A note about suicide (not a suicide note).

I originally posted this as as a Facebook Note.  I’ve cross-posting it here so more people can contribute to the discussion.  Thanks to everyone who has already written comments. I’m overwhelmed by the response.

UPDATE:  Within one short week of writing this 2,000 word essay, it has received over 28,000 words of comments and feedback on this blog and Facebook. Clearly, people have a lot to share and have been holding a lot inside.  Thanks for sharing.


Let’s talk about despair.

I’m sitting in a bar in Bowmanville, the Village Inn, drinking a gin & tonic and reflecting on the funeral service I attended an hour ago. I knew David Rice through our shared community work. He was a volunteer with the Toronto Cyclists Union. He was my age, born in 1973. Last week, he took his own life.

We weren’t close friends, but I spent time with him at meetings and felt that I knew him. It turns out, I only knew a small part of him. David lived a functional, and often happy, life with many hobbies and interests. But he also lived in a world of paranoia, anxiety and despair that he hid very well. Even to close friends and family, he rarely shared his darkest thoughts. He struggled, for many years, mostly on his own – because he was scared to reach out to those around him who could help. He was scared that a mental health diagnosis could alienate and marginalise himself and cost him jobs and relationships. But by doing so, he paid the highest price.

His story is not unusual. Despite living in a society that increasingly encourages transparency and the sharing of personal information (Facebook being a good example) there are still a handful of topics that maintain a high level of stigma, taboo and secrecy. Mental health is one of those topics.

The sad irony is that our emotional and mental health benefits greatly from talking and sharing. If someone has a broken arm, they are unlikely to be embarrassed or ashamed and will show-off their cast with pride. But talking about your arm won’t help it heal. Reversely, and perversely, someone living with a mental health issue is unlikely to openly talk about it – even though sharing thoughts and fears may be one of the best prescriptions. By perpetuating the stigma of mental health problems, we are actually making people worse and sentencing them to unnecessary suffering and horrendous outcomes.

I’d like to do my small part to make a difference. I’d like to help create a new openness to sharing our personal struggles with each other. I’ve lost a few friends to suicide and I’d like to help prevent others, perhaps even my own down the road.

I’ll lead by example, by sharing a personal story. Then I’m going to ask you to participate.

I had a nervous breakdown two years ago. (Taboo #1. Don’t mention nervous breakdowns in public: Too much information! People will think you’re crazy, broken, dysfunctional, deficient, strange, and sick.) I quickly slipped into a deep dark pit of despair and had suicidal thoughts. (Taboo #2. Don’t talk about suicidal thoughts. You’ll scare your friends, alienate them, and then maybe lose them. And verbalizing suicidal thoughts make them more real. Ignore them and they’ll go away.) I immediately began crisis counseling, and then tried a few therapists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists until I found a good match. (Taboo #3. Don’t talk about therapy. Smart and strong people don’t need therapy. You’re broken. Damaged goods. Don’t tell anyone. You’ll lose friends, lovers, jobs, family.) I took sleeping pills to get through the hardest part, then I got hooked on a habit forming anti-anxiety medication called Ativan and then I was prescribed another med called Buspar, to help get me off of Ativan. (Taboo #4. Don’t talk about your meds. Keep it to yourself. No one needs to know that you can’t function normally, like everyone else.)

At first, I was scared. I was scared of a lot of things. I was scared that I might kill myself. I was scared about medication. I was scared about no one being able to understand what I was feeling. I was scared of making the wrong decisions, losing my judgment. I was scared of being scared. The despair was so strong that there were moments when I couldn’t walk, couldn’t feed myself, couldn’t think straight, couldn’t breathe. I cried so hard I pulled muscles in my throat.

I got better. It lasted about nine months. Lots of factors contributed to pulling me out of the darkness. Patience, faith, rest & exercise all played a role. But what really healed me was emotional support from my social network of family and friends and even strangers. I took a few risks early on, and started to share my feeling with people. I was surprised to find out how common despair is. Time and after time, people would thank me for being open and would share their own experiences with depression, medication, therapy and suicidal thoughts. After each interaction, I felt less alone, less broken, less alienated and slowly the hopelessness began to fade. The more I shared, the more positive feedback I received.

The hardest part was the suicidal thoughts. I had never had those thoughts before. For 32 years, life was like the sky. It was just there. I didn’t question life, just as I had never questioned the clouds. But part of me was always scared that I could, or would. My nature has always been to question everything, and often reject things that I had previously thought were carved in stone. Whether it was capitalism, religion, monogamy, meat-eating or formal education – I had a long history of deconstructing institutions, developing my own critical analysis, and often rejecting the whole thing. My deepest fear was that I would run out of things to reject, and perhaps I would reject life itself. Rejection begins with empowering yourself to choose. Seeing religion as a choice, rather than an inherent trait, allowed me to eventually reject it. “I didn’t choose this, so I need to decide for myself if I want it.” Then the math begins. Weighing the pros and cons, and coming to a conclusion. There are both benefits and drawbacks to everything, including embracing religion, eating meat and living in a capitalist economy. Those of us who are compulsive critical thinkers, make our decisions based on a series of equations weighing those pros and cons. But I was terrified of the life equation. What would happen if I actually weighed the pros and cons of being alive? What if I said to myself “I didn’t choose this, so I need to decide for myself if I want it.”

Here’s where things get tricky. You can reject eating meat, and you can reject monogamy, and you can reject formal education. And then you can change your mind, and get married and get a PhD and eat a turkey. But if you reject life, and act on it, you’re done. That’s what scared me: The thought of dipping so low, even for a moment, that I could make an impulsive irreversible decision. Because I can be quite impulsive. I’ve thrown myself down hills, rolled up like a human ball. I’ve stormed out rooms, kicking doors on my way out. I’ve said “Yes” to a million things, without giving them a second (or first) thought. The combination of passionate critical thinking, impulsiveness and spontaneity seemed risky to me.

But now that I’ve seen the effects of not talking about mental health, and despair, and suicide, I’ve changed my mind. I want to explore my fears, share my thoughts and feelings, express my fears and do the math. Life is a choice. There are two choices each day. Keep going or end it. The nature of the choices differ greatly in the sense that you can only make the “end it” choice once. Regret won’t bring you back. David Rice is gone. My good friend Tooker stepped off a bridge in Halifax 6 years ago, and nothing can bring him back.

Their equations brought them both to an impulsive moment that they can never take back or undo. Countless others have made that final decision to end all decisions.

I want to embrace life as the daily choice that it is, and consciously choose to keep living. Critical analysis doesn’t always end in rejection. I’m not scared of the equation any more, and I’d like to ask for your help. Let’s help each other. I think we can save lives–maybe not all of them, though. Mental health is a complicated thing, especially if paranoia or delusion plays a role. Sharing reasons to ‘choose life’ won’t always help. But I think in many cases it could.

Once you dip too low, it’s hard to have any positive thoughts. Hope disappears. Clarity dissolves. Faith falters. So let’s work out our equations, while we’re in a better headspace. Not when we’re on a ledge. Let’s start right now.

Here’s what I propose:

1) Let’s work against the stigma that prevents all of us from talking openly about mental health. Let’s actively work towards a day when calling your boss to say you need the day off because you’re having a mental breakdown is as comfortable and acceptable as calling in with a cold. Don’t hide your own vulnerability, and encourage everyone around you not to hide their own.

2) Let’s talk about suicide. It’s a real choice, and we all pretend it doesn’t exist until a friend actually does it and then we wonder why he or she never reached out to talk about it. Pretending it’s not an option, a reality, a choice, won’t make it go away. People need to know that these thoughts are normal and okay.

3) Let’s talk openly about therapy. I’ve been trying to get used to saying things like “Noon won’t work for me. I’m seeing my psychiatrist at 11. I can meet you for lunch at 1.” Some would consider this “too much information”. Why? Who would be ashamed to say that they couldn’t have lunch at noon, because they have to go to the dentist? Who would accuse someone with a toothache that they are providing ‘too much information.’ Let’s get this out of the closet. Therapy is a good thing, and it doesn’t mean you’re broken. It means you’re human, pro-active and invested in your own health and future.

4) Let’s talk about meds. People openly gather in bars to drink their problems away. So why are we ashamed to admit that we’re on Prozac, Ativan, sleeping pills, etc? There are two sides to this coin. And two discussions need to be sparked. The first is a heightened awareness of the risks associated with prescriptions. In many cases, these meds are overprescribed. Drugs are sometimes used instead of therapy, or instead of going to the root causes of the problem. More importantly, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds can actually be dangerous if not used properly, or if the user is not monitored properly. In many cases, suicidal risk can actually increase, for a short period of time, when a new medication is started or a dosage is changed. Those are the risks. The other side of the coin is that some of these drugs can be lifesavers. Once an informed decision is made, we need to be much more supportive of the choice. Just as with the broken arm example, or the dentist, there is a tremendous amount of stigma around meds. Who would be embarrassed about popping a Tylenol, or admitting that they are on an anti-biotic, or cough medicine? We need to reach a space where we feel just as comfortable shaking out a tablet of Effexor, Celexa or Buspar in front of our friends. If we can’t share this with our friends and family, then we are just feeding perpetuating and cultivating our own isolation.

5) Please watch for warning signs in yourself, and in your friends and family. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or to offer help. Most importantly, make yourself available to listen.

6) Let’s talk about life in the context of choice, and share our reasons to choose life. This is the part where I encourage you to participate. I invite you to share your reasons, below, why you think life is worth living. I’ll compile all your reasons into a little book. I’ll make copies for everyone who contributes. I’ll make it small, so it fits in a pocket. It will have crisis numbers, and a space for you to write a short list of people to call when you are in crisis. It’s a “why, who & how” to getting off the ledge. Maybe I’ll call it “Ledge Reading”.

Feel free to share other thoughts as well, to help break down the four stigmas (mental health, meds, therapy & suicide). Share anything you want. Ask questions. Write comments on this page, but also start talking to your friends. Talk to your family. Talk publicly. Let’s shatter these dangerous taboos. Cultural norms erode with time, and you shouldn’t underestimate the role you can play in changing the shape of dialogue in our society. Leading by example is powerful and can trigger an avalanche.

I know that David Rice felt so afraid of the stigma of mental health issues that he couldn’t share his experiences with others, and this kept him isolated and unable to ask for help. I watched his parents cry in the same chapel where he was baptized 36 years earlier. I watched his brother and girlfriend struggle to hold back tears, as David’s three young nephews tried to find their own emotions amidst their confusion, trying to make sense of what had happened to their uncle.

Let’s come together, now, and shine a light on our own struggles with life, sadness, depression, anxiety, fear and suicide. We have nothing to lose by sharing, and we have so much to gain. Life is a strange, magical, random, difficult and wonderful experience. I think it’s worth living. Let’s live it together.

Now your turn. What is your experience with despair, therapy & meds? What makes life special, for you? Why is life worth living? There are a million reasons. I’d like to hear yours.

Happy New Year to all. May 2010 bring much love, gratitude, strength, warmth, growth & sharing.

229 responses to “A note about suicide (not a suicide note).

  1. Thanks for putting this out there, if you can help one person it’s worth it

    Helene

  2. I have had many many many conversations with friends, acquaintances, and family about mental health issues, my own and others’. The relief that comes with the opening and vulnerability after taking the risk to share an experience, thought, or feeling is certainly effective, and truly the most amazing way to connect with another person.

