Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Suicide Prevention

because what is a blog post without a photo, am I right, or am I right?

For years, this topic has been heavy on my heart. I have felt the burden to tell "my story," any chance I can, because there is power in telling your personal stories to those who feel they have no meaning.
I was once one of those who believed they have no meaning. Sometimes, if we're honest, I still am.

I shared a small bit of this topic a few months ago, but since today is World Suicide Prevention Day (and National Suicide Prevention Week, so I hear), I thought I would share a little bit more.

My story is less about suicide, and more about self mutilation and mental health.
I cut myself, and attempted to burn myself for years. I was careful to never leave permanent markings on myself, I only wanted to hurt myself, never do any "real" damage.
Simply put, I was sad. I felt hopeless. I was in the middle of the dreaded teenage years, and felt like high school would never end. I wanted out of my small town, I wanted a life of my own. I wanted to call the shots, and yet, at 15 years old - you simply can't make your own decisions.
I never wanted to kill myself. Sure, I had those moments, where I thought about what it would be like if I *wanted* to, what it would like if I did follow through. If that one time, I cut a little deeper. But I never did, and that is one thing I am most proud of myself for.

My friends knew of what I was doing. They didn't help a lot. Of course, I didn't ever want to talk to them about it, "they didn't understand." My friends all had seemingly happy home lives, they had good grades, they had everything! To me, they did.
It also didn't help that anytime my problem was brought up, it was greatly minimized. I wasn't leaving marks, I wasn't cutting myself deeply enough to inflict any "major" pain, so I guess to them, what I was doing wasn't really a problem? It was sort of passed off by some as a phase of life - I'd get over it soon enough.

I believe, in my heart, it was not a phase. It's almost as if it was a precursor to the real problem that would come during college.
Last January, I spent an entire day in urgent care. A few weeks prior to that visit, I had been experiencing chest pains. It started off as almost a feeling of my heart pounding constantly, like my heart couldn't rest at all. It soon became more painful, and I finally sought medical help when I couldn't take deep breaths, and when I did, it hurt too much to try breathing deeply again for the next hour.
A day spent with an urgent care doctor, IV's poked into my arm, EKG's and an ultrasound lead to a "quick" diagnosis of esophageal spasms, linked to acid reflux (which my mom had been diagnosed with recently, at the time). The diagnosis, on paper, made sense. Having an answer to my problem, a diagnosis to tell people, it was a relief. But I knew, deep down, that it was esophageal spasms were not my problem.
At this point, I didn't have a doctor that I normally visited, so I found one, made an appointment with her, and sat down to talk to her about what was going on. I told her about how they had diagnosed me with esophageal spasms, but it didn't feel like the right diagnosis. We went through my medical history, including my mental health. My mom told her about my childhood mental health issues (one of which included staying in the hotel room all day while at Disney World because all of the crowds made me nervous - what a story that is!). My doctor and I both agreed I have some major anxiety issues that I needed to work through.
I was put on an anxiety/anti-depressant medication. At first, I was ashamed. I didn't want to be on pills for depression. I had gone through so much in my life, I had a happy life, and people looked to me for advice on dealing with depression! How could I be okay with taking daily medication for a mental health problem? How would those people that look up to me in this exact area of life react?
It took me the longest time to get over this. To get over the thought of people looking down on me for treating a problem that I have.

I am here to tell you - whoever reads this, wherever you are in life, if you have an underlying health issue, be it physically or mentally, there are answers out there - and there is no reason to be ashamed of needing to seek medical help. There is no reason to be ashamed of needing medication to help with the way your brain is wired. 
If you are causing harm to yourself in any way, any way at all, you are not alone, even if you believe you are.

 Your problems are not small, and in the grand scheme of life, whatever is causing you sadness, these things pass. Trust me, it is easier said than done, and when I was starting to deal with all of this. I never thought my problems would go away. To tell the truth, it seems, even now, that they never go away. They simply "hide away" and come back, and catch you at a weak point. But you have to promise yourself that you will help yourself get better, no matter what the circumstances are.

I started cutting at 14 years old. I stopped at 17. And sometimes, even now, I want to start it all over again. But it is not worth it. My life is way too precious, is way too valuable a gift to throw it away over a temporary problem. I have found my hope in Christ, and I know a lot of people who have recovered from depression through Him, as well. I do know that religion isn't everyone's cup of tea, though. So whatever your method of recovery, find yourself a good support group of friends and family - people who will be there for you no matter what. People who won't judge you, minimize your problem, and make you feel lesser for having mental health problems. You are so much more than that. 

You can visit these websites for more information: 
International Association for Suicide Prevention
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
and, as always, I am always here to talk! If you ever want to talk about depression, anxiety, life in general, Kim Kardashian & Kanye West... email me! ehaleytyson(at)gmail(dot)com

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