A Look Into A Depressed Mind: Suicide Prevention Week

I suffer from mental illness.

What do you think when you see/hear those words?

When I say them, I instantly feel ashamed.  I feel judged and criticized even when nothing of the sort if coming my way.  Why is that?

Because of the stigma surrounding the term.  Mental illness stirs up feeling and thoughts of patients locked away in a psych ward, or bad guys shooting up schools.  I am not those people.  I am a good person.  I am a mother, wife and empathetic/compassionate human being.

AND I suffer from depression and anxiety.  I have written about my experiences with postpartum depression in the past (You can find the link on my About page).  It’s incredibly hard to deal with on the days where it shows itself.  I have good days and bad, and I long for the good days to last.  I cry.  I rage.  I cry some more.  Then I smile.  It’s a never-ending cycle.

I also think about suicide.  It’s just a thought, though, I know this for a fact.  I think about the different ways I could kill myself, and just end the madness.  I think about where and when the best opportunity would be.  I think about how I would do it, whether to slit my wrists or take a bunch of pills (just some of the ideas).

Then I think about my girls and my husband, and then I cry.  Not hard tears, or a break down of sorts, but a cry to release the pain.  Then I smile, and instantly feel better.

I wonder what it would be like to run away, disappear off the face of the world, never to be heard from again.  I could escape in the middle of the night, and not deal with this pain I cause others with my problems.  My girls wouldn’t have to suffer anymore, and wonder why mommy is happy and then so angry.  Mommy wonders too.

I’m still on Prozac, 30mg.  I am talking to my doctor about a referral next week to a therapist of some kind.  I need help.  Not from myself.  I would never harm myself, or leave my family.  They are just thoughts.  I need help from my mind.  My mind is the screwed up one.  Not me.

Dealing with this nightmare for the last 6 years has made me incredibly aware.  Aware of my thoughts and emotions, way more than I was after Samantha was born.  I’m not sure which is scarier, not knowing why I am crying, or knowing it’s because my brain is broken.

Why am I writing about this again?  I need to share my story again.  I have been trying to hide it, and wish it away, but it’s real.  It’s part of me.

I read this morning that it is Suicide Prevention Week.  I was very close to killing myself once a few years ago.  I know what that feeling is like.  I know what it feels like to feel alone, and in pain.  I know those thoughts, and how them seem so real.

THEY ARE NOT REAL.

They are not you.  Those thoughts are from a broken mind, and it’s not your fault.  Don’t ignore them, but don’t act on them either.  Seek help.

Suicide is not the answer, though so many have thought it was.  Too many people die from suicide, which is completely preventable.  You just have to reach out.  There will always be someone there, even if it’s through the phone or social media.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386.suicide-prevention-graphic

You are loved, and you are more than your mind let’s you believe.  Stay with us, please.

Below is a list of warning signs from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

The following signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. The risk of suicide is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these signs, seek help as soon as possible by calling the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

  • 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.
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Music, Oh Music! How I Love Thee!

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

-Bob Marley

Music is beautiful.  All of it.  I can’t say that I am knowledgeable on all that is musical, but I know what makes me happy.  Most of it puts me in a better mood, clears my mind, and gets me moving.  No matter what kind of mood I am in, I can turn on my Spotify account, hit Starred, and instantly be taken away from whatever bad mood, thoughts, or dark clouds that are surrounding me.  It really is a beautiful thing.

Like most people, I have songs that I identify with, and listen to when I am in that particularly dark state.  They usually involve a great beat, a great message, or both.  Lately, my song is “Wake Me Up” by Avicii.   The music makes me smile every time, and the beat gets me up and dancing with my girls.  The lyrics are wonderful.  Be who you are, and find the ones who share those same qualities.  Everyone has a place in this world, and you just have to find it, let go of the societal chains, and just be.  My favorite words of the song are “I tried carrying the weight of the world, but I only have two hands.”  Goodness knows this is how I feel on a daily basis.  Lately I have felt naive, and too empathetic.

Is that even possible?  To feel too much empathy?  I know I am a very emotional person, and I feel other people’s emotions as well.  Even someone I read about in the news that lives oceans away.  I always feel as if I let the worlds problems rest solely on my shoulders, as if I am the one who needs to fix everything.  I CANT DO THAT!  I am only one person, and just have to let go of the idea that it’s my responsibility to fix the world.  I have to share that responsibility, and advocate for change, help, and peace.  I have to use my voice and compassion in order to make a difference.  Music has helped me realize that, in particular that song by Avicii.

That’s why I listen to music.  Not only is it a wonderfully beautiful aspect of life, but it helps me work through my issues.  When I was suffering from postpartum depression, music was one of the few things that helped me get through the day.  Then when I was writing about experiences, music helped me sort through the jumble that were my memories, and get them down onto paper.  Florence and the Machine was one in particular that helped a lot with her song “Shake It Out.” 