    I have struggled with the stigma, the medication, the isolation, the hiding, the support networks, the suicidal ideation, the therapy and the performance anxiety of life while living with mental illness. I find great comfort in speaking with others about mental illness whether they have personal or anecdotal experience with it or not. Everyone seems to have opinions and/or insight. I am always open to discussing my own experience with others and invite you to contact me if you would like to share your thoughts.

    Mental illness for me has been a journey of change in and management of symptoms, of self-determination in health care, flux in acceptance a life with mental illness, and finding and building my safety net to make sure I don’t fall too far down along the way. Learning and using the tools that allow me to be a productive and well adjusted citizen is an ongoing process.

    One of the most effective things that has helped me feel much more stable recently has been exploring nutrition and how the body functions at a cellular level. If you have any questions about this and how supplementation has helped me I would be happy to share that information with you.

    Dave, I commend you for your candid and convicted approach to breaking down our culturally built walls of shame and misunderstanding. Thank you for providing a venue for change to happen and for folks to be able to connect with an even greater network of intelligent and sensitive individuals.

  3. everyone in my family has struggled with mental health issues except for me and i truly believe that it is because i make the choice every single day not to. i make the choice to live and i know that it is just as simple to make the choice to fall into despair. thank you very much for posting this and for allowing people a space to talk about it. it will change lives, it will save lives!

  4. I to attended David’s Memorial Service and I was saddened to hear of his struggles. What made me the most sad was that he did not feel he could share his pain and get support in return. I committ to become involved in local agencies to help reduce the stigma of mental illness and work to suport those in need.

  5. Mez,
    This is beautifully written. I am so sorry about David. I too have struggled with mental illness and the stigma associated with it. In many ways the latter worsens the experience. This is especially the case when it prevents us from getting the kind of support we need and deserve.

    I was ill a lot in school and never mentioned it. My anxiety can be so severe my body starts to give up on me – always in fight or flight mode wears my immune system down and i deal with numerous secondary illnesses.

    In highschool i told my closest male friends i was taking medications and they made me feel like i was weak. In university i tried to go off them – thinking it is society that is the problem and i can accept myself. I was sick continually and then ended up in a major crisis in the MA, while among many left activists. I found it difficult to even come out among activists. But my struggle for accommodations at school made me so angry i decided to start talking about it.

    I am actually one of the guinea-pigs that got your buspar approved in Canada as i was receiving it in highschool, along with another medication through the mental health program at Sunnybrook hospital. It was the most successful in managing my issues. One medication i took actually took me into depression to the point it was frightening so your comments about being open about medications for safety reasons are also important.

    Solidarity, Toby

  6. I’ve been absolutely DYING to share with the people in my life (beyond my family, and the 2 or 3 who already know) about my mental illness and abuse. I need to heal outwardly, since I think I might be a true extrovert, and the internet might be my best avenue for that.

    Dave, you’ve encouraged me to share it all, and since I really want to, here goes!

    I’ve been hinting to some acquaintances in my life about my troubling past (in both real life and through a ‘personal’ blog I started), but most chalk up my despair to “residual teen angst” which is what one person called it — by which I really really resent that label because it diminishes who I am as a person since abuse and depression really alter how you see yourself in relation to the world. Living in a world where even your own friends think it’s okay tell you to “get over it” is the worst feeling in the world, I don’t even know how to articulate the feeling of rejection and devalidation that stems from a comment like this. I wish I could eloquently elaborate this feeling but I’ve got nothing. It’s moments like those that really drive me to think about suicide now. I don’t want to and know I probably won’t, but a couple of times a month I think about the possibility of it.

    I’m currently a patient at CAMH, and have been for the past year and a few months. It’s been pretty helpful, although I am nowhere near finished with my therapy.

    I have been diagnosed with PTSD, dysthymia ( depression) and trichotillomania (an impulse control disorder in which i pull out my hair). All are arguably interrelated and stem from a combination of a genetic predisposition and experiencing/surviving a physically and emotionally abusive childhood.

    Oh, and I’d love to share about my experience anti-depressants. As a teenager I was put on Paxil, which I am still taking. Paxil is arguably the worst SSRI, ever, and am now a bit dependent on it, however it did give me the energy and strength to finish highschool and get into university – which I think without Paxil I would have not been able to do. My energy was completely zapped, and was living in a suicidal hole for a while before being prescribed it. I’m also now taking Wellbutrin, and it has given me a little bit of that extra push to continue with coming around.

    I also completely disagree that mental illness is a “choice”, as melissa, one of the above commentors stated. There is nothing more toxic and violent than a thought like this. If she were unlucky enough to experience debilitating depression I doubt she would repeat what she wrote.

    Also, I would like to remind any parents out there that children CAN be depressed. Save yourself from causing your child’s funeral! Be an aware and concerned parent! The first time I thought about suicide was in grade 5 (while in school – gym class – just before the end of the day. I remember it soooo vividly and still cry at the thought of). Ignoring a child’s emotional issues (even if it’s petty or irrational) is the worst thing a parent can do. You need to validate your child’s feelings and beliefs, even if they are irrational or wrong, you can offer a kind contextualization for why they might be wrong….or something along those lines, I am not a parenting expert nor a parent myself.

    I’d also like to say that regardless of appearing somewhat of a wreck, I am reasonably high functioning. I have a lot of friends, am fairly able to maintain intimate relationships and friendship, and have a job – although at varying points in my life I was unable to. People out there struggling go ask for help! DO IT. Therapy is radical. Seriously.

    And now I’m totally bawling. But it felt so great to articulate all of this so candidly and over the internet to a bunch of strangers or acquaintances who might know who I am. Wow.

    Thank you so much for posting! I needed this.

  7. As someone who went to what was called an ‘art school’ when it was really an in depth therapy program at the end of my adolescence, I can identify with the stigmas of mental AND emotional illnesses (one being physical/chemical, one being driven by personal history, often they both play a part in this type of health issue).
    For me, I thank you for this article. For my dear friends that I was in therapy with that did not make it, I thank you as well.

    To answer your question, these are the tools that have assisted me when I have been in the deep pit of agony.

    1. I have learned the most about myself when I am low, not on top of the world….. that helps me cope.
    2. As deeply as I can feel pain is as deeply as I have the capacity to feel joy. (picture a pendulum)
    In the deep pits of despair, it is difficult to realize that you NEVER know what is coming next. It just may be the relief that you are looking for…..and it may right around the corner.
    My life is far from perfect, and I struggle all of the time. Yet I know that had I been successful in my attempts to sever my life, I would not have the joys of watching my hilarious children (that I never even imagined I could have) grow and flourish; Or realized the potential that I have to affect change in this world on others; Or understood that I am strong and wise and loving sometimes even if I think that the opposite is true.

    I welcome the opportunity to speak with anyone about this, to share the tools and things that assisted me.

  8. I agree that it can be important and helpful to talk about one’s own mental health issues and treatment. Just as important though to respect the privacy and confidences of others.

  9. Thank you so much for posting this.

    Many of my direct ancestors died via suicide, and there is no shortage of issues on both sides of my family and myself too.

    I still feel there are indeed barriers created by having a mental health issue on your medical record. I was looking to volunteer with a certain organization, but as a precondition, they have to get a copy of your medical history from your doctor. What’s up with that!

  10. Sharing experiences has risks. Frankly I look at it as a filter whose purpose is to discover who has a fixed view of experiential reality and is threatened by experiences outside their own. If one discovers someone is not threatened or alienated by this then there is potential for other purposes to develop but if one discovers the opposite there is likely no potential for anything.

    One can look at death, for instance, as the point in time after which one’s experience is no longer sharable at all with the living. People who might for instance have experiences that include ghost or spirit entities are systematically disbelieved – discouraged from sharing that experience in the Western/Christian culture. Other cultures take other views, for instance after the 2004 tsunami it was common for Thais to report ghosts of the dead wandering around the places where they had died. Buddhist monks described this as an opportunity to discover that death was not the end and for a few lucky people (seeing ghosts is considered lucky in Thailand) an opportunity to share communication and maybe help someone whom others consider to be now beyond help or compassion. Western psychiatrists, predictably, described it as a mass stress-induced delusion. Now you tell me which of those explanations is likely to make the people with this experience reduce their emotional and spiritual and social stress, and which is likely to cause more? And which is the more arrogant?

    Unfortunately most psychiatrists trained in this North American “tradition” are simply quacks – and there’s a simple test to determine if they are.

    Talk to anyone who was temporarily confined in any psychiatric ward or institution for less than a week – ask them if they were asked at any time during their admission about their recent sleep. Most ‘psychiatric episodes’ and ‘hallucinations’ are caused by very immediate sleep deprivation and no qualified psychiatrist can not know this. Those that offer drugs without asking about a new patient’s sleep are quacks, plain and simple, and should not be hired, patronized or believed about any aspect of psychiatric symptoms or treatment.

    Another aspect of this quackery is the failure to relate something a patient may say to something that has already been said by some noted person or authority who is not considered to be upset or angry or ‘crazy’. At the very least a doctor in a position of authority to identify someone as a deluded or dangerous person must (this is not a nice-to-have) be able to notice the similarities between what a patient says about their personal thought and what is said by the most revered leaders of thought in their own culture. For that reason, I understand that in Germany a psychiatrist (licensed to dispense drugs, not a psychologist or counseller) is required to have a full Bachelor’s degree in philosophy before they are considered for this specialty – so that they will not drug the next Schopenhauer or Goethe into a stupor, which was policy under the Nazis and under Mike Harris (no coincidence there).

    In street situations often the cops have more of a grasp of this requirement, because cops have something to lose by escalating any aggressive or dangerous behaviour, while psychiatrists in general gain from it (more “serious” case, more drug company giveaways, more papers to write). One finds few old cops who aren’t capable of asking at least some basic Phil 101 types of questions of the people they deal with: “how do you know that?” “why do you think so?” “you know not everyone believes that, why are you telling people that more or less at random without evidence or another witness?”

    There are many deficiencies in the “mental health” and “illness” systems that are rooted deep in the whole paradigm of doctor/patient relationships (read Michel Foucault and especially R. D. Laing and Thomas Szasz about this) and of authority having the power to decide not how to deal with people but rather to decide what is “true” for all.

    Given those deficiencies, many of which are not ever addressed in the media or public arena, we can reasonably expect more cases like David’s – simply believing the risks of engaging the system are too great, which very often they are, or at least far more than the gain of attempting it.

  11. It is worth choosing life because I have stuff to share with people, time I can give and I can receive the joy of their company.

    I am officially diagnosed with bi-polar. I like to say “officially diagnosed”, because my brain was never scanned for structural deficiencies, I was just asked questions about my behavior at a time when I was going through allot of stress (death of grand-mother, working at a political party HQ during elections on mission critical software). Still, sometimes I reduce the dosage and I after a few days I do start to have racing thoughts and more trouble sleeping. So most of the time I’m on the full dosage and for now, I prefer it that way.

    As I commented on your Facebook status, I think some anti-pharmaceutical positions contribute in preserving the taboo around mental health. If one is denying a potential treatment to a problem, then isn’t said person denying the problem as well or professing ignorance on some parts of the problem?

