Out of the Darkness: Join me in Spreading Awareness for Mental Health

A 26-year-old man paces a hallway, tapping one, two, three times on the door. He turns around. Taps one, two, three times again. He cannot enter his office until he taps away his tension.

A 14-year-old girl, drowning in her anxiety and restlessness, glides a safety pin over the tender skin of her wrist until beads of blood well up, like miniature rubies. Her parents are ashamed so won’t take her in for help until they find her in a bathtub, her pulse weakening. She survived.

A 42-year-old woman has bourbon for breakfast. Her coworkers are concerned because her teeth are decaying and she seems unkempt and rattled. She lost her driver’s license and spends all of her money on alcohol. Drinking is the only thing she does anymore, and she can’t even figure out why.

A 65-year-old woman loses her job, and with it, her access to health insurance. She is forced to stop taking her anti-depressants, and she won’t get out of bed. Her kids call and call and bang on the door, but she won’t even get up to let them in.

A 25-year-old woman has night terrors, seeing her molesters hands reach for her in her dreams. She can’t sleep, so she drags herself through the day, haunted by panic and regret.

A 30-year-old woman feels faint and flush in meetings. She gasps for air. She forces herself to sit through the meeting so she seems “normal”, even though she’s breathing herself through a massive panic attack and feels like she might pass out.

A 19-year-old boy hears voices in his room. He won’t open the refrigerator door or eat any food from his home, because in his mind, he is convinced he is being poisoned. Weight slides off of him and people tell him how good he looks, not aware that he is starving from the treachery of his own mind.

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I know all of these people. All of these situations have happened. All of them are people I know, people with names, people you might pass in a grocery store and never think anything of. They’re my coworkers, my neighbors, my friend’s parents, my friend’s kids, that lady from church. They’re me, and you, and all of us, because today, one in 5 adults suffers from a diagnosed mental illness. I’ve written about my struggles with panic disorder before, and it took me a long time and a lot of courage to share my story with the Internet. My in-laws read my blog. My coworkers. My boss. My neighbors. It was hard to share the story, but I can do hard things and so can you, and if writing about my anxiety helps just one person feel less alone, it’s worth every single word.

My friend AJ and I have decided to use our collective social media influence to help light a candle for all of the people in our lives who have been affected by suicide. On Saturday, September 15, AJ and I will meet in Santa Monica at 7:45 a.m. and walk in memory of the 117 Americans who take their life every day. We walk because every 12 minutes in the United States, someone ends their life. We walk because in 2014, there were 42,773 suicides. We walk because depression affects over 25 million people in America every year, including myself, when my anxiety is untreated.

We walk for the people in our lives who are no longer here because they couldn’t take the pain, or didn’t know who or how to ask for help. I walk for PJ and Josh and Nicole and Dylan and Erin. I walk because in one year, my senior year of high school, I lost three friends to suicide in the span of one month. I remember seeing one of them the night before he turned on his parents car and sat in the garage with the windows closed. We had played Uno. He was smiling. He was himself. I would have never guessed that anything was wrong. And that is why I will walk. Because today, it’s still taboo to say you’re depressed, or anxious, or suffering from anything “in your head”. We ask, “How are you?”, as a form of courtesy, but we don’t want to hear anything other than “good”, because it makes us uncomfortable. We need to stop pushing away the discomfort, and instead, start helping. Be the light in someone’s life. Be the friend who will reply to your friend’s texts, the one who can’t sleep, the one who needs to know it’s ok to not be ok. Be the friend, but also be the encourager. Encourage them to look past stigma, to take medication if they need it, to exercise, to meditate, to eat well, to sleep. Encourage them to seek help. Encourage them to find a therapist, or a counselor, or a doctor. Even the best of a friend cannot solve a true mental illness that requires professional treatment.

I need your help, and your fellow Americans need your help. It’s not just one in five of us who needs help: it’s all five of us, and here’s why. Even if you’re not the “one” afflicted by mental illness, you will be affected because it’s your family, your friend, your child, your neighbor. Suicide makes a lasting and tragic impact on a family. How can you help? You can make a $25 donation today. $25 makes a huge difference in somebody’s life: for example, $25 could be the price of a life-saving prescription medication. Please donate today! If I raise $150 by October 15th, I will earn a t-shirt that I will proudly wear in honor of my struggle with anxiety, and in memory of my beloved friends.

