The Fallen Soldiers

do not always fall in combat. You hear about a number of soldiers from your country dying in a war torn section of land that’s not your own. What you hear less about are the soldiers that die every day once they have come back home.

In many countries, Remembrance Day falls on what we in America call Veteran’s Day. It is the day that we honor those that have come home that are still with us. Memorial Day is this weekend for us and it is when we honor those that fallen. The fallen veterans from my life did not die in a far off place, they did not even die during the war they served in. Or perhaps a piece of them did and that is why they ended their life.

I can’t pretend to know the motives of my biological father or my friend Teresa. I can not say that their deaths were a result of the battlefield itself or of navigating the battlefield in their mind once home. I can, however, tell you I have yet to come across the family of a veteran suicide in ANY country that has said “Our country is doing everything they can for those that gave everything for our country.” We can’t control the budgets of the government but we can control our money, our time and our voices.

Not everyone has money to spare, but if you do, look around at the lives of the veterans in your country and find a place to donate it where it will do the most good. If you have the time and ability, find a place to give of yourself, to volunteer. If all you have is your voice – let it be heard. Talk about it. Use social media, write to your government. Let people know this issue is important.

For us, in America, this is not the weekend to thank a veteran for service. It is the time to stop and honor those that died for us, for our freedoms, for our rights, for our way of life. It is the day to honor those that fell in combat as well as those that have passed on outside of it. For me, it is the weekend I honor the fallen in my life and the time that I hope I will not have to switch anyone from Veteran’s Day to Memorial Day in my thoughts next year.

I would post a picture with this, but the reality is if it takes a picture of flag and a uniform with a crying family to move you, then my words won’t have any effect.

*In memory of David and Teresa*

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

Self Care

“Self care” and “functioning” seem to be interchangeable to some people, at least based on memes I see reposted/reblogged. I don’t think they truly understand what self care is. Maybe I am the one that is understanding things wrong. That’s possible and it would be okay but it would take a lot to change my mind.

When people are having trouble with depression or severe anxiety, to me, self care is more about self soothing than anything else. It’s about trying to make life feel livable through those moments. I recommend pleasing each of your senses. I do recommend bubble baths and incense, scented candles, chocolate, your favorite movie or book and a soft blanket. I recommend finding the things that make it feel worth moving forward. I recommend snuggling and sex. I recommend french fries and heavy metal.

I keep seeing posts on social media that say “self care isn’t the cute…” but then go on to list things like showering, washing dishes, paying your bills. If I am capable of doing these things, that means it’s a good day and I am functioning. Some days I can take a shower and I can put my dishes in the dishwasher. If I can’t do those things, then those are the times I actually NEED self care.

Sometimes I’ve already done the showering and it feels like too much. Afterward, I’m sitting here not really able to do anything and I need my soft blanket and a cup of tea. Am I the only one that feels that these are two separate things? That feels that self care is about taking care of your emotions so that you’re able to function later? Or that functioning can lead to needing self care?

I realize this is a somewhat rambling post but I have only slept an hour and quite honestly, putting my thoughts out there for others is a form of self care to me. Later today I have a doctor’s appointment and thus have to “function.” If we’re going by my descriptions which do you feel you can handle right now?

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

Risk/Benefit/Big Pharma and Me

I understand that there are people that are afraid of medications. I understand that there are people that fully believe that ‘Big Pharma‘ is only out to get our money and we don’t matter. It’s hard to know how expensive medications are and still accept that we may need them.

I was diagnosed at 16 and put on Zoloft. All I really remember is it made me feel weird and I wasn’t ready to accept that I would need medications for the rest of my life. I took myself off of it, stopped seeing the doctor that I couldn’t open up to anyway. I avoided medications and psychiatrists for the next eight years. I was totally displaying symptoms of bipolar, there was never a doubt in my mind, my family’s minds, my significant others… I didn’t want to be dependent on anything to function or for my sanity.

I managed to cope with things until one day I just sort of lost the ability to cope with anything. It started with a two hour crying spell at work over nothing, and continued with daily crying spells or anxiety attacks that made it impossible to finish an entire shift at work. I gave in and called the therapist I saw in high school to get a referral for one that worked with adults. I saw a psychiatrist that was covered by my insurance. My new psychologist was wonderful… the psychiatrist, not so much.

