as this, allows me to alter my mood and offers positive thinking an entrance.

Only rainbows after rain
The sun will always come again and
It’s a circle, circling around again
It comes around again

Mental Illness Awareness

Today is National Depression Screening Day (US)

Everyone experiences stress, sadness and anxiety sometimes. Unlike the normal emotional experiences of sadness, such as during a loss or major life event (for example: divorce, retirement, becoming unemployed), depression is persistent and can significantly interfere with one’s thoughts, behavior, mood, ability to work, sleep, eat or enjoy once pleasurable activities.

Depression and other mood disorders can not be seen on an x-ray. Yet mental illness is just as painful. And the stigma associated with the disease often prevents many from seeking help and getting treated. Without treatment, the frequency of depressive illness as well as the severity of symptoms tends to increase over time. Left untreated, depression can lead to suicide.

Symptoms of Depression include:

• persistently sad or irritable mood
• pronounced changes in sleep, appetite and energy
• difficulty thinking, concentrating and remembering
• physical slowing or agitation
• lack of interest in or pleasure from activities that were once enjoyed
• feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness and emptiness
• recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
• persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain

National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) gives people the opportunity to take a free, anonymous questionnaire assessing their risk for mood and anxiety disorders and provides referral information for treatment. Visit www.HelpYourSelfHelpOthers.org to find a local organization offering depression and anxiety screenings or take a screening online today. More information can be found about NDSD at Mental Health America.

NDSD is also part of the larger Mental Illness Awareness Week, an effort to bring awareness to mental illnesses. To learn more about mental illnesses, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI is a grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness by advocating mental health awareness, support, education and recovery.