    • Francesca Allan

      Julien, a brain scan wouldn’t have helped. There is no biological marker or other objective test for *any* mental illness. Mental disorders are *nothing* like diabetes, no matter what NAMI and BCSS and others like to say. It’s strictly diagnosed on the basis of the patient’s behaviour. Glad your meds seem to be working. I never found one that did. I just have to make sure I get enough sleep and abstain from alcohol.

      • Francesca Allan

        I forgot to add that, in my view, the stigma and taboo comes from the mental health system itself not any consumer advocate positions. Referring to me as “crazy” is probably a fair and honest statement and it doesn’t offend me. Claiming that I have a “diseased and defective brain,” however is a serious (and baseless) accusation. Many of us have been far more harmed than helped by the system but our voices tend to be ignored.

  12. I live for the first note. The musicians glance at each other and at the conductor with full attention. Bows up. They acknowledge the silent count of the beat, lean forward in anticipation and begin.

    No, this is not a digression.

  13. Hi Dave,
    Your message touched me deeply. I lost my husband about 6 months ago to suicide–brought out by a very sudden and intense breakdown. He turned 31 two days before he took his life.

    The last three or four months of his life still remain vivid in my memory, as he transformed almost overnight from a stable, supportive, loving and easy-going person into one that was anxious, fearful, agitated and manic. I tried very hard to get him help and to inform everyone of his condition, so that it would be in the open and could be discussed honestly and frankly. I wanted him (and he wanted to) to feel okay in sharing his experiences with others–many of which had gone through exactly the same symptoms years earlier…

    Unfortunately, his condition deteriorated, despite the meds, the psychiatrists, therapists, yoga classes, meditations, love and support from myself, friends and family. He was diagnosed in mid-April with agitated depression and took his life in early July…so basically 3 months afer his first trip to the hospital. I find it astounding that you pulled through after 9 months…as many of your experiences mirrored those of my husband. I always kept it in the front of my mind that things with him would work out and after a few months we would pull through and life would go on, as it always does. I also kept in the back of my mind that maybe there was a small chance that he wouldn’t pull through and that his ideations (racing thoughts: desperate not to feel so anxious and awful) would take hold of him.

    In the last 6 months I have had to confront this monster head on. The wave of emotions: shock, desperation, hopelessness, anger, blame, regret, sorrow, have been intense, and getting “through” this has been goddamn hard. But like your post mentioned: openness, honesty, communication and support are critical and these things have helped immensely in picking me up and having me looking at today and tomorrow with some degree of optimism. Not that I’m exactly happy most days, not at all. We all have a reason to keep going…things will work out even tough we may not see it at the time.

    Anyway, Dave, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. It helps all of us who have loved ones that were victims of suicide know that we’re not alone in this.

  14. Francesca Allan

    I came to you via babble.ca, a forum that actually does allow me to express what you’ve so beautifully expressed here. When I have more time, I’ll post some links. Nice dispensing, Mez. email me any time. I’ve available 22/7.

  15. Francesca Allan

    Mez, I have thought some more about your beautiful post. You and I share some common ground, but not much. “Stigma” and “informed consent” and “therapy” and “medication” mean different things to us, I suspect. I realize this is beyond the scope of your post but try to keep in mind that’s there a whole field out there with you: Szasz, Whitaker, Jackson, Valenstein, Sacks, Breggin, to name just a few.

  16. Hi Fransesca,

    Thanks for your comments! I’m aware that there is a “whole field” out there, but the problem with “fields” is that they are often made up of academics talking to themselves. All the names you mention are either doctors and/or academics.

    I’m talking about ordinary people opening up to each other and sharing their experiences and feelings about their own mental health.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of academia. I find that they use a language that is often unintentionally elitist and exlusionary. I think we can learn more from each other. (and I don’t have the attention span to read long books. haha).

    cheers,
    ~ dave

  17. UPDATES: As of Monday morning, Jan 4, this 2,000 word essay has received over 12,000 words of comments and feedback on this blog and Facebook. Clearly, people have a lot to share and have been holding a lot inside. Thanks for sharing!

    I’ll be on CBC Radio ‘Here & Now’ with Matt Gallowaway this afternoon at 4:45, talking about this blog post and the issues it tries tackle.

    • There was a really interesting article written by Tad Friend in The New Yorker a few years ago about the acute, almost romantic nature of suicide, referencing efforts to make the Golden Gate bridge less of a suicide magnet (as was done with the viaduct here in Toronto). It’s worth a read: we forget that suicide is, for the most part, an acute thing. People who are stopped from completing an initial, desperate attempt (like jumping off of a bridge) rarely try again, if properly helped.

      • Francesca Allan

        Max, I don’t know if that’s true. I think the data shows that once you try it, you’re even *more* likely to try it again. That’s certainly been my own experience, too. I wish I had caught the Tad Friend article — sounds interesting.

  18. Francesca Allan

    Thanks, Dave. I agree with you on academia in general but some of the people I listed are my friends! I’m no academic — I have 1/2 a science degree and do data entry for a living. And, yet, I still read and interact with these people because they know what they’re talking about.

    There is an entire psych rights community desperately needing your input, Mez. Please join us.

  19. Francesca Allan

    Glad you got the CBC gig. White Coat/Black Art turned me down. Will tune in this afternoon.

  20. Hey Fransesca,

    I’d love to be a part of the psych rights discussion. I know Don Weitz and have seen some of his work in the area. I’ve also attended Mad Pride events, and have followed Angela Bischoff’s work closely as she’s explored the negative sides of SSRIs. I’m not a big fan of online discussion though. Let me know if there’s an event or forum. I’ll show up. thanks!

    ~ mez

  21. Francesca Allan

    Should mention here that I was released from involuntary hospitalization (Eric Martin Pavilion) on December 30th, against medical advice.

  22. Francesca Allan

    I gather we listen to different CBCs. Maybe I can catch the podcast. Please post a link later.

  23. Francesca Allan

    Mez, you said “I’m not a big fan of online discussion though. Let me know if there’s an event or forum.”

    I’m really sorry to hear that. I’m quite the opposite. I haven’t attended an event since probably 2004.

  24. A COMPLICATED SURVIVAL

    After fighting for over a year to beat cancer in my mid-twenties, I expected that my feelings about being alive would be straightforward. I had practically become the poster child for “positive thinking” and “the will to live” and yet in the tumultuous emotional aftermath of my struggles with cancer and facing mortality, my feelings about being alive were more complicated than I had expected. I didn’t understand how I could fight so hard to be alive and yet afterwards, when the worst was seemingly over, have such mixed emotions about being alive?

    There were times where I felt so traumatized and so emotionally overwhelmed that I did not know what to do or where to turn. There had been a lot of support both personally and professionally when I was a cancer patient, but when the treatments were finished, I felt removed from the network of support that I had leaned on so heavily. The worst part is that no one had warned me that this might happen and the message I was getting from everyone around me was that I should be happy and relieved and move on because the “worst was over”. It seemed that there were many medical and socio-cultural systems in place to help me when my problems were physical, but when they became primarily emotional I felt isolated, confused and alone.

    These days, I’m sure to warn people to go gentle on themselves after cancer treatments and to be very patient with the amount of time it takes to discover a “new normal” and to make room for the complicated emotions that can surface. I have since found my way through some of those difficult times with the help of friends, therapists and cancer support groups. The things that helped me most during those “dark nights of the soul” when I didn’t know what to do and sometimes just wanted to walk out the door and keep on walking until I disappeared where the following:

    a) TALK: Late-night phone calls to supportive friends and on a few occasions in the absence of friends to call, I called emergency hotlines.

    b) WRITE: Writing in my journal, on Kleenex boxes, on scraps of paper, or on online chat-rooms for young people with cancer: it helped to try to get the feelings out.

    c) MOVE: Physical activities such as walking, dancing (even as I cried), or simply beating up a pile of pillows to release some energy rather than letting it all build up.’

    d) SOOTHE: taking deep breaths, drinking lavender or chamomile tea, wrapping up in blankets, singing to myself softy (sometimes in better moods I would sing hopeful songs into my answering machine and then when I was scared and sad I could listen to them).

    e) GRATITUDE: On even the worst days, I would try to think of a least three things I was grateful for. They could be as simple as the fact that someone smiled at me on the street, that I heard a song I liked or that the sunlight streamed through the window in a way that was calming. Sometimes it was a real struggle but I found that for me, gratitude was a muscle and by exercising it everyday there were profound changes that started to happen with my moods. Nowadays people hear me say my “three grateful things” and probably think that being positive comes easy to me, but really it’s something I started to practice on days when it seemed practically impossible to imagine something to be grateful for – when a Dr. told me I might not live, or when I felt so isolated that I didn’t know if I wanted to live. What are you grateful for today?

    f) TRUST: I had a few wise friends tell me that the crying and release of emotion could actually be part of my healing process rather than a sign that I was falling apart. Over time I tried to trust that the feelings of trauma would pass. Sometimes the best way to trust in this process was just to go to sleep and lay the groundwork for a better day tomorrow. I tried to see my vulnerability as something that gave me courage rather than run from it.

    It feels a bit trite telling people how to deal with depression and suicidal thoughts – as if there are a few simple tricks to it – if there were, no one would struggle. By sharing what has worked for me, I don’t necessarily think that it will work for others, but maybe at least assure them that they are not alone in trying to find their way out of their pain.

    Here is a poem I wrote for myself to help me stay grounded. It became like a mantra for me. It was a way for me to combine a sense of positivity with a sense of realism about the suffering and vulnerability that is an integral part of being alive.

    Yes! 

    I say Yes to Life, to the Moment, to Miracles.
    Yes to Laughter, Love, Healing, and Hope.
    I say Yes when asked to Dance, when offered Help,
    when I wonder if I have the Strength
    to overcome great Challenges. 
 

    Yes to the Darker Emotions,
    to my own Mortality, and to the Mystery of it All.
    Yes, Yes, Yes!
    I say Yes to the Changes, to the Lessons, and to the Many Gifts.
    Yes to the Journey, to the Wise Beauty of this Earth, and to my own
    Wild Spirit. 

    I say to Yes to Courageous Vulnerability,
    to the Connectedness of all things,
    and to the Colours of the Rainbow.
    Yes to Passion and Compassion.
    I say Yes to all the seasons this life can bring,
    because I CAN, so that my Heart Can Sing!
    Yes!
    Poem by: Carly Stasko

  25. I want the best for you I really do. I want everyone’s eyes to make love to you. You who sit alone crying on a bench, who shut the door and curse yourself. Secrets behind closed doors, everything bleeds.

    And now you plunge into your inner blackness. And the logic of blackness is smothering. And now you’re waiting for the phoenix rising. There is an end in sight. There is an end in sight. You can’t see that end, but it is what is right.

    There is an entire vocabulary passed down from centuries to describe your pain. You are in pain, and you believe you are alone in your pain, and the shame of being alone in pain is worse than the pain – that you are the only one with a broken heart.

    I wish I could show you how big you are. You are a giant, an entire lake, an ocean, you have the unimaginable vastness of the universe between the trillionths of your atoms. You will outlive your contradictions. You will tame the dragon.

  26. This is a terrifically important post, Mez. Thanks for putting your experiences and lessons learned out there for everyone to read.

  27. Great interview on Here and Now! Way to take this obviously important discussion to the next level!

  28. I’m so happy to be a part of this post and find that someone out there has the courage to post such a taboo topic in open space. You continue to be such an inspiration to me and countless others Mez.

