S – Suicide

Let’s talk about something more deadly than sharks, snakes, cars and lightning. Let’s talk about something that is seen by some as cowardly, selfish, a sin, simply incomprehensible.

Suicide is the permanent exit that people take when their life feels too painful to bear. When after months and years and even decades of struggling, they can’t take it anymore. When there is too much pain, grief, trauma, hate, fear, guilt. When it seems as if all these overwhelming feelings and powerful thoughts have bubbled up, spilt out of the brain like a volcano of hydrochloric acid, flown and frothed and are dissolving the entire little human body of innocent flesh.

Surviving and fighting on is selfless and brave, but I would never call suicide selfish or cowardly. Rather, the intrusive thoughts of suicide can create a cloudy barrier that causes the victim to forget a lot of external things. When feeling suicidal, it is so easy to forget that you pass on your pain to others. It is easy to convince yourself that you are a burden when you are not. It is easy to think that the world will be better off without you when it will miss you dearly. It is easy to think that this will be the only feeling you will ever feel for the rest of your existence, when that is not true.

I am currently dealing with suicidal thoughts. They are vicious bastards. At the moment my depression is too bad to see the light, so I have to force myself to think of how my family and friends would react. They would feel guilty and blame themselves even though they were so perfect to me. It might send my vulnerable friends over the edge. It would be messy and inconvenient and a waste. It pains my soul to have these counter-thoughts. But it’s ok, because they keep me going, they keep me here and I know that is the right thing to do.

I also have to remind myself that the last time I had extremely intrusive suicidal thoughts, a few years ago, and held on, I have had so many wonderful experiences, made some amazing friends and made some treasured memories. And on a more simple level, I have also enjoyed yummy food, funny TV shows, cool movies, nice moments and good hugs. Of course, I since then I have had some pretty rubbish and extremely lonely and heartbreaking times too, (I swear, I am not being melodramatic!) but it was worth holding on for the good times.

Some of my favourite quotes about suicide are below.

(Out of context, that was a morbid sentence, but bear with me. These are the ones that resonate with me. These are the ones that help to remind me that I just can’t give up. They are from the internet, the author Matt Haig, and also the last is from a good and wise friend of mine.)

“People often turn to suicide because they are seeking relief from pain. Remember that relief is a feeling. And you have to be alive to feel it. You will not feel the relief you so desperately seek if you are dead.”

“You can’t predict when new options might appear. It’s impossible to know what might happen if you just wait 2 more days. If you act on your thoughts now you’ll never find out what could have been.

“You will die if you believe the lie: The lie is that suicide will solve all your problems. It implies there is no other way out of your predicament than to end your life… You may be feeling extremely overwhelmed right now. It probably feels like the pain is never going to go away. But remember, pain is temporary, suicide is forever.”

“You’re cared for. It may feel out of reach now but you will be ok. The world can’t stand to lose you. You matter and you’re here for a reason. You can make it through whatever it is you’re in.”

“You are loved, more than you have allowed yourself to believe. You are disappointed in yourself far more than you have disappointed anyone else. You have lost sight of what makes you magical and interesting in other people’s eyes. Work really hard to believe this, faking it until you make it. You are never alone, never, never, never. There will be good people who will help you do this.”

“Depression is smaller than you. Always, it is smaller than you, even when it feels vast. It operates within you, you do not operate within it. It may be a dark cloud passing across the sky but – if that is the metaphor – you are the sky. You were there before it. And the cloud can’t exist without the sky, but the sky can exist without the cloud.”

You will one day experience joy that matches this pain. You will cry euphoric tears at the Beach Boys, you will stare down at a baby’s face as she lies asleep in your lap, you will make great friends, you will eat delicious foods you haven’t tried yet, you will be able to look at a view from a high place and not assess the likelihood of dying from falling. There are books you haven’t read yet that will enrich you, films you will watch while eating extra-large buckets of popcorn, and you will dance and laugh and have sex and go for runs by the river and have late-night conversations and laugh until it hurts. Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.”

“I think life always provides reasons to not die, if we listen hard enough. Those reasons can stem from the past — the people who raised us, maybe, or friends or lovers — or from the future — the possibilities we would be switching off.”

“Feeling suicidal is the worst you are ever going to feel. This is it. This is rock bottom. Things cannot possibly get any worse than feeling alone, depressed and suicidal. The only way things will go from here is up.”