She prescribed a few different antidepressants, she didn’t put me on a mood stabilizer despite my family history and earlier diagnosis of bipolar. She didn’t comprehend everything I was trying to convey about my moods. I had bad side effects and no effects and finally when I had an allergic reaction, her response was telling me I needed to go inpatient. I tell you this to acknowledge there ARE some bad doctors.

The referral I got from my new therapist saw me the next week. He immediately put me on a mood stabilizer. He had me come in every week because I was underweight and having trouble with side effects on most medications. He did not prescribe the most recent medications. I did not end up with pens advertising the latest antidepressant from visiting the office. He changed things based on what I said and felt, not just what the majority of people presented with. I was the focus, not just my diagnoses.

I have been suicidal. I have attempted to take my own life. I have gone manic and spent every dime in my bank account on sex toys instead of bills. These things did not happen when I was on certain medications. I could list them but they work differently for everyone and I’m not endorsing them individually. I fully believe that being on these medications is what keeps me alive.

Pharmaceutical companies make more than psychiatric medications. They make heart medications and blood pressure and pain medication. They make allergy medication, insulin, vaccines and medications to fight infections and disease. Why, then, do we get so afraid and cynical about psych meds? Honestly, I believe it is because it is a trial and error thing, because some can make me worse, some can make me feel like a zombie and if I had stayed with that “bad” psychiatrist I saw, I think I might believe that medication wasn’t the answer. I found a doctor that believed I could be better and because of that we found medications that made me more functional, able to laugh yet still cry, discarded any zombifying medication, and got to the point that my mother told me to thank him for giving her her daughter back.

Medication is not for everyone but if you can’t function or are having trouble functioning beyond what therapy can do for you, I hope you at least consider meds. I won’t pretend the process of finding the right medication is easy but I do promise that if you find medications that work, the rewards are priceless. We can survive, or we can live. Sometimes medication can make that difference. They have and are making it for me.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

**I’m not any sort of doctor, this is not to take the place of medical advice. If anything, this is a plea to seek medical advice. And yes, I understand some people are medication resistant and this is not an option for them.

**Medication in picture is what I was on five years ago – not on the same set anymore. As I said, it’s trial and error, and that means changing them out as needed.

The Clock – inspiration through despair.

With Easter approaching, I want to share with you the story of a friend I lost on Good Friday years ago. I don’t think I could tell her story any better now than I did in 2011, the year she passed away. I had already lost friends who had taken their own life, as well as my biological father whom I had never met. I’d lost family and friends to natural causes. Michelle’s passing was different, is different. If it could help just one person understand that this is the only life we have and we’re meant to live it, I know she would want her story, our story shared.

Beloved Friend – June 2, 2011

I’d been running my facebook support page for months. It had grown to the point where it needed multiple admins and to be checked multiple times a day instead of the once every few days back in the beginning. We had hundreds of members instead of the handful I expected. I guess I didn’t realize how many people there were like me, that couldn’t get to a face to face support group, or needed more when they were home.

I first noticed Michelle because her posts were a little hard to understand. She was using her phone to access the page, and her typos and missing words were always a part of the posts. She was very far down, there were no okay posts. Only down ones. She would say she couldn’t take it, she would say it hurt too much.

After a few weeks I was talking to her in inbox messages as well as on the page. We had added each other as friends. I read a note of hers that was titled “Read only if you are strong.” She never wanted to bring others down or put things on them that they couldn’t handle. She told me to make sure that I was doing good before reading it. It was a description of what she’d gone through recently. Her son has Dravet’s Syndrome – a child seizure disease. She was constantly overtired because he would have fits through the night as well as the day, and during the day there was no rest because her daughter was awake. She suffered multiple types of abuse by her ex husband, some worse than I want to remember reading, even after the divorce.

She only had one really close friend who would visit when she could, when she wasn’t working to help take care of Michelle’s son. Other than that, she was pretty much on her own. Even her family was not helping much regardless of her son’s health and her mental health.