    I recently have also been affected by the mental health system and the seemingly impenetrable walls that exist between people suffering and a qualified listener. Like so many others, I have lived with feelings of despair, hopelessness and despondency on and off over many years, and lately have had some pretty in depth conversations with myself about suicide.

    I could see the cycles in my moods and felt as though I was becoming a broken record or a burden to those around me. It seemed like the advice I was getting were just easy answers, or catch phrases repeated so I would just shut up. Few friends even suggested I go out and just ‘get drunk’. Apparently they’re not aware that alcohol is a depressant.

    I was very hurt and angry at these responses and felt that perhaps it was finally time for me to go and seek “professional” help.

    Not having a lot of money, I sought subsidized or free counseling. I spent a few weeks having consultations with counselors which often ended with me in tears, and them telling me how much it would cost to continue the session. Often, it was upwards of $90/hour (I make $10/ hour and only work 20 hours a week). Obviously and since lack of money is often one of my triggers, this was not an option for me.

    I finally convinced myself to go to a doctor in order to get a referral for free psychotherapy. Not having a family doctor in Toronto, I went to a walk in clinic on a particularly bad day. It took a lot of strength to be able to get out of bed and get dressed, not to mention the act of approaching a stranger for help. Yet despite being in tears and repeating over and over again ‘I just need to talk to someone’, I was sent away because I was not there during regular walk in hours. I was told to come back the next day.

    Frustrated and still emotional wrecked, I walked to St. Joe’s Emergency and was immediately escorted to the mental health crisis ward. I felt very silly and as though I was wasting valuable health professional’s time. I really didn’t think I was in a crisis situation, I only needed someone to sign a piece of paper saying I was depressed enough to get OHIP to cover therapy for me.

    I will spare you the details of my 4 hour stay. It did give me a lot of clarity on my perspective however and I realized how lucky I am to have a relatively clear outlook on my situation. I have a roof over my head, food in my belly and people who care, even if they have trouble expressing it sometimes.

    My experience at the Crisis Unit was extremely eye-opening, not because I received the help that I needed, but because I didn’t. I was so flabbergasted at the hoops I had to jump through in order to get a signature from a stranger saying I was in need of help, especially at a time when I was feeling so vulnerable.

    I consider myself to be a relatively strong person, yet this experience took a lot out of me and left me more emotionally drained then when I had struggled to get out of bed that morning. Had I been any less clear in my thoughts or any less strong in my character, I’m not sure what the outcome would have been.

    It’s devastating that we are not more open about these issues. There is so much unnecessary shame surrounding mental health issues. I’ve always found it so tragic that we need to pay people to hear our stories and offer helpful insight while most friends and family would rather just change the subject.

    I will continue to encourage my friends to be open about what is bothering them, and more importantly to be honest with themselves and those around them.

    Thank you for providing this space to share!

  29. 3 of my male friends killed themselves this year….overwhelmingly I thought perhaps I failed them in some way…I had know idea that all three of them were going through deep personal struggles that they could not share…
    :O(

  30. Glad you are going on CBC, go Dave go, its about time

  31. Thanks Mez.

    I related especially to the worry about the stigma of mental health issues at work. I haven’t had the courage to come out to my employer that I’ve got “one of those disabilities you can’t see”– I admit that I do think it could mean I am passed over for jobs without even knowing about it– but I do sort of enjoy the knowledge that someday I will be able to tell them and it will blow their minds a little at how productive and functional I’ve been this whole time. (Mostly.) It’s also possible that I am a scaredy-cat who just wants a body of good statistics of my job performance to lay on the table alongside my diagnosis to prove that I’m still a worthwhile option.

    I may be afraid, but fear was probably what kept me alive through those darker years. The reason I never went through with any of my fantasies about death was the nagging uncertainty of what exactly I was choosing, if not life.

  32. Kelly Barrington

    Bravo!

  33. Mez, thank you so much for posting this on Facebook and now on your blog. I just wish my David was still here to read this conversation. He would have been so humbled.

    One thing I keep reading over and over again here is that it’s a huge challenge getting help for mental health problems. Even for people who accept they have a mental illness and actively look for help, there are too many inadequacies. The drugs don’t work well and have horrible side effects. The medical bureaucracy that stands between you and treatment can be overwhelming, and the treatment itself is often underwhelming. And the wait times are far too long. At the time of his death, David had been waiting more than 3 months to start CBT, with at least another month to go. I don’t know if it would have made any difference, but now I’ll never know.

    But unlike many of the people posting here, David was not an active advocate for his treatment because he never bought the diagnosis: to him it was part of the conspiracy to undermine his reputation. The stigma of mental illness combined with his paranoia to shut him off from almost all support.

    And David needed support. His paranoia made him not only afraid and distrustful, but desperately lonely. There was no one he could turn to for help. When people get cancer, they talk to their friends, family, coworkers, support groups, about the most promising new treatments. David didn’t feel he could talk to anyone, even the handful of people he knew who were open about their illnesses and treatments.

    I keep thinking that if David knew someone who was living with paranoia or schizophrenia and yet who still was living a good life–with a job and a family and respect from the community–maybe he’d have shared his struggles with more people. If he could identify people who’d gone before him and survived the doctors and the meds and found a way to control their illnesses, then maybe he’d have been willing to try a little harder, to go back one more time to change his meds or demand better treatment. Or perhaps he wouldn’t have felt so hopeless that he’d refuse the help his family was offering him right up until the end.

    Or maybe if we were more open about mental illness there already would be better treatments, because we’d be marching in the streets demanding it, or raising funds to research it.

    Too many people have come up to me since David’s death and told me that they or someone they love is living with mental illness. This affects so many of us, and shame and stigma is killing good people who deserve better.

    Please keep telling your stories. It’s the only way we can learn from each other.

  34. Thanks Mez.

    I will respond to your request for reasons to live in a moment Mez. I’d like to suggest at least one reason why its hard to talk about the four stigmas – because its actually very hard on the loving listener to witness the pain, offer empathy (and participate at least a little bit in the depression), and to feel so helpless. It is very easy to pick up on the effects these conversations have on the people who care for you, and of course you refrain from burdening them. Having depression and talking about it can be hard on a relationship and hard on a loving partner. I am not suggesting that denial and bearing the depression in quiet solitude is a good strategy, but I think its important to be aware of the toll these conversations take on the partner, and there are listening and coping skills for the partner that must be cultivated, and safe environments that must be built for these conversations.

    Anyway, ledge reading:
    -Have you ever been to Hawaii? Me neither.
    -As someone has already beautifully written, there is that stillness before the symphony begins. For me, its the audible sparkle in a quiet room at 4 in the morning, when I feel in tune with the world around me. Sometimes these moments just happen, and they are worth the wait.
    -There is innocence in the world. When I think about it (to me, innocence has the face of a heron I once saw in Algonquin Park), all I want to do is protect it. It’s an innocence that can be harmed, but never tainted. I live so that I can respect it.
    -There will always be someone smarter than I am out there, and better Chinese food to try. So there is a better meal and a better conversation out there waiting for me.

  35. Thanks for this post Mez and all the repliers..

    First off, my sincere condolences to all those who have lost someone to suicide. I too lost a friend to suicide in high school, one who I didn’t even know was struggling.

    It’s been really helpful to hear from other people who are struggling with this stuff at this time. 2009 was a meltdown year for me, and I still haven’t kicked the wild (bi-polar?) mood swing cycle… or drug dependencies… but hey, at least I’m doing recording again. Function over form.

    I suppose a lot of the difficulty with ‘coming out’ about depression/mental illness involves vulnerability… you may have kept these thoughts or issues hidden from even your close friends, and letting them in on this part of your life bears a risk: will they accept this part of you, and help you live with it, or will they act like you’re talking about your imaginary friend, or tell you to ‘grow up’?

    I can’t say whether it’s worth it or not to disclose your mental health issues with everyone around you, but I would encourage anyone suffering alone to reach out to the people you trust, because talking is half the battle, seriously! People are out there who care about you, and once you let them in on your issues, and they still want to be your friend, that’s a really good feeling.

    • Francesca Allan

      That’s good advice, Mike. I told everybody and lost a couple of friends over it but gained many others. Some people were wonderful and kind; others were smug and judgmental. Seek the former and pity the latter — their souls are such that they don’t deserve to be our friends; they are lacking a sense of human dignity.

      It’s so hard to know to whom and how much we should divulge. We have a responsibility not to cause fear and alarm in the people whom we love and who love us but we also have a responsibility to be honest about how we are.

      If you’re feeling suicidal, call someone. Anybody. Call 911 if you have to.

      I haven’t lost anybody to suicide and I feel real pain at the stories I’ve read here today. One suicide that made me realize how seriously I have to take this stuff was David Foster Wallace. If a guy that had *that* much going for him couldn’t reach out, that indicates the size and the ferocity of the monster that some of us regularly deal with.

      • Francesca Allan

        As far as I can tell, there are always two reasons to stay alive.

        One, because we do not know and cannot know what lies ahead.

        Two, because we do not know and cannot know how our death will affect those still living.

        It’s my unproveable assertion that DFW would be alive today if he was made aware of this second reason not to suicide.

  36. This is something I have struggled with myself occasionally. Life got to be too much for a while. During my healing, which is always like a pendulum, I would go back into the feeling occasionally but less often and for shorter lengths of time every time. during one of the last ones, I spoke with a good friend and confidant about it. “Sometimes I just don’t want to live any more”, I told him, and he gave me the most amazing answer ever. His answer probably wouldn’t have meant anything if it weren’t for the huge amount of healing I had done up to that point point, so I guess I was ready to hear it when he replied simply, “that is pretty short sighted”.

  37. Francesca Allan

    Hmm. I’ve heard “selfish”; I’ve heard “stupid”; but “short-sighted” is a new one.

  38. David,you hit on a hopefully a good method that will assist those in need.
    As you say in your essay, this can be the first step.

  39. I am a fellow artist and cycling advocate based out of Ottawa. I experienced major depression since 2005.

    I will happily participate in this project. It’ll just take me a while to gather my thoughts.

    For now I just want to say thank you. I am printing your post and bringing it to my chronic pain group. I think your words will bring much comfort and further ease their feelings of isolation – just as your openness has helped ease my own sense of being alone. ((( big hug )))

  40. Mez, thanks for writing this. My friend Patrick took his life on new years eve and the subject of suicide has been on my mind since that day.

    I’ve been struggling with Anxiety and depression for a good portion of my life. Watching my mother struggle with Anxiety and hide it was a model which I compied. When I was 18 I began having anxiety attacks on a regular basis. I couldn’t go to school or really function normalls. I found myself sitting in an empty bathtub for a lot of the day trying not to have an anxiety attack which ended up being more stressful than helpful and eventually I would cave in an have one that would cause my throat to close and feel as if I was experiencing a heart attack. I went through multiple measures to get rid of this problem and I think for the most part that the people who were there for my in my life were the ones who helped my to calm down the most.

    I was a very happy person from the age of 19-24. Many stressful things happened to me and I took them with stride and ease. Nothing seemed impossible and the world was my oyster.