I sometimes read about people who talk about a friend or relative who have committed suicide. Would these friends and relatives, convinced that they were a burden and could not offer the world anything, know that they would be thought about months or years later by a random stranger on the other side of the world, thought about with an all too understanding sadness? Please don’t just be a thought, a memory, a lost ghost whose appearance and personality I only imagine. Be a comment on Reddit that makes me laugh. Be a video that goes viral that I can thumbs up. Be an annoying smelly person on the train who pushes past me. Be a stock photo with blinding white teeth for advertisements. Be a new person to meet at a party. Be someone’s best friend when online gaming. Be the baker of an average birthday cake. Be a tired customer at a supermarket. Please, just don’t be a suicide victim.

You can be grumpy and tired and sad and stinky and in pain, as long as you are alive.

Call that helpline. Post on that forum. Tell that loved one. Get professional help. Stay strong, even when you feel weak. Stay safe, even when you want to hurt yourself. Hold on to what could be. You are unique and you are literally irreplaceable.

S – Struggle

Hello there!

Tonight (or today, depending on where in the world you are), I’d like to discuss the concept of struggle. During our lives, many of us will be confronted by an assortment of bullies, losses of loved ones, break-ups, financial and educational stresses, trauma, physical ailments and mental illness. Struggle is an unavoidable part of our lives, and I don’t think there is a single human being who hasn’t experienced it in one way or another.

This could be construed as unfortunate, since in times of struggle things can just get downright unpleasant; or it could be seen by some as a good thing, since difficult times often help us to learn, cope with the world, and mature.

There are many ways of managing life’s difficulties: practising self care and self compassion, talking to someone kind and trustworthy, taking sufficient time to grieve or move on, and not judging your emotions – you’re allowed to be sad during Christmas, upset on your birthday and feel hopeless during New Years. (Of course, it would be nice to not feel rubbish when everyone else seems happy and celebratory, but we can’t change the way we feel, so we may as well not make ourselves feel worse by criticising our feelings.)

Less helpful ways of coping include attempting to solve the problem through overthinking, disordered behaviour and substance abuse. If you notice yourself leaning towards these in an attempt to cope with distressing thoughts, see if you can find someone to help guide you in a healthier direction.

But while some people can be sympathetic in our moments of struggle and give us the patient support and steady love we need, others maintain a harmful outlook that makes it much harder to be vulnerable and open about personal problems.

For instance, they might say “it could be worse.” Well of course it could be bloody worse. It could always be worse. Example: You have depression and anxiety, and every day is a struggle. You are tired of fighting, struggling to keep a brave face, tired of all the appointments and suffering from the exhausting constant sense that something is deeply wrong. But hey, could be worse, you could have cancer too. Well, depressed cancer victim, at least you can afford treatment. Hmm, financially struggling depressed cancer victim, at least you have a loving family and friends who stick by you. Why are you complaining, lonely person? At least your human rights aren’t being violated and you have access to internet to complain about it! Oh, you’re so stressed about exams that you can’t eat? Well at least you have access to education and aren’t a child slave, be grateful! …OK, so this paragraph is getting a little out of hand, so I’ll try to sum it up.

The truth is this: while we can categorize some struggles as ‘worse’ than others, people can only rely on their own personal experience to build a view on what is a difficulty and what isn’t. And so while someone’s struggle with an eating disorder could be seen as trivial compared to poverty in developing countries, for this person it is their whole life and the most difficult thing they have ever fought so far. And it just doesn’t help them to be told that their struggles aren’t significant because others have it worse. It just perpetuates negativity and guilt. This person with an eating disorder, in turn, might scoff at their friend who is distraught after breaking up with her boyfriend of 6 months. It’s a break up, they’ll get over it, at least they aren’t anxious about food and loathe their appearance… but again, for this newly single friend, they are in their own frightening world of loss and heartbreak. I’m not saying we should be selfish and feel justified in being upset about really trivial things, such as spilling a drink or damaging the car, nor am I saying that all struggles deserve equal attention and support, but I do think we should be more patient and compassionate to each other, because what may seem like a trivial situation to one person might cause another person to have a massive break down.

Others might say “everyone is going through their own struggles,” and this is also unhelpful. I know, I am getting a bit hypocritical, as I basically just suggested this concept here, but hear me out! Because while this statement is kind of true, it’s not helpful at all to actually say it to someone who is struggling and has just opened up about their problems. Why? Because it invalidates their feelings and situation.When someone talks about their problems, they want support, and not to feel like they should be focussing on others with their struggles too – when they themselves can barely keep it together. They want to focus on themselves, to have someone to listen to them talk, and not just be informed that everyone is struggling too. Obviously this should be balanced, as there are some people who just won’t shut up about themselves, and additionally it sometimes helps to know that you are not alone in a particular type of difficult situation… but everyone now and then needs a little time to have their world revolve around them and feel worthy of support.