How motivating is that?  If you start to feel like the world is pressing you down, or the darkness in your mind, you have to try to shake it off.  Know that you are worthy of goodness, that you deserve happiness, and the demons in your head are just that: demons in your head.  They aren’t you, and they can’t define you.  It’s tough getting to that point where you can really know that those dark thoughts really aren’t your own, but once you do, it’s a beautifully liberating thing.  I still struggle with it, but when I realize it, I just turn that song on.  Helps me so much.

Music can also just be fun, and the one thing that can make you get up and dance.  My two most favorite songs for that are “Daylight” by Matt and Kim, and “Love Today” by MIKA.  Matt and Kim are my go-to for uplifting spirits, as my girls and I always end up dancing and laughing together.  Seeing their smiles while we jam to good music equals happiness and success in my mind.   

What’s your jam, your go-to mood lifter?  Share the music!

First Day of 1st Grade!

1stGrade

I’m not gonna lie, I have been overly anxious all day yesterday, and this morning.  She wanted to ride the bus for the first time on her first day of school.  I was so nervous letting her go.  She’s too little!  She’s my baby, she can’t keep growing up so fast.  I know she will be fine.  She was super excited, and that made me excited for her.

She gets to learn Spanish this year!  And do art!  And music!  Who would have thought the DoD could do something right.  I kid, sort of, but YAY for doing something other than testing, testing, testing.

I can’t wait to hear about her first day, so my anxiety can ease.  I just want to be sure she found her class OK, that she enjoyed the bus ride, and that she wasn’t scared.  I wasn’t there to hold her hand the entire way, which is different for both of us.  It’s time to cut the cord, as they say.  She’s officially a grade-schooler.

Knowledge Is Power: Anxiety, Fear of the Unknown, and Islam

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family”

Kofi Annan, Where On Earth Are We Going

Today I have been facing a lot of anxiety.  The news reports are not pretty (when is it ever), and there seems to be so much violence and anger in the world as of late.  600+ deaths in Egypt yesterday, murders, rapes, kidnappings, etc stateside, and who knows what else that isn’t being widely reported.  The most widely reported news as of late are the events in Egypt, the bombings in Iraq, and other unrest among the Muslim world.  With all this negativity, it’s no wonder there is such a negative view of Islam around the western world.

I have always took pride in being accepting of other people’s religions, culture, etc.  I love learning about how other people live their lives, and why they do the things they do.  I used to want to major in Anthropology before I realized it was a dead-end field unless you had a PhD.  With that pride in acceptance came anxiety and guilt today as I tried deciding what religion I wanted to use for my project in my Sociology of Religions course this term.

In this course, we have been asked to choose a religion, and attend a religious service.  We must interview members of the service, and/or religious leaders of said service.  We must also study their religious texts, and write a ten page paper on the sociology of whatever religion we choose.

Now, I am not a religious person.  I do not agree with organized religion really, but I am very intrigued by it.  I have attended a Baptist service once, and have been to a number of vacation bible schools with friends.  However, I have never really participated or learned much about other religions, such as Judaism or Islam, at least outside of what Wikipedia or the media offers by way of knowledge.  I want to choose a religion I am unfamiliar with, and that I would imagine most Americans are unfamiliar with.  So I chose Islam, and from the moment of that decision, I have been racked with anxiety.crescent-200

It is not unheard of in this country to equate Islam with terrorism.  After 9/11, many Americans put the two together, and never separated them again.  The word terror has become synonymous with Islam, even though terror can be brought on by anyone, like Timothy McVeigh for example.  Regardless of this fact, when one thinks of or hears the word terrorism, Islam or Muslim is usually the first thing I hear come out of people’s mouths.

So, regardless of the fact that I know not all Muslims are terrorists, that fear is still in my mind.  I have always pushed it back because of the pride I carry of being an accepting individual.  When that fear came to surface today, my anxiety worsened.  How can someone who is so open-minded and compassionate feel such fear and anxiety towards a religion or people?  I found myself feeling disgusted with myself, all while battling the anxiety of having to put myself into this experience.

As the day went on, my anxiety dwindled for a few reasons.  One of those reasons is my reasonable mind.  I know not all Muslims are evil, so the chances of running into someone who is at this service are not very high.  Being in America, the chances are also not as high.  Sure, there are extremists everywhere you go, which can be said of any religion or culture, but since Islam is not as major in this country as it is in the Arab world, the chances (at least in my mind) are not as great.