    After Amelie was about a year old I started feeling really down. And after doing some reasearch I found out that Postnatal depression can occur up to two years after delivery. I wasn’t dealing with situations very well. My commuication was becoming fuddled. And I wasn’t making the right choices. I would snap at people (specifically Geordie) for little and large reasons and has a hard time forgiving him for them. Things just kept piling up more and more in my mind and I felt like there weren’t any resources that could possibly help us/me with the current situation. The worst part about it is that I have a really hard time actually knowing how I feel about situations and I usually try to pass them off as funny or ok, when I’m actually really upset about it which causes so many mixed messages and confusion. Then one day I realize that I’m actually really upset and explode. It is for this reason that my emotions can’t be trusted and why being in a relationship with me is very difficult. No one can deal with that forever.

    Near the end of my relationship with Geordie I was kind of balistic. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I loved him so deeply and I couldn’t do anything but push him away. He tried very hard, but I was stubbourn about taking meds and I was pretty far gone that I didn’t believe therapy would help. It was at this time that I expressed that if it weren’t for Amelie I would consider taking my own life. Geordie listened and was very caring, even when I was calling him every name in the book. When my best friend heard of this she told me I was full of shit and that I was selfish and blackmailing Geordie. That didn’t feel good. It was that night that I put a hole in the wall with my head. At that point Geordie made me promise that I would never hurt myself again. The urge has been there, but I have kept my promise.

    I feel like I’ve lost many of my friends. It’s hard for me to call people let alone leave the house to meet up. I know it will make me feel good, but I just can’t do it. Leaving every morning for work makes me feel ill and being at work is very stressfull for me. I don’t have the easiest job.

    I’m continuing to see my therapist, who I love. But I think I’ve come to a point where I need to start on medication. I’ve had a really hard time dealing with this idea because I really wanted to adopt a baby and if you’ve been on anti depressants there are many places that you can’t adopt from. It’s so ridiculous.

    I don’t see myself as this awful person. When I think of my self image, i’m this happy go lucky artsy phartsy, hippy dippy, who is a great friend partner and mom.

    But I don’t feel that way.

    I would like to try a natural route for meds. Do you have any good suggestions or anything that you’ve heard of?

    Mez thanks so much. Talking about this with someone is a real gift.

    xoxo

    N

  41. Thank you so much for this. There is so much in this short piece that I connected with and that has articulated my own thoughts so eloquently so thank you. First time going to this not for profit community counseling service in Vic tonight, so very timely too. Would love to contribute to this project and will give some thought to my story.

  42. Thank you for posting your article. This is indeed a subject that needs talking about.

    Similar to J Wo’s experience, my husband suddenly became very depressed and, within 6 weeks, decided the only way to end it was to take his own life. Unlike J Wo, however, I did not talk with anyone about what he was going through, except with my best friend a few days before he died. He never liked admitting his weaknesses to others and I thought it would not be supportive to mention this new problem to others. When I asked him once to seek help, he said “They won’t be able to do anything for me.”

    He viewed this problem as a personal failing and one that he should be able to conquer on his own.

    We were married for 35 years and this was the first episode of depression. He was a vibrant, energetic man until then. I often wonder how long he kept his struggles hidden, whether I kept him sane for 35 years. I feel guilty that I wasn’t there the moment that he needed me. That thought will never go away.

    I now know what it’s like to feel suicidal. I briefly felt that way myself, a couple of months after he died. It’s oddly comforting, knowing (or thinking) that you can end it all if it becomes too much to bear. I no longer think about suicide except for extremely brief moments. What keeps me from thinking about it further is knowing the impact that such an act would have on the people who matter to me. I couldn’t do that to them. They’re worth living for.

    Just this morning someone asked what he died of and I said suicide. Sometimes I say depression, knowing they’ll figure it out. On television a couple of years ago, I heard the head of the mental health hospital in Toronto say that it was the only hospital without a gift shop. No one comes to visit the patients. How sad. We need to fix that.

  43. When my daughter told me about Patrick’s suicide it made me angry that such a young life was lost forever. I’ve been a Christian for many years and believe in the power of God and the power of the enemy (Satan). However, God’s power is always greater.
    I want to share with you that even though I’ve had a personal relationship with Christ for many years, I too have struggled with depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. Many days the only thought that kept me going was my two children.
    Why? I felt a failure. Married, divorced, couldn’t provide what I wanted to for my children. I had a nervous breakdown, was in therapy for years. At one point I would go to pyshco therapy three times a week and was on the highest dose of anti-depressant the Dr. would prescribe. I studied the “Drug-free guide to mood therapy” diligently. My Dr. said the time off work was my time to get better.
    It helped for a while. I still read my Bible, but stayed away from church for the most part because of the stigma. “A Christian shouldn’t feel this way.”
    It wasn’t until after the second divorce and into a third relationship that I found a group of Christian’s who didn’t judge me for being divorced, living common-law that I found some true support.
    I went on a retreat weekend because even though I was now with a man who loved me, had a beautiful house, a job … the suicidal thoughts came back. I was scared. Scared to even tell Andy (my current husband). In that weekend, the folks who ran the retreat got right to the heart of the matter. There was so much unforgiveness in my life, mostly toward myself, but also toward some key people in my life. It was hard to face the truth but I had to in order to get victory. I had to see myself the way my Heavenly Father sees me, (after all I never knew my earthly father until late in life). I had to renounce the lie from my Dr. that I would have to be medicated for life. I had to believe that the Holy Spirit would help me and Satan would leave my mind alone. I didn’t go off the meds right away. I used medical advice, read about it and gradually lowered the dose. The cloud lifted, the band around my head. It might have been the meds or a combination of that and me disciplining myself to think differently about myself. I started saying out loud the promises in the Bible that God says about me.
    There is no quick fix. I need to pray every day, read uplifting books, be around other believers and people who love me as I am, listen to uplifting music. I am currently reading a book by Dr. Neil Anderson, Victory Over Darkness and in it he has a very good list of promises “Understanding Your Identity in Christ”. You see, most of mental health issues are also spiritual health issues. We have to get our spirits right. Now when I have a negative thought or if a suicidal one pops into my head, I can say, bugger off Satan. ” Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world”
    No matter how happy someone looks on the outside, we have to be able to be real with God, ourselves and with fellow man.
    This may seem “religious” to some people, but it’s not about that, it’s about relationship, it’s about connecting every day with your heavenly Creator, with yourself and with others.
    Life is so precious, there are miracles everyday: a baby’s smile, a friend’s phone call, a sunrise, on and on. People care, people have a need to love and be loved. No one needs to waste their life by taking it. Choose life everyday.

  44. I have suffered from depression, spent years seeing shrinks and taking meds. I have long periods of wellness. What people do not understand is when you are truely depressed – your serotonin levels have slipped to a dangerous low – thinking good thoughts, going for walks, going out with friends, looking a at a beautiful sunrise, etc. does not help. That is the point. These things make healthy peopel feel better – they do not make depressed people feel better…or perhpas they do, for about 5 minutes.
    people commit sucide when they feel they can not go on, It’s not a spur of the momment choice – it’s a choice they probably have been fighting for weeks, or months, or years…and they foresee only more suffering in their immediate future – or their long-term future. Helping someone who is depressed is very hard work: long, thankless, discouraging work – that is best left to professionals. Fiends should only make certain they do not judge someone who is depressed, criticize their treatment choices, or offer “lite” solutions to a serious problem.

  45. Thank you so much for posting this. Despair is the hardest human emotion to share, and the most dangerous to keep to ourselves.
    Like many others here, I have also struggled with severe depression and worked hard to heal through medication, then meditation. It’s ongoing, but I have experienced a lengthening of the easy breaths and mental quietude between the battles for survival of the self vs the survival of the naysaying, destructive mind. I have made efforts to talk about it normally, as though I am having a terrible cold or the recurrence of a chronic physical condition, and to also talk of my therapist as a normal part of my life (most of the time- I do this with caution!)
    As a long time environmentalist, I have also struggled with the very idea of having the right to live when my species and my very existence is destructive to other living matter- I started engaging in this critical debate quite young. It is only recently that I starting realizing that all life comes of death, and although the scale is different, there will always be death for my life. The reason for living I come back to again and again? The one that forms the foundation of my optimism? It’s really simple.

    I exist.
    Like a raccoon, like a birch tree, like a dandelion.
    I exist.

    The realization first came to me backpacking, after reading a plaque about bull kelp and the way it roots itself to the bottom and opens up at the top, and I wondered in an evolutionary psychology type way why it would do that, and the thought came unbidden “to live.”

    I forget it again and again, and have devised some tricks to help myself remember the value of living.
    I write five things I am grateful for each night before bed- it seems to be good prevention for despair to be grateful (my favourite is that at least I have most of my teeth- which I can use even if I have a toothache- and I am often grateful not to have a toothache).
    I’ve started a little book called LIFT that I write notes to my despairing self when I am not despairing. When I despair, I often forget that I am not always in a state of despair. I also often forget to look at the book, but it helps somehow, it helps.
    We need each other. It’s not easy, this being human, it’s never been easy- our brains are complex and we live in a time of pretty severe disconnection from nature and from each other.

    Thanks again for this discussion.

  46. Tuesday afternoon. The comments on this post now exceed 18,000 words. And they keep coming…

    I’m trying to read them all, and respond to people. Please keep sharing, and more importantly, start your own dialogue within your own network of friends and family.

  47. Well done. Thank you for starting this important discussion. There have already been a lot of moving and thoughtful and important comments, and I’m sure this will become one of the largest groups/blogs this year. It is important. Thanks again.

  48. I lost my son to suicide. He reached out for help, but it was only clear in retrospect and he and I were so locked in battle that I couldn’t hear him. I now participate in a survivors’ support group and one thing I have learned (among many others) is that suicide is more than one thing and although it is not a sign of mental health (choosing life would be a sign of mental health) it is not always a sign of mental illness. It is sometimes a sign of frustration, desperation and hopelessness for an otherwise healthy person. I agree, talking and continuing to talk until someone listens is the best way to prevent suicide. I agree that therapy really helps and we need to be open and accepting of therapy just like any other medical treatment. And I definitely agree that it is a poor choice because it is not reversible. But I’m still not sure it’s a real choice. The counsellor I went to after my son died told me she had worked with people who had attempted but not completed suicide. They told her that they did not see it as a choice when they “were on the ledge”, as you put it. She said they were unable to see choices and other options. They could only see suicide as the option available to them. Sometimes, if we get the chance, we have to help people see reasons to live. With my son gone, it’s hard sometimes to see reasons. I am lucky to have some young children in my life who see me like a grandmother and they are my reason to live. Our time together is as special to them as it is to me and I would hate to leave them behind without our special times. Thanks for this blog. I hope I can get a copy of your book. I want to share it with others.

  49. First of all, thank you for starting this discussion. It’s one of the hardest topics to talk about, but definitely one very needed. Based on my own experience, I absolutely agree that it’s a necessity to share your troubled thoughts with others. Depression is bad enough by itself, and it’s even worst when you’re alone, and I know that a little bit too well. Recently, one of my closest friends went through a horrible experience, and I was afraid he would commit suicide. During the worst times, I tried to always be there for him, talk to him, support him, I even told him about my own issues of the past and it really helped him out. It’s a priceless thing to know you’re not alone.