 

Feel free to like and share. :o)

Take care, dear reader.

S – Self Care

Suffering from an invisible illness is HARD. Most people don’t realise that the majority of the time it is an exhausting, frightening, daily struggle. Occasionally I find myself secretly wishing that an ignorant person would be forced to spend a week in my headspace, just so they know what it’s like: they would experience my thoughts, fears and pains, they would finally understand that not even words can do the torturous feelings justice. They would finally comprehend how it feels to have to ruminate and worry about so many things that others take for granted as being straightforward and simple.

Yes, everyone struggles and has tough moments in their life. Yes, I am privileged and extremely lucky that I do not live in a war zone, that I do not suffer from persecution, nor do I have severe financial worries, etc. But that doesn’t mean the mental illnesses are any less painful, and aren’t a part of my reality. If I am crying myself to sleep, or am struck by paralysing anxiety, or struggle to look at myself in the mirror, thinking about a poor person in a developing country doesn’t tend to help.

But I am getting side tracked, as I often do…

Just as someone who has had a bad day at work, dealt with a mean teacher at school, or is suffering from a break up, people with mental illness need support, love and understanding. A listening ear and a shoulder to cry on are often much more helpful than problem solving or positive psychology. Yet friends and family can’t be there for us all the time, and a mental illness is generally there all the time, so it’s up to us to take care of ourselves sometimes.

And that’s harder than it sounds, because all too often we have convinced ourselves that we do not deserve to be loved. We believe that we are selfish, lazy, stupid, and tell ourselves that we are undeserving of kindness. The level of harshness, judgement and criticism which we bestow on ourselves is considerable.

So why bother taking care of ourselves if our heads have convinced us that we are the scum of the earth?

Because self care is not only good for us, but more importantly is also a direct contradiction to these cruel thoughts. Generally these a mental illness cannot be battled by logic and apathy, rather we need to directly disobey them before our headspace will change. We have to act before the thoughts even think about going away. (Ooohh, meta…) For instance, with an eating disorder, the urges to do a behaviour such as restrict or binge will always be there if you keep on giving in to them. They’ll only go (with time) if you do the opposite: eating what your body needs and not punishing yourself with food. This is actually self care – it’s not just candles, yoga and playing with puppies. It’s focusing on our health and wellbeing.

Some of these acts of self care can be big scary changes, as they involve fighting against urges and using non-existent energy, but even little deeds can help to build up the at first shaky belief that you are worthy of love, health and contentment.

So you start off small. Don’t let yourself freeze if it’s cold, rest if you’re sick. If you can, eat the food your body requires. Sleep, shower, breathe. Wash your hair now and then.

Then you keep going. Give yourself a break from social media. Read a book in bed (it’s ok if it’s trashy). Paint your nails. Have a bath with lots of bubbles. Watch a movie or TV series (doesn’t matter if you’ve seen it before, as long as you enjoy it).

Now you’re getting it. Go out with a friend who makes you happy. Cook your favourite meal, bake your favourite treat. Do some painting, colouring, drawing, or craft. Get someone to play a boardgame or cards with you. Call a family member. Write down compliments people give you. Go for a walk during your favourite time of day.

Keep it up. Moisturise, shave, get a manicure and a massage. Go out to a good restaurant. Throw a small party or BBQ. Make yourself a picnic. Go on a roadtrip. Stay in a nice hotel. Buy yourself something nice from the shopping centre, even if you don’t need it. Go to the beach. Google for more ideas because I am running out of them.

Remind yourself that you’re not selfish or lazy for taking care of yourself. Remind yourself that you’re not giving yourself the credit you deserve for choosing recovery and not giving up. Remind yourself that you’re pretty awesome for facing demons that people are blessed to not know. And most importantly, take care of your body and mind.

 

Til next Thursday :o)

Feel free to share if you think this would help someone you know.

S – Self Harm

Today, I’m going to talk about something that sends parents into a panic, makes teachers confused, doctors worried and draws weird looks when talked about in public.

Self harm.

Actually, the topic of this article is obvious from the title but whatever, I was attempting for a dramatic opening. Anyway.