She made a post one night when I was overtired. As I said before, sometimes her posts were hard to understand. It had something to do with finishing a handful, and I didn’t know what she meant. I am not even sure what I responded with but she said it was good that I didn’t understand her, and she deleted the comment. I realized that she was meaning to finish an overdose that she’d just been starting. I sent her messages in her inbox asking her not to, and begging her to call a crisis line, giving her the phone numbers (she was in the U.K. so I had to look them up, but I did as quickly as possible). I was pleading to a non-responsive screen.

The next day she apologized, she thanked me. She told me she flushed the rest of those pills. About a week later, we got a message that she overdosed and was in the hospital. She messaged us again when she was out of it, she left as soon as they took the needles out of her from the I.V. and left the room. She hated hospitals…

A week later I was messaging her again, I’d seen on her friends wall that she was “going to visit her friend for the last time.” I saw on her wall that her friend would be there soon. I asked her why this would be the last time. She messaged me back saying that she’d tell me the next day maybe. I assured her that I was doing good that Saturday morning, and that my boyfriend would be with me all day and all day the next day, so if I might need support, this was the best time to tell me.

She told me she was dealing with the consequences. I asked what that meant, and she said that her liver was failing. The two overdose attempts weren’t the first. The damage she’d done to her liver was irreversible and because of the reason for the damage, there was no chance of a transplant.

After a couple days, I finally got the courage to ask her friend how long she had, because through the conversation, Michelle gave no real indication. A couple weeks maybe… My heart sank. This woman suffered through so much between her ex husband, her mental state, her children’s health and she had tried to end it all, each time she’d lived she would ask God why, but say that he must have a reason. If she thought one of her friends was already depressed that day, she would inbox another friend with problems instead of posting where everyone could see. Even when she told me she was dying, her main concern was whether or not I was going to be okay with finding out. As the days passed, she would post things on the wall still of the support group. One stuck out in my mind the most.

“i wish i could turn back the clock but i cant”

Michelle English, mother of two, beloved friend, passed away on Good Friday less than one week after she told me she would pass. I’m not a Christian, but she was, so that is how I remember the day. The date was April 22, 2011.

Many people have attempted suicide. Myself included. Sometimes people plan it, sometimes it is done spontaneously. This is a woman that attempted, survived, and then had almost two weeks to come to terms with the fact that she WAS indeed dying. There was no passing out and not waking up, no immediate death. She had to come to terms with what dying really meant. Her response to it? “i wish i could turn back the clock.”

She is missed. She is loved. It took dying to make her want to live and by then it was too late. I hope anyone that reads this looks for what there is to live for, even if it’s just a single person they love, and holds onto it with all their strength until they feel that life is worth living again. We can’t turn back the clock.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

P.S. Please consider sharing Michelle’s story. This isn’t just about one life, it’s about all of us. It’s a reminder not to let the depression win.

Also consider commenting in honor of someone you’ve lost to depression.

Semicolons, suicide and solidarity

Out of the group of very supportive women I mentioned yesterday, there is one more. Diana* has been one of the most helpful both online and playing in person. She and her husband drive me to game gatherings often and I am grateful for it. Yesterday morning, she said that Amy, founder of the Semicolon Movement took her own life. She went on to say how it made her feel and asked me what I thought it meant for this or future movements.

We have a woman that created a suicide prevention and awareness movement with a grammatical concept. It’s based on the idea that a semicolon is where an author could have ended a sentence and chose not to; as authors of our own lives, our story is not over yet. This idea has brought people comfort, support, solidarity with others that struggle. It has brought people together, helped people show support when they did not know how. Amy’s passing leaves a lot of people with many different emotions. Sadness, helplessness, frustration and even anger.

None of these feelings are wrong. However you feel about Amy’s passing is valid. I do want people to understand, though, that her passing does not diminish the meaning behind the Semicolon Movement. It does not negate what the movement stands for. It does not take away the meaning of the tattoos and pictures that you see or that you have or that you created as a part of this.

I’m going to plagiarize myself a moment, some of this I wrote in a status yesterday on facebook. Amy did not end her story when she initially considered it. She continued on to write further chapters and to help many people in the process. Her story is over now and that is extremely sad, but she had those extra chapters. You still are the author of your own story and you still have chapters to write and her death does not change this.