If you are local, will you join me in walking about three miles on Saturday, October 15? We’ll be walking along the beautiful Santa Monica boardwalk and coast, and together, we will breathe in the sea air, share our stories, and remember why life is inherently good, even among the bad times; because we have each other. Please, help me make a difference in saving lives today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The importance of being positive – AND in acknowledging the negative.

Through out my life, I’ve been told I’m a positive person. It’s true, when things go wrong, I tend to try and see the bright side, because there is USUALLY some small, good thing you can glean from a big ole’ pile of lemons (like lemonade.) Let’s try a real life scenario from today: My debit card information got swiped at a gas pump, even though my card is safely in my wallet. Over $400 in charges were drafted from my checking account and I spent over an hour on the phone undoing it all, putting me behind in my work day. Now I have no debit card for the next week until a replacement comes. True, this is a big ole “crap on toast” scenario, but the bright side? I’m trying to save every last cent I have for a down payment on our future home. Maybe not the best savings plan, but I can either freak out and be mad, pretend nothing’s wrong and be fakey chipper, or I can be mad and quietly accept that it is what it is. I choose to accept it.

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Last Tuesday, I wrote to you how mad, sad and frustrated I was about my latest medical findings. It wasn’t just that, last week. A lot went wrong, including a dear family friend losing his fight with cancer. Last week was rough. I’m still mad and sad. There’s nothing wrong with that. Many people (and I’ve done this myself to other people – it’s human nature. We all want people to feel better when they don’t feel good.) have told me not to worry, to just be positive and that everything will be fine. While I agree and appreciate that sentiment, a friend brought up a really good point the other day — that there is nothing wrong with admitting defeat every once in awhile. Allow yourself to feel all of your emotions, even if they’re bad. She said sometimes you need time to lick your wounds. And as someone who’s usually pegged as Sally Sunshine, I couldn’t agree more. I told my husband one night when we were discussing Livergate that I just wanted some time to be pissed off. And I did, really, truly. I appreciated everyone’s sweet motivational quips, but I was pissed. I wanted to stew in my anger, to be resentful of that stupid $100 medical detox that did nothing but cause me angst and discomfort, to be irritated that weight loss seems it will forever be the elusive sparkly white unicorn. So I was angry, and I was resentful. And guess what? I’m still frustrated, but allowing myself to really FEEL those things and not repress them means that today I’m more well adjusted and satisfied than I probably would have been if I kept telling myself to cheer up and be positive.

However, by allowing myself to be mad, it helped me come full circle and truly, truly get down to the nitty gritty behind all this, mentally. I’m fatter than I’ve ever been, but you know what? I’m also fitter than I’ve ever been. Last night I ran over a mile to the drug store, without stopping. Before I started this journey, I would have rather scooped the litterbox than attempted to run a mile. I can do that now with relative ease. This journey is not perfect. It’s not a straight line to success. My journey has not been instant success, and sometimes, it feels like it hasn’t been any success at all. But there are lasting changes I have made, and things that I will overcome when the time is right.

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When you take time to reflect on a bad situation, if you really devote enough attention to the matter, you can usually figure out what the underlying fear or anger is beneath what’s going on. I want to lose weight because I want to be healthy. At present moment, the defeatist in me is saying I will never lose weight, that I’ll just keep gaining and gaining until I can’t leave the house and my life will become smaller and smaller while my body becomes bigger and bigger. But, I know well enough to put a piece of tape over defeatist’s mouth, and admit to myself that yes, this has been really, really hard, but I will get there. The sum of my parts is more than a number on the scale, and my happiness is made up of more than just how much I weigh. It is made up of my family, my kitten’s soft pink paws, the taste of cold iced tea on a hot summer day, the fantastic smell of orange blossoms in the breeze, the sound of good music, the feel of freshly washed sheets, the comments you all leave me, the feeling I get when I’m working on a project I love, the dinner my husband brings me while I’m working on that project.

Today, I choose Sally Sunshine but I acknowledge the defeatist. I choose acceptance. I choose positivity.

When something crummy happens to you, how do you react? Are you a glass half full, or a glass half empty? Do you understand what I mean about being positive but still being ok with acknowledging the negative?