I’m not talking about tattoos, piercings or plot aspects of 50 Shades of Grey, I’m talking about the type of self harm that is used in an attempt to manage intense mental pain and suffering. It may involve cutting, burning or hitting oneself, but alcohol/drug abuse and eating disordered behaviours can also be used in this cocktail of self-damaging behaviours.

In my personal experience, there is a taboo and stigma surrounding this behaviour that is even stronger than other aspects of mental illness. This is rather annoying as it makes it even more difficult to talk about, and increases any feelings of loneliness/beliefs of screwedupness. The emotions that surround the action, whether they be guilt, shame, anger, regret, fear or relief need to be discussed with someone trustworthy. I understand that people can be sensitive to the topic and urges can be easily triggered, but self harm needs to be talked about so people can get the necessary support for not only stopping it, but also finding something less, uhm, harmful, to replace it – as self harm is basically just a warped kind of coping mechanism.

You see, it is not a shallow form of seeking attention, rather a desperate cry for help. Sometimes it is used to temporarily silence extremely aggressive and cruel thoughts. Other times it is bowing down and conforming to unhappy ideas of self-loathing and self-hatred. Occasionally it is used in a desperate attempt to relieve anxiety and provide a moment of distraction. For me, at times self harm was a physical expression of my mental pain. It was hard having an eating disorder that no one could see (due to being a ‘normal’ weight), and even harder having my depression questioned by people wondering how it was possible that ‘someone like me’ could have it. So self injury made it real, physical, and validated my ideas that no, I was not OK, just because my illness was invisible, it didn’t mean I wasn’t suffering greatly. In the end, however, self harm can just become another habit and you may not know why you are doing it anymore.

While self harm (or SH, as I am getting tired of typing out the same words again and again) provides a unique and intense form of relief, it’s important to know that it just simply isn’t worth it. In the long run, you may come to greatly regret it.

  1. SH is extremely addictive. It may not seem so at first, but trust me, over time, any sense of relief will get less and less. Soon you will find yourself resorting to more extreme methods on more vulnerable areas of the body, doing it more frequently and more severely… it is actually just like an addictive drug where you need more to get the same effect.
  2. It is not a cure for your illness and won’t help you to get better in any way, shape or form. In fact, it will reinforce any feelings of low self-esteem and strengthen any ideas of worthlessness. It will slow down your recovery and impact on the quality of your life.
  3. It’s bloody dangerous (hah, get it? Bloody?… Oh… poor taste? …OK, I’ll move on.) Most people who self harm aren’t doing it in a suicide attempt, however it strongly increases the risk of suicide and thoughts of it. Studies also show that self harm can lead to accidental death, one such study found that out of 30 000 people who had been hospitalised for self harm between 2000-2007, over 13% of them had died from accidental death by 2010 as a result of self harm.
  4. It hurts the people who love you. And that’s a euphemism. It breaks their hearts. I admit, from the clouded side of depression and anxiety it’s hard to see that. You may just want them to understand your pain, or think they will just get over this and won’t really mind. They won’t. If you can’t resist the SH urges for yourself, resist them for the people you care for.
  5. Bandaids/plasters and antiseptic cream can be rather expensive.
  6. Your body just wants to be your best buddy and will keep on healing no matter what you do to it. It doesn’t hold a grudge, it doesn’t question why you’re damaging it. It works for you and does exactly what you ask it to. You owe it to your physical body to take care of it. You only have one (unless you come from the future and are reading this and it’s really easy to grow body parts or something.)

 

Well, yay, we now know self harm is bad. So, how do we stop it? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. You can’t just stop doing it, just like you can’t stop the unpleasant emotions or the urges to self harm that may arise. You wouldn’t tell a mother who has lost her child to shut up and stop crying. Likewise, telling someone suffering from self harm to simply stop is less than helpful. It’s a way of dealing with pain, and of course it’s not an ideal way at all, but one has to learn how to take care of themselves and cope in a healthy manner, and that takes time and support. There are plenty of helplines out there for different countries, forums and chat sessions, don’t hesitate to contact them. It’s always good to see a mental-health professional. You can distract yourself through self care, for instance being social, watching TV or cute animal videos; and you can explore other ways to release emotions, whether it be writing, painting or telling someone.

The internet is filled with poems about self injury and the complicated feelings and emotions associated with them. While I can imagine acute phrases like each drop of blood is a silent scream for help that you are afraid to ask for and liquids of despair mix and trying to beat the devils out of my heat floating around somewhere, I decided to write an even more meaningful and poignant poem about SH. Enjoy, for I am a poetic master.