One of my friends said, “what it says for the movement is that we need to keep moving on and supporting each other” and I know that she didn’t mean it the way I read it – however, I felt like she was saying that because of this one woman’s death we need to keep supporting each other. I know her better than this, however, responding emotionally, I said “i have a much different take on it in my mind because the death of one woman isn’t what means we need to keep pressing forward – the deaths of all of those we lost to suicide is why we need to press forward.” I stand by what I said, though.

I went on later to say “it is very sad and we do need to keep up every effort for suicide awareness and prevention but please know that it’s sad EVERY time… we can’t just think it’s sad when it’s a public figure. that won’t help anyone.” I stand by this, too. We have become a society that focuses on individuals rather than issues. When Robin Williams died there was an outpouring of support from and for the mental health community. When that boy in the hospital got the attention from the person behind the voice of Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony, there were pictures plastered on facebook of the pink pony and places where tattoo artists would donate proceeds from a tattoo of the character to help those suffering from bullying. I can not remember the last time I have seen anyone post a picture of Pinkie Pie, nor even talk of Robin Williams’ mental health.

When people stop thinking about the public figure that brought awareness to an issue, many times they also stop thinking about the issue. I hope that people who see others with semicolons continue to show support and increase awareness about suicide and suicide prevention. I hope that this movement does not fade out. Honestly, I was never enamored with it. I don’t have a semicolon tattoo, nor do I have any desire to get one. I respect those that do, though. I hope that people continue to show up for those that need the support and don’t let this movement or this issue fade to the back of their minds.

Amy’s death does not negate the good that she did in her life. Succumbing to her depression does not negate the awareness she brought to the world. There are so many reasons that people take their own lives, and honestly, part of what this does is show that even those that are trying so hard to create awareness, they are not immune. They need support as well… and honestly, sometimes even with all of the support one can handle, things can still take a turn. Please don’t let her death stain your view of suicide prevention efforts of this movement or any future ones. Please, find the people you know need support and just be there for them, not just today, but every chance you get forever… because mental health doesn’t fix itself in a day or a year. For many of us, it is lifelong and that is how long I hope you continue to be aware of and support those that struggle with suicidal thoughts and self harm.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

*Name changed because I forgot if I can use her real one.

Image: My friend Chloe’s gorgeous tattoo from just as she got it finished.

The last time I tried to die.

I never tried to hide the fact that I have been suicidal, nor that I have attempted suicide. I don’t shy away from conversations where people say that it’s selfish or unfair of a person to take their own life. I am not going to debate that right now, though. This isn’t about excuses or forgiveness. I speak for myself and only myself. In doing so, I hope that even if no one changes their views, maybe someone at least considers another way to see things. Nothing is as cut and dry as people want it to be.

When I was 27, I moved back in with my family. My mother, brother and sister lived in one house. Next door to us were our ex husbands and ex mother-in-laws. Somewhat strange arrangement. I still just call it the family compound. It was good for my brother and sister, though, as after my mom and dad separated, they didn’t have to go far to travel between households. It is hard to move back in with family as an adult though. No one knows where to draw the lines between roommates and parent/child. It’s messy and frustrating.

My depression worsened severely due to the inability to find a medication that would work decently and the inability to find a doctor I worked well with. I was back off of all of my medications again. This was never a good sign. I still had the random bottle here or there of medications I hadn’t finished, but I wasn’t taking anything regularly.

I was crying often, unable to do much of anything. I had a lot of trouble sleeping, so I would often be up through most of the night. My brother and sister were teenagers. I was thirteen when my brother was born, fifteen when my sister was. They were now at that stage where they were moody, not going to bed on time and not doing what they should around the house. Anyone that has had a teenager or been one knows this stage. Our actions were very similar but the reasons were so far apart.

While depressed, it’s almost impossible to see the good in things, especially yourself. It’s very easy to believe the lies in your own head. Mine told me I was worthless and incapable and a burden to my family. It’s even easier to believe these negative things when someone else says them to you, even if they are said out of frustration during an argument.