    Even though I understand the urge to hide your feelings and your fears from the rest of the world for many different reasons (shyness, fear of being hurt) it’s not healthy. I struggled with depression for many years, and many forms of self-destruction (I’m still fighting those demons in my head), and most of the time, I was on my own. Many things have happened to me and I’m barely 20 years old. I’ve been in and out of therapy, and went through a dozen different meds. I’m not a very talkative person, and there are really few people that know how deeply screwed up I was, but during the worst times no one did. I was a few inches away from suicide, only restraining myself for my self-destructive nature. I bounded myself to life because I though I deserved to suffer, and suicide was the easy way out. The only thing that kept me going was art: music, drawing and reading were my way to hold on, but still I always wonder how would it have been if I had found someone I could rely on in those days. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so awful. Still, I found my way out of that depression reminding myself that I wasn’t the only one with issues, and by forcing myself to remember that I was alive, when my sister wasn’t. I was alive, and I was able to enjoy life, and out of respect for her, for everyone else that didn’t have the chance to be alive, but most of all for me, because if I didn’t enjoy being depressed, then why did I keep myself in that state? Another thing that helped me get through and cherish life was the constant reminder that Everything is Temporary. Pain, sadness and life will all go away, and I needed to appreciate all of that.

    An aspect I don’t like or agree very much with psychiatric medicine and society in general is that they tell you that being depressed is wrong, and you should hide it. What I’ve discovered in these past years is that sadness is necessary and inevitable; we just need to look at it under a different light, and not let the darkness swallow us. Feeling great pain enables us to feel great joy, and that’s what makes it all worthwhile. Maybe being able to see that could lead to being less dependant to medication.

    I’d be honoured to be able to help others by sharing the tales of the demons in my head

  50. Dave, thank you for your part in bringing awareness to mental health issues and forging a path whereby people feel they can speak openly about despair and depression. You’re absolutely right in saying that that these taboos need to be eradicated to save lives.
    Like so many others who have shared their experiences with despair here, personal or observed as a friend or family member struggled, I have also found myself on the edge of life and looking over the edge wondering if I should just leap off and get it over with, or face my fears and seek help. I’m thankful and proud to say that I found the strength to contact my doctor, my family and several therapists to pull me back into a functional life.
    My first major breakdown occurred in January 2007 when I was 25 years old and, at the time, I didn’t see a way out of my despair. Yes, I had to make that phone call to my employer and say “Hey, I am losing my grip and I need to take some time off.” I tried to explain to friends that I couldn’t go out for dinner or drinks because I was constantly nauseous from the depression and anxiety. These calls didn’t get great responses, and more likely comments such as “Just pull yourself out of it” or “It’s probably the weather (it was January in Calgary, so this wasn’t a totally off-the-wall thought), take a walk, that’ll make you feel better.” It was not necessarily their fault, but my employer and friends really had no idea what I was going through or what despair really was…what it’s like to literally feel yourself slipping away from life.
    Countless therapy sessions, doctor’s appointments, tablets of Cipralex, sobs and hugs from friends and family members later, I’m alive, I’m happy (though still experience “downtimes”) and amazed, but proud, that I made those first few phone calls to set up my support network. I took my mental health into my own hands because I was the only person that knew there was a problem! I still have no idea what brought me to it…I’m an introvert that will rarely offer up my thoughts on the day, let alone my experiences with depression and anxiety. We collectively need to bring awareness to those still suffering through their despair alone that yes, it’s hard to make those calls at first, but it gets easier…and will continue to get easier if we all start talking, sharing, living.
    Thank you and thanks to all who have shared their experiences. It takes a weight off and brings relief to me to be able to share openly and know that you and others truly understand how it feels to be alone in despair…and to finally dig yourself out. Much love.

  51. Depression, isolation, memories that will not leave you, show me a veteran who is seeing or has seen combat, I will show you someone who has thought of suicide at one time or another. It is something we never think about with our veterans.

  52. What is Mad Pride, where can I join?
    I am 63 and have both fought and enjoyed mental illness since early childhood. Thought about suicide a couple of times, tried halfheartedly once. I have been pretty open about this for most of my life, and at this point I am comfortable with the help of a couple of drugs including the horrid Paxil (which works so wonderfully for me I am loath to try anything else.) I don’t want talk therapy, tried it once and feel it hurt me more than helped.
    I recently saw a picture of someone wearing a t-shirt printed BIPOLAR I’d love to wear one. I wish that all of you younger people did not have to hide your illness, for fear of work and other reasons. I have spoken to people who have drug plans but purchase their own drugs to hide this “horror” fron an employer.
    I work, have had to take time off and have produced a note from the poor man I call my nut doctor rather than my family doctor, I am proud that we can work, we can contribute to society and damn it if we need to take time off well tough! At present the people I work with are comfortable enough to point out to me when I start bouncing off the wall.
    It annoys me that my creativity is blunted a bit by the drugs that help me deal with the world, but it is the price I have decided to pay to be stable. This is an individual decision.
    There have been some nice ups and some hellish downs in my life but looking back I think I have been lucky to have been able to live this way. I don’t think I would want to be “normal”

  53. thank you so much for writing this, and for sharing so much. it came at the perfect time — january 9th will be the 3 year anniversary of when my dad killed himself, and its such a strange and painful thing for me that has since made me hit points of being suicidal myself. most of the times i am okay, and can be rational about the whole thing, but at my lowest of lows, it can be a really terrifying and isolating place. i was very close to my dad and see so much of myself as being a part of him, and often times feel that i am doomed to the same fate.

    after you posted this, i in turn posted the link on my facebook and twitter, also saying that saturday is the 3 year anniversary of his death. its something i find i try to not talk about to people, even my good friends, because i don’t want to be alienated, a burden, a “downer”, and because i don’t want people to feel they need to pity me. posting that online, though, was a huge thing for me because i am trying to not be ashamed any more of these things are are broken and painful. i want to tell people that i am hurting, so they can be there for me and help and understand.

    thank you so much.

  54. Like so many others here, I’ve been in this inner war for a long time now. I, too, was touched by Dave’s original post, and have also been deeply affected by the brave, honest sharing the many commenters have contributed to.

    I’ve survived two suicide attempts (without too much permanent damage) and thought I had my depression under control, but 11 months of cancer-related immunotherapy brought it roaring back. Suddenly, the meds just weren’t getting it done, and I was back to the familiar pattern of writing down my desperate thoughts, isolating myself for fear of forcing others to deal with my morbid obsessions, and ER visits when it got to be too much. More med adjustments, and it’s gotten a little easier to bear, but I still dwell on the miseries of this world, and there is always more than plenty of that.

    I’ve found it’s also easy for me to develop arguments for my own suicide based on the human scourge on this planet, in terms of the survival of other species and the horrifying things people do to one another, on scales small and large. These arguments form a kind of background “music” to my day.

    And oh, the thin skin. Everything hurts. I’m so keenly aware of the hostilities that we all harbor, myself included. That awareness can become further isolating and utterly paralyzing.

    Anyway, thank you, Dave, for opening this avenue up. Obviously, many people need to talk about this, myself most certainly included. It’s good to have a safe place to share this much, even.

    I don’t know anyone here, but I am very familiar with your struggles, and in that light, I truly wish you all much peace (as elusive as it is) and every beam of hope you can find.

  55. Francesca Allan

    Sam Gaines (and anybody else), please contact me at goodbyepie (at) yahoo (dot) ca

    Thank you for your amazing post, Sam.

  56. My sister hasn’t spoken to me in almost two years, and now my son has shut the door on me completely and I don’t know what I did that was so awful or unusual. I don’t think they will ever speak to me again and I don’t know if I even want to go on living with out them. I am too sick and too tired and I can’t communicate through closed doors. How can they be so cruel? She was always a cold person by not my son, he was always warm and kind. For 30 years we had what I thought was a good relationship. I overlooked all the rude things he’s done over the years just to keep the peace. Maybe that was my mistake, I shouldn’t have waited and told him all at once the things I’ve put up with from him but I never cared how badly he treated me because I love him. He got involved in conversation with my sister two years ago that was clearly filled with her lies and he evidently believed it all. She paid no attention to him for thirty years before that, now she’s in and I’m out. Medication, doctors, therapists, nobody can help me and the one or two who could speak to them on my behalf, won’t.

    • Carolyn:
      Don’t give up. God can help you. Have you tried listening to any of Joyce Meyer’s teachings or reached out to a bible believing church?
      “The importance of Forgiveness” by John Arnott is an excellent small book that really helped me in my recovery.

  57. Thank you Dave for setting off such an important discussion. I too have usually hidden my mental health issues, which often made them worse.

    – violent childhood starting before I can remember
    – bouts of paralyzing despair starting in elementary school
    – recurring thoughts of suicide starting in middle school

    I used to believe that mental illness was a personal failure of will, that I was weak for not controlling my own thoughts. I finally banished the last of those feelings just a couple years ago, while changing my cocktail of meds. Going on or off certain drugs resulted in such massive symptomatic changes (both inward and outward) that my inner skeptic was forced to concede. It’s a “real” biochemical disorder, just as much as MS or glaucoma, and deserves to be viewed in the same light.

  58. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this piece.
    Here’s to kicking off a fresh start to 2010,
    Chris

  59. I share some of your experiences. I too had a nervous breakdown, in 1994. I was diagnosed with epilepsy and put on heavy duty Central Nervous System modifier drugs, then they decided that was incorrect and my problem was psychiatric, then I had to get off the drugs and had a whole lot of bad side-effects. I was terrified and extremely emotional.
    I was in a pit of despair that made me understand why people consider suicide. I vividly remember the sensation of falling into a black hole from which I never thought I’d get back.
    Fortunately I have a wonderful and understanding wife who helped me through all this. I had Anger Management counselling, which was terrific, and gradually, after 18 months off work, I started back.
    Fortunately again, the company principals were understanding and supportive and over time I made my way back to full functionality.
    For me, Ativan is a blessing. I take probably 8 tablets a year, only when I really need one, and they help me calm right down and avoid a major problem.
    All my family, friends and colleagues are fully aware of this and I agree completely that their support was crucial. I realize I have a mental issue that will be with me for ever, but I’ve learned coping skills that allow me to live a happy, fulfilled and active life.

  60. I thought about killing myself when I was 17, pregnant and unwed. I didn’t do it … We had buried my brother at age 24 that year and I couldn’t add to my parent’s grief. I gave my child up for adoption and then I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually it was not like walking uphill any more…I even began to skip and to enjoy the bumpy crazy road that is life.
    I am 51 now and have faced many other painful moments but I was there to talk to and hug my mother when she cried for her lost boy. I gave life to two daughters who have been their father’s and my most unconditional and joyful source of love and happiness. My son is getting married this summer to a beautiful girl who loves him as much as he loves her and I will be at their wedding- crying with unbounded happiness. . If I had allowed that moment of despair and fear to overwhelm me….

  61. Someone sent me the link to this because my life isn’t going well at all.

    You sort of lost me at “support from my social network of family and friends”. I don’t have any family and no close friends. I am now an old man, all the spam from AARP reminds me of that just about every day. I’ve realized that I stand a better chance of winning the lottery than I do of ever having a family. I’m of an age where I can expect my health to go downhill. Oh, and my career is totally screwed. So, I really don’t have anyone or anything to live for and no hope of that changing.

    I’m just going on inertia, I expect I have a few months before I give up completely. It’s possible that something might change, but since no one gives a damn about me, it’s really unlikely.

    • Matt, someone does give a damn. The person who sent you this link. A link to the voices of a lot of people who are or have been in rough shape like you. You are not alone. You have reached out on here. Reach out some more. Reach out for help, to a doctor, a therapist, the person who sent you this link. Read the other posts here. It’s not easy, not at all. But you can do it, I have faith in you. I truly do.

  62. My boyfriend just pulled the Dec.18 Toronto Star out of the recycling bin and pointed out the front page story. It’s about teen depression and suicide in Ontario’s remote northern region around James Bay. 13 teens in the area have committed suicide in 2009. Another 80 have attempted ( I don’t know if that was just in 2009…the article wasn’t too clear on that).
    I went up to Moosonee as a happy tourist this past summer with no idea this was happening around me!
    I’m sorry if this isn’t the right place to post this, but I feel that I have to do something to help these people in whatever way I can. Since you are getting noticed, Dave, I thought I would write a couple of names, since the last sentences in two different articles indicate that our government hasn’t been effective in giving these people what they need: “One night I was crying out in pain. The doctors put me on a referral and that was it, I never heard back.” and “The funding discrepancy means aboriginal children in crisis receive fewer child protection visits, and mental health care is scant…the Ontario government has yet to directly respond to the report.”
    My thoughts and tears go out to Sabrina Vincent, Nellie Trapper, and everyone who has lost someone to depression.
    Thanks for reading.

  63. Hello,

    I find the most difficult part of my journey with PTDS is the isolation that comes with it. I am on ODSP and take medication. I am a single mom of a 14yr old son who has recently been diagnosed with Tourettes. He is at the Farm Program through the Hincks Centre. I have tried to leave this realm two times now. Obviously, it didn’t work or I wouldn’t be here typing this. Here are some things I have learned:
    1) shit is good fertilizer
    2) making” top 10 favourite lists” make me happy
    3) journaling is really good medicine
    4)talking outloud to myself is very grounding, it is very powerful to hear your own voice when it feels that life is caving in on you
    4) Calling and going to the Gerstein Centre has been a life saver
    5) having really good “snot ball sessions” are cleansing, just let yourself cry hard and use your sleeve to wipe tears and nose
    6) finding a good therapist has been very much a journey in itself, finally found one… I am thank ful
    7) depression is very skilled at making you feel like you are unworthy of anything or anyone good. try to be a friend to yourself – this is not easy , but worth the attempt.
    8) I am really thank full for this site so that I could have the chance to remind MYSELF of everything I have just written.
    9) depression is also really good at not allowing breath in and out. when that happens then it’s friend anxiety wants to come along for the ride.
    BREATH, I find singing helps that. You can’t sing and not breath…it just doesn’t work.

    peace to all of us who struggle to stay afloat in this lonely, toxic, beautiful, astounding world we live in.

  64. Matt:

    You began your comment with: “Someone sent me the link to this because my life isn’t going well at all.”

    And ended it with: “It’s possible that something might change, but since no one gives a damn about me, it’s really unlikely.”

    Do you see a contradiction, there? I do.

    I find it helpful to ask that one person for help. Not to “take responsibility” for me, or to drag me out of my hole, but just to drag me out of the house. Take me to meet people, play video games (my generation, I know,) whatever. Anything at all.

    If I’m not up to leaving the house, I ask them if they want to come over and hang out for a movie, video games, whatever. Tell ‘em to bring a friend, if they like.

    We used to do that stuff when we were kids, right? Why don’t we do it as adults?

    I do those things, and anything else, however small, I can think of. Anything that helps me slowly build that network.

    It -has- to be a network, even if it’s a loose one, and individual connections aren’t as strong as what you’d consider “close friends.” The strength is in numbers. A larger network means you don’t put an excessive burden on any one person (which many will accept, but slowly discover exhausts them.) Ultimately, too, you -will- find people with whom you connect more deeply, with whom you have common interests, common outlook, and genuine friendship.

    Dragging yourself out of bed, or off the couch, or whatever, is the most incredibly difficult part for many of us, I know.

    That’s why I suggested asking that friend for their stubbornness in dragging you out occasionally. It’s not something you ask them to do “all the time.” That is EXHAUSTING, trust me. I’ve been on both sides of it. It’s something you do here and there, a little at a time.

    Like meds, it’s something that you build up, over time. Heck, I’ve had times when I left the house for all of about an hour or two for lunch with a friend, in the space of two weeks. This year, I spent the five days between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve without leaving the house, and without talking to anyone on the phone! I texted some, and emailed some, but I was otherwise holed up.

    In this particular case, that was mostly by choice. I appreciated the solitude and time to be entirely myself. I have, though, spent time similarly isolated, when it wasn’t a conscious choice, but the obvious reaction to my complete lack of interest in anything.

    All else aside, if it is at all within your means, -force- yourself to find a therapist. The good ones chose the profession because they genuinely care about people, develop deep attachments, and instinctively want to help those with whom they form those attachments.

    Just because you’re paying them doesn’t mean they don’t care. They’re not mercenaries, they’re just people paid to do something for which they have a genuine gift and calling.

    In fact, sometimes they care -more- than a close friend with whom you only spend that same hour a week. After all, therapists’ professional commitment is to focus on you, and their relationship with you, during your time together.

    …if you get one that nods off during your introductory session, though, move on to the next one on your list of candidates :-) True story. I didn’t take it personally, because I know what an awesome and interesting guy I am :-) Okay, I took it a little personally, but it wasn’t an ego-crushing blow.

    I once asked my therapist about the high mortality rate (predominantly suicide, of course,) associated with bipolar disorder (which I have.) I wanted to know I could “win,” where so many others have not. She said that the research all points to that network. She said that the studies (for which I have no citations, I’m sorry,) indicated those with the most healthy networks had significantly reduced suicide risk.

    I know that a healthy network requires a balance of dear, intimate friends, close friends, good friends, casual friends, acquaintances, and all that, but it starts with meeting people.

    Since bootstrapping that network is the most difficult part, you need someone to be stubborn with you here and there, if available, and you need to be stubborn with yourself occasionally.

    Again: I’m not saying “all the time,” or “just pick yourself up and go out there.” I’m saying: “if you need to sleep for a week, and getting out of the house feels like it takes an Act of God, then sleep for a week. Then, if you’re on your own, do whatever you can think of to get up, shower, and at least get out the door.”

    I’m speaking concretely about those of us with the “getting moving” form of these problems, but it applies, metaphorically, to other forms, as well. Ask for a little help, and a little outside stubbornness, and give yourself your own little dose of stubbornness, then congratulate yourself for getting out for lunch, and go back to bed.

    Meds can help IMMENSELY, too, but that’s a whole ‘nother bucket of wax.

  65. One of my tricks is to keep things around me that remind me of those closest to me.

    The most extreme example of this is the .22 rifle my father gave me for Christmas a few years ago. I like shooting (not that I do it much,) and I am something of a staunch Libertarian, so, despite the obvious risk, I have one, and expect will have more, eventually.

    That sounds like a dangerous proposition, but I have done two particular things that, I think, have helped me avoid making any permanent choices:

    With the rifle, Dad gave me two boxes of ammunition, wrapped individually. I haven’t, and I won’t, unwrap them. I use them to remind me that Dad gave me the gun, and how much it would grieve him if I used it to destroy the beautiful gift he and Mom gave me in the first place.

    You may be wondering what happens when I get another gun, especially if it’s not a gift? That one’s simple: I’ve promised myself that, if I ever make that choice, I’ll use the rifle Dad gave me, and those particular bullets. That makes it not -just- a choice to end my life, but also an explicit choice to wound my Dad in a way no one should have to bear. That makes it not about me and my suffering, but about him.

    I know he’ll die, one day, because we all do. By then, I hope I’ll have a wife and children (which is looking hopeful, right now, thankfully,) or at least -someone- in my life about whom I care enough to put them in that role. I know that sounds backward, but having someone in that role makes me less likely to hurt them, rather than more.

    As a practical matter, I also have a lock on the bolt, and the key in a separate place, but that’s a combination of basic household gun safety and another “are you sure” for me. If I’m going through a particularly bad period, I give the key to someone else, and tell them to hide it somewhere at their place.

    The point of all of these measures is to attach each step along the way to something that reminds me, however briefly, that what I’m contemplating is going to not just affect, but actively hurt someone else. It forces me to ask myself if I really want to go out like that.

    I don’t.

  66. Lastly (for now,) another immensely important reason for the awareness you advocate, here, Dave, is the prevention (to the degree possible) of bloody tragedy traceable directly to untreated, or poorly treated, stigmatized mental illness.

    We otherwise might not have lost 33 lives to it on April 16, 2007. I lived in Blacksburg, Virginia, for sixteen years, including 2007. I was out of town on April 16th, and I knew no one of the shooting victims directly, but it still made a hole in my life. I know a lot of the emotional victims, though, some who were -very- close to the dead.

    That is another tool I use, when necessary. Only one of them chose to end his life, that day, so there are at least 32 life debts owed, and I might as well pay whatever I can on one of those debts by sticking it out as long as I can.

    We are Virginia Tech. We will prevail.

  67. Pingback: talking ’bout the crazies « woman Being, woman Doing

  68. I have read this with a lot of interest. I agree, we should talk much more about issues.

    When I was growing up I had a number of health issues, which I had to disclose everywhere I went. I was diagnosed with a long-term condition in my late teens, but the same parent who had encouraged the disclosure of other illnesses for 18 years stated I should keep it to myself. This lead to feelings of shame about the disease, lack of disclosure and problems at work when an ambulance was called and they didn’t know what was going on! I think there was a difference between the normality of the less severe issues in childhood and in a child being seen to be unable to deal with it thus disclosure being encouraged and the seemingly more ‘private’ nature of a further illness at an older age. Yes, I could deal with all appropriate, however, non-disclosure, feelings of shame and confusion about these mixed messages from the same person about simliar things (to me anyway!) really lowered self-esteem and feelings of worth. To this day, I don’t recall any aunts, uncles, cousins being aware of the second scenario, but also have no guts to disclose to any of them! Parents trying to protect their children is understandable and I don’t doubt it was that which was the intention rather than anything sinester. But it does make you think, stigma of disease actually breeds further disease. What I worry about following this experience, that anyone who is not disclosing mental health issues could be further increasing the downward move of their effect and severity through feeling ‘unable’ either directly as I did or through the societal norm of ‘keeping schtum’ about anything which isn’t seen to be ‘proper’ and appopriate.

    Interestingly, following some other issues, I was diagnosed with a mild bipolar disorder, and again, encouraged ‘not to tell anyone’. In fact before being told this I had disclosed it to my former partner who was supportive having had a schizophrenic relative and mild depression himself and to about 10 close friends. About 4 of my friends (academically minded perhaps) were hugely encouraging, to the point of surprise, that they would know what to say, that they would know how to say it and that they had some kind of understanding of what I was trying to explain!

    The breakup with the ex-partner was the main catalyst for symptoms to spiral out of control and lead me to seek therapeutic support, which was incredible! I suppose in retrospect, a trained clinician would be, but the relief of disclosure of everything that prior to that had been a build up of ‘madness’ really made me feel more settled. To have a name for the issues also helped!

    Needless to say, the positive things I provide, my partner returned and we are strong again. I got an incredible set of opportunities and all is quite different compared to a while back.

    I have never considered meds nor would want to bearing in mind my low level condition, but am keen to discuss the issue much more with people around me. I am happy to take some of your suggestions forward and I hope my story has added to the discussion appropriately!

  69. An aunt of mine living in Switzerland, took her life this past October. When they told my cousin the devastating news, he fell flat to the ground out of shock and despair. How could this happen? We will never fully comprehend the pain she must have felt to want to end it all. Perhaps if she had been exposed to testimonials such as these, she would not have felt so alone with her pain. For me, reading everyone’s heartfelt postings brings me closer to understanding her suffering. I do wish though, that she could’ve read the honesty, the advice, the love, the struggles and the courage that is spilling over from this inspiring blog.

    I also wish that I could have taken her to visit the program where I work part-time. You see, I work at a place called Creative Works Studio (http://www.creativeworks-studio.ca/). We offer healing and recovery through creative arts. The studio provides a little oasis from the daily rigors and challenges of life for people living with long term mental illness or addictions. I am very aware of how fortunate I am to have this job. I get to make art with extremely courageous people. It’s pretty humbling. And the art work is stunning! I watch people who are in a really dark place, sit down at an easel and make something beautiful. It’s transforming, empowering and hopeful. And much like this forum, people feel safe and accepted at the studio. They like the fact that we treat them like artists and not as patients. One woman suffering from severe depression came to us last summer and said that she was giving herself 3 months to live. If she did not feel better in that time she would end her life. Well, in that time she discovered photography and we displayed her work in three shows. She is still with us and still struggles with her depression but she found meaning and a voice through a camera lense. One of my oldest friends at the Studio has schizophrenia. I was helping him mix a colour for his painting and he told me that one of the beautiful things about painting for him is that when he paints, the voices in his head finally stop and are silent. I’m not just sharing these experiences with you to promote my program. I want to simply let you know that there are many alternative ways of healing. To learn how to be playful again can be huge. I highly recommend it!

    I have a Rilke quote that an old friend gave me once when I was going through my own dark time. I have it taped to my wall beside my computer screen at work. I read it every time I slip back into a twilight-zone of sadness and I’ve passed it on numerous times to the people I work with at the Studio. I’d like to share it now here.

    “Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. Perhaps you do carry within you the possibility of creating and forming, as an especially blessed and pure way of living; train yourself for that – but take whatever comes, with great trust, and as long as it comes out of your will, out of some need of your innermost self, then take it upon yourself, and don’t hate anything.”

    - Rilke

    If you are a caregiver, please also look after yourself. Take time for yourself and reach out for support when you need it. If you are someone struggling with a mental illness please never see yourself as a burden on anyone. This is an intimidating world. We have to stick together and care for one another. You are experiencing the true spectrum and capacity to feel. If you are feeling low, know that it will pass and things will get better. Try and focus on the present moment, build a relationship with it. Try not to see it as an obstacle. Eckhart Tolle says: “joy cannot come to you–ever. It emanates from the formless dimension within you, from consciousness itself and thus is one with who you are.”

    Thank you Mez for starting this important dialogue. Thank you everyone for your courage. Rock on!

  70. I love this post. So many people go through things that they’re not able to say outloud. Whether it be because of shame or fear of consequences or just plain old fear of losing what people they have in they’re lives. I am an agoraphobic(fear of situations that you can’t get out of. ie fear of public) and I have been one for 8 years now. I am also an emetophobic(fear of throwing up.)and the triad that completes my phobias is a germ phobia. More specifically other people’s germs. At one point the panic attacks were so unbearable for me. Intense stomach pain, dizziness, sweating, and even gagging which would set off another kind of panic for me. The fear of on-coming attacks were so frightening that I couldn’t function in a classroom well, especially when I was called upon. I ended up taking the easy way out and dropped out of school. Which I have regretted severely.

    I grew up in the kind of household where we had to step very lightly. My father had a heart bypass surgery before I dropped out and his mood swings were very unpredictable. If I ever talked about how I was feeling, he would always interupt me with a “Do you know how good you have it compared to other people?”, or ‘Quit your sniveling, your worried about feelings when I almost died on an operating table.’. I was always very resentful to him for his lack of compassion for my feelings and my interests and in turn I also resented my mother for not standing up for me. After I dropped out of school, I lost all my friends. Apparently they all didn’t want to associate with a ‘bad seed’. Whatever the hell that is *laughes*

    I met a man. I thought that it wouldn’t be a good idea to get too serious because we would end up breaking up eventually. I mean, let’s face it. No one wants to stay with a girl who keeps coming up with excuses as to why she can’t go out or brushes her teeth for 10 minutes after you stick your tongue in her mouth during a ‘kissing session’. But only after a couple of months did I realize how much I cared for him and that even he had fears too. Which to me was a “Oh my god, I’m not alone.” moment. The biggest step for me at that time was moving in together. His germs almost became visable little creatures all over the place and I had to choose. To make a conscience decision to get over it because I really loved him. So every morning when I got up I had to say to myself “If I love him then I’ll love ALL of him” I know that it sounds silly and don’t get me wrong. I didn’t cure myself of my fear of germs. But after a year or so I was able to forget that he even had germs or to think of his germs as my own.

    A couple of years later I was able to slowly fix the relationship with my parents and I was noticing a slow change in my parents. My mother had to start working to support both of them which (I think) gave her a sense of self. She was able to start saying what she felt and stand up for herself a bit more. While my father started to open up a bit more and was not so judgmental. When I asked my Mom about it she told me that after my Dad’s surgery he fell into depression. That his lashing out at everybody was not him, so much as his mental illness. And that he was now on pills and seeing therapists. The man that I thought was made of stone was actually hurt inside. Then my mother told me that all those years she took his ‘verbal lashing’ personal and in turn would hurt herself physically. And that she was now seeing a therapist as well. I was stumped. It was unbelievable. I hugged my mother(which i hadnt done in years) and told her that I forgave her. I went to their house and then hugged my Dad. I didn’t tell him why because even I know men have their pride and if he ever decides to tell me all of that stuff on his own I will gladly sit there and listen. It was at that moment that I decided to seek help. My doctor prescribed me with an anti-anxiety pill as I had slowly gotten over my depression on my own. But I still had phobias and anxiety. I was very scared of the medication at first but as I saw how it had helped my Dad, my fears slowly went away. I am still on them today(5 years later).

    One Christmas, I was very sick and I was gagging really badly (I think I’ve forgotten how to throw up honestly) and my man sat next to me the entire time, while I was freaking out, rubbing my back and telling me that it was okay. At one point he said that I was cute which baffled me so much that I turned to him, with tears in my eyes, and said “Why the hell do think this is cute?!” And he told me that because I was freaking out so much, and trying to hold it back, that I looked cute. “Don’t worry so much, just do it. It’s just throwing up and I’m right here with you.” I couldn’t believe that he actually calmed me down with those few sentences and stopped my panic attack. Then I did something that I thought was impossible, I actually stopped holding back and tried to throw up! I couldn’t believe how much his support helped me and changed me. It still baffles me to this day.

    The next hurdle that I had to face, was getting married. For an agoraphobic, to stand in front of all your family and people you know is sooo horrible. I had to up my dosage a bit a couple of monthes ahead of time just to be prepared. But the thing that helped me through it the most, was having him there with me. As corny as it sounds. *laughs* But I told him, ahead of time, not to leave me by myself. If he wanted to talk to people to take me with him. And he never broke that promise once. To see my parents, especially my Mom who had a problem with standing up and talking to people, make a speech brought tears to my eyes. I was so proud of her that I stood up and went to talk to others without my new hubby. When we went on our honeymoon I shook off the shell that I had created myself, and went to another Country. Somewhere where I had absolutely no control, no sanctuary and was surrounded by other people and ‘new’ germs. I’m not going to lie and say that it wasn’t tough. I had to prove to myself that this new life I had started with my hubby was not going to start off badly or with any excuses that I tended to use to get out of phobic situations. I now have great memories of fun times and a tropical ocean which I never thought, in my life, that I’d ever see.

    I still have my phobias. I still have my pills, which I got off of once and surprisingly I didn’t combust! *laughs*, I still can’t go into public washrooms, still hold my breath sometimes when strangers walk by. And I still have ups and downs with my agoraphobia that will keep me inside for weeks at a time, but with all that I have accomplished so far the list of ‘still can’ts’ is getting smaller. It’s one day at a time. Never think too far ahead. Which is really hard to do I know, but you just don’t know whats going to happen. You can’t overcome depression and/or anxiety in one day, but you will have to have patience. And above all, faith. Whether in religion or in yourself.

    Everyone has a tip. Chanting a poem, mantra, or prayer. Saying what they’re grateful for everyday.(which I do by the way) But there is one memory, or sentence that someone has said to you, that I think can get you through it all. For me, that’s my husband rubbing my back while I’m gagging and saying “You’re cute.” for him, I will overcome this.

    If anyone reads this(*laughs* I know it is long) and can relate to anything. Even just one of my phobias or experiences. Then I hope you get that ‘Ah, I’m not alone.’ feeling. Because that was the turning point in my life and I know it will be your turning point too. If that happens, then I’ll have accomplished my task. Then when you open up and tell others your problems, you just never know, but they might have the same ones too. You will then accomplish something. Something which can be one of the many things, you can be grateful for.

  71. Pingback: On Passing and Out of the Closet (Mental Health) « Thoughts of Jess Five

  72. My uncle commited suicide before I was bored. We share the same birthdate. I turn 18 this year and for some reason I’ve been wondering about him an awful lot. I wish he was still alive.

    I think that my reason for chosing life is because there is always at least one thing that will make you happy no matter how sad you are. You just have to look for it. I think that’s kind of the point of life. To find all the things that make you happy and put them together.

    That sounds simple enough writing it down, but I still find myself not able to find a good enough point to life to satisfy myself.

    I don’t think I would ever end my own life, but it has crossed my mind. I feel like it’d just be simpler than dealing with the things that make me sad and upset.

    Im starting therapy on the 19th. I can’t wait.

  73. Pingback: A Note about Suicide (Not a Suicide Note): Article by David Breslin | In Primal Session

  74. When depression first started setting in for me, I began alienating friends, so by the time I actually hit suicidal, I felt like there was no one I could really talk to.
    Then, as I began to try to help myself, I discovered that almost everyone else’s advice was to talk to a friend. This is even more depressing when you feel that you do not have any friends, and frankly it made it worse.

    I apparently take a more analytical approach than most people, because what ended up helping me was a combination of three things: listening to “17 Lies That Are Holding You Back and the Truth That Will Set You Free” by Steve Chandler, finding books about Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT, originally started by Albert Ellis) and exercise. The books got me on the right mental track, and the exercise helped with the chemicals.

    I may still end up seeking more therapy, but these little things really helped pull me from the edge, and got me to the point where I could admit to other people that I had a problem.

  75. Michelle, I also share you analytical approach (Do you know your Myers-Briggs Type? I am INTP)
    and I understand what you mean about alienating friends. Best wishes as you battle the chem balance process.

  76. Thanks, Mez. Thanks for writing this, and to everyone else. Here is a link to another article about suicide that someone I know recently posted on her blog. She is a poet, and her second poet friend committed suicide recently. This is what she wrote in response.

    http://thebestamericanpoetry.typepad.com/the_best_american_poetry/2010/01/on-suicide-by-jennifer-michael-hecht.html

  77. It is a horrible thing to give birth to a child and then panic every time you look at him. To try to change his diaper and cry with frustration and shake with fear. To be unable to successfully breastfeed and hate yourself for switching