Stings in shower. / Itchy after a while. / Must go to supermarket for antiseptic cream / I said I fell, he said what, on a cheese grater? / It was a cat. / Knives are for carrots / Razors are for stubble / Matches are for birthday candles /  Nails are for manicures even if you’re a guy.

 

That’s all for today. Please, take care.

 

PS Sorry I didn’t publish anything last week, I actually had this topic written and ready for last Thursday, but mustn’t have saved it properly, as it vanished on me and went to lalaRIPinternetlanddatabaseunicornpoo, so I had to type this up all over again. Hopefully I haven’t forgotten anything.

S – Self Esteem

Are You a Bad Person? Use the following foolproof guide to find out!

 

YOU ARE NOT A BAD PERSON IF…

You are underweight, overweight, an average weight, slim, plump, curvy, skinny, short, tall, an average height, eat a lot, eat a little, eat a normal amount, have trouble eating, eat too much, have fluro blue skin, or have one eye. Your value as a person should not be defined by your outward appearance. While it is important to be healthy* and your illness may get in the way of this, how you look does not affect you as a person. Your intelligence, friendliness, hobbies, passions, wishes, loves, achievements, kindness, crushes, extreme fandom of particular TV-shows, dreams and wit far outweigh any ‘flaws’ with your appearance.

*(NB I mean normal healthy; not magazine-activated-almond-kale-eggwhite-rawmeat-grass-mudshake-instagramworkout-healthy.)

 

YOU ARE A BAD PERSON IF…

You kick puppies.

 

YOU ARE NOT A BAD PERSON IF…

You need a lot of emotional help and support. It’s ok to not be completely independant, we’re human and need friends and family to reassure and comfort us. With a mental illness (or two, or three, thanks Mr Comorbidity) it can be really hard to manage, and you may need significantly more support than someone who doesn’t go through what you do everyday. This does not make you weak nor a burden! You don’t have to keep it all to yourself. It’s not a bad thing to reach out, in fact it’s brave and helpful. If you have trouble finding someone to talk to in person, don’t forget the wealth of resources available online, such as forums and professional chatlines such as Lifeline, Beyond Blue and Butterfly Foundation.

 

YOU ARE A BAD PERSON IF…

You punch babies.

 

YOU ARE NOT A BAD PERSON IF…

You relapse. It doesn’t make you any weaker or less capable than anyone else. It just means the monsters in your head happen to be particularly resilient and aren’t going to be kicked out that easily… stubborn bastards! Hopefully you have the resources and support available to help you get out of this rut so you can continue forward on your journey.

 

YOU ARE A BAD PERSON IF…

You purposely set people on fire.

 

YOU ARE NOT A BAD PERSON IF…

You are taking medication for your mental health. Have you ever gone on antibiotics, taken travel sickness pills, bought painkillers, had some Panadol or Nurofen or aspirin, been jabbed by a vaccine, forced down cough syrup, used a puffer, injected insulin, used eye/ear drops, been on the pill, had some random yucky liquid as a child, or munched on vitamin and mineral tablets? If none of these at all, you are probably superhuman or alien, and I welcome you to Earth. We’re a bit odd here but most of us are friendly enough.

But I digress… if you, dear reader, have ever taken any form of medication, or know someone who has, remember that meds for your mind shouldn’t be seen as something shameful or embarrassing. You take medication and get treatment for your sore stomach, your itchy eyes, etc. and it’s damn mediocre. So why shouldn’t you take medication for your brain to repair any flawed chemistry?

 

YOU ARE A BAD PERSON IF…

You kill an innocent stranger slowly and painfully for the lols.**

 

YOU ARE NOT A BAD PERSON IF…

You take longer to get things done than other people. Life is not a race. I have to remind myself this, to be honest, but it’s getting better over time, as I realise that the whole ‘milestone’ things of life: school-university-fulltimejob-car-moveout-career-partner-marriage-children -ownhouse (in any particular order) don’t have to happen right away. Being chronically sick can slow things down, and you may feel behind in comparison to your age group or group of friends. It’s ok to study part time. It’s ok to take time off work. It’s alright to ask for special considerations when doing school work. There’s no point ignoring your health for years so you can achieve things quickly if at the end of it all you die or end up in hospital for a long period of time. Recovery is a full-time job in itself, so you’re already achieving something incredibly important anyway.

 

 

This is my first post, I hope you like it.

Feel free to share and comment! :o)

Remember, you’re a good person.

 

**You may need some help if this statement applies to you.