My brother stayed up one night watching television in the living room past four am. My mother woke up to get something to drink, saw the TV on and yelled at him to go to bed. The next morning at about nine o’clock, my mother stormed into my room, screaming at me to get out of bed. She ripped the blanket off of me (which felt very demeaning since I sleep naked), and kept yelling. I found out later that she had done a similar thing to my brother just before. I couldn’t understand why she was so angry, but I just tried to get something to wrap around myself. She continued on when I finally emerged into the living room. “It’s your fault they’re like this. You’re setting a bad example. You stay up to all hours. You don’t pull your weight around here. They don’t do anything they’re told to do. You need to set a better example.”

Now, we’ve already covered that this is normal teenaged behavior. We’ve covered that this was said in frustration (please don’t judge my mom on this, we have ALL said things in anger). To me, this was all proof that I was a bad influence on the family. This was proof that I didn’t belong here. This was proof that my mother’s life would be easier if I was gone because my brother and sister would not be seeing my bad behavior. I retreated back to my room. A little bit later, my brother came in and sat with me. Mom had been screaming at him again for not refilling the dishwasher. Dad wouldn’t let him go next door until the dishwasher was taken care of (one of the few times I remember a united front in punishment). My brother put some things in a bag and left to go to a friend’s house.

I sat there crying again. All I could think was how much more difficult I made everyone’s life. My mother didn’t deserve to have me being such a bad influence on the kids. My brother and sister deserved better role models. I couldn’t do anything right. They would be so much better off if they didn’t have to handle the burdens of my illness, of my existance. I found two bottles of medication, one full, one half full. They were a benzodiazepine and a sleeping medication. Overdosing on either could be fatal. I took both bottles and put them in my purse with a bottle of Baileys. The alcohol wasn’t for my nerves, it was because overdosing can make you puke and Baileys sits well in my stomach.

I walked out the door and down to the water. My family lives on a river so it was only the end of the street next to the house. I sat down on the other side of a small grouping of trees so I could barely see the house. I took all of the pills. I swallowed them in handfulls with irish cream. After I took them all, I sat there a moment and realized I hadn’t left a note so I dug around in my purse and found a pink envelope… The only thing I could find to write with was purple lipstick, so I scrawled “Sorry” on the envelope and lit a cigarette.

As I stared out over the water, I thought about how much better everyone’s lives would be. I figured my brother and sister would be more focused so they would get better grades, go to better schools and get better jobs. I felt my mother would be less burdened so she’d be able to enjoy her time that she wasn’t working so much more. She wouldn’t need to yell at the kids so much so she’d have less stress. Somewhere between one drag of my cigarette and the next, the thought crept into my mind, “Wait… what if this means my brother and sister will need psych help, to deal with the trauma and grief? What if they will need to go to all the doctors I have to go to? What if I will be the cause of them needing medication?” and I panicked. I realized I might make their lives harder and I didn’t know, any longer, if this was the right decision.

I finished my cigarette. Yes, after all of this I still just sat there and finished my cigarette because I needed to be sure of what I did next. I stood up and walked back to the house. I walked in the door and said as I was walking by “Mom, you might want to call an ambulance.” “What?!? WHAT DID YOU DO? WHAT DID YOU TAKE?” She was screaming again and I couldn’t handle it so I went back to my room. Her boyfriend stopped me and had me walk in circles because he knew I should not fall asleep. We walked in circles until the ambulance came. I don’t remember anything after passing out in the ambulance.

Obviously, I didn’t die that day. I’m glad I didn’t. I am glad I was still alive to tell my brother that he couldn’t have changed anything and that it was not his fault. I am glad that I have since gotten a lot more psychiatric and psychological help. I have since found much better support systems. I encourage everyone to seek help if they need it.

Depression lies to us and it confirms fear that it has no right to confirm. Depression may make us look selfish or lazy or stupid but we are not. We can not only survive it but learn to live with mental illness but know it takes a LOT of work. I am not here to say “I survived and you can because I did.” I am saying that I did survive and anyone reading this should know that it was a choice I almost didn’t make. You don’t know who is around you right now that may be making that same choice, you don’t know their decision… so please if you notice signs of depression in those around you, reach out. We are not contagious.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~