Another reason is because I love the saying “Knowledge is Power.”  Part of my fear is the unknown and ignorance.  I only know what the media has told me, and what is portrayed.  In order to obtain a true understanding, I need to study and experience the religion for myself.  I need to meet the people, read the texts, and immerse myself in order to gain knowledge that will free me from the fear.  I was concerned about how Islam treats women, and worried for my safety or about being respected.  I understand women will be segregated from the men during prayers, and that I have to wear Islamic attire in order to attend, and that has given me some comfort.  I know what to expect now, and the man I talked to at the Islamic Center in Washington DC was respectful and understanding.  My mind has been put at ease by also discussing attire with a friend who has experienced it herself (Thanks Brooke!).

Brooke also gave me some good advice.  I should not be so concerned with being respectful that I would let the real experience pass me by.  I should relax, and completely put myself into it.  I should enjoy the experience, and learn what I can from the people around me.  My anxiety and fear got in the way of that at first, but now I am really happy with my choice, and looking forward to the experience.

I contacted the Islamic Center of Washington DC today in order to find out about times for prayer service, and if it would be acceptable for me to ask questions of the members.  He was welcoming, gave me the information I needed, and put my mind at ease, even if it was unintentional.  They seem welcoming of outsiders looking for clarity on Islam, and a letter on their website reinforces that.  This will definitely be an experience to remember, and I will share my experience after it happens.

Just remember, you can’t let the fear of the unknown keep you from doing anything.  Educate yourself, and that fear and anxiety will diminish.  Open your mind, and that is when you are truly free.

Knowledge is Power!

knowledge is power

Kids. They Grow Up Too Fast.

Samantha starts First grade in a little over a week.  Say what?!  Yeah, First grade.

samanthababyWhere did my baby go?  She’s lost in the jumble that is my PPD memories, and this makes my heart ache.  I remember her birthday, and our time in the hospital.  After that, much of it is a blur.  A dark, overshadowed blur.  Sure, I have pictures to remind me what she looked like, and a couple of videos, but those aren’t really memories.

Since I started getting help for my depression and anxiety a few years ago, things have been better.  What I wouldn’t give to remember those early years, though.  What her first words were, when she “crawled” for the first time (or what she considered crawling, which was really more of a crab walk of sorts), all those little momentous occasions that many parents write down in the child’s baby book are lost somewhere in my head.  They will probably never be retrieved, so the best I can do is remember and make new memories.

Last year, when she started Kindergarten, we were both so excited.  As the year went on, she faced some struggles with her crying and subsequent behavior, so it wasn’t as smooth as I had hoped.  Now that she is starting First soon, my anxiety is running overtime.  I want her to do well, and I want her to be able to control herself.  I want this year to be awesome.  I want her to enjoy school as much as I did.  She just needs to control the emotional side of her, and be confident!  The girl is a smartie pants, and I know she will do well if she can just rein it in.

She wants to ride the bus the first day.  It’s not even here yet, and I’m already nervous and sad.  I wont get to walk her up to the school, have a pep talk, and send her on her way.  Now I have to stay back, and just wave at the bus as it drives away with my not so little girl.  Sigh, this isn’t about me, but my anxiety is so strong about this, that it’s becoming about me.  In my head.  I suppose that’s the point of this blog, to get the jumbled mess of thoughts out.

Where did my baby go?  I feel guilty for not being “there” the first years, so maybe that is why there is so much anxiety about letting go.  Why must it be so hard?  Why must they grow so fast?  Why must I be crying about it already?  haha

All I can do is hope it turns out great, and that she has the best year yet.  It’s fun watching her learn new things, and discover who she is.

I think I just found the thought I need to hold onto.

mommyandsamantha

The Decluttering Begins

Hello Peoples.

It’s been a very long time since I have blogged.  Looking at this one in particular, one would think I have never written a blog post in my life.  However, those ones would be mistaken.  In case you’re curious, I used to write about my experiences with Postpartum Depression here:  http://nicolesoutlook.wordpress.com/

If you feel like it, take a look.  I used to write about everything I dealt with while suffering from PPD, and was very honest and straight forward.  It was incredibly hard, but also incredibly liberating.  Not only did it help me work through a lot of the thoughts I had on the topic, but it also helped some other women discover that they were not alone.  I think that was the most rewarding aspect of it all.

So, you may be asking yourself, “Why this new blog, Nicole?”

I’m so glad you asked!  My mental health issues now aren’t PPD, nor is it really depression anymore.  I deal a lot now with some major anxiety, whether it’s social or just plain old intrusive, mind altering anxiety.  The things that seem to help me move past them enough to function is music, and sharing.

So here it is.  My new blog, where I shall spend time emptying my brain of all the clutter that is streaming around in an attempt to take my mind back.  I liked my mind before it started changing.  I would like to think I can attempt to regain some of that back.

Will you stick around?  Will you follow me through this journey of nonsensical talking about whatever jumps into my head?

“What you find in the dark may surprise you.” –Chris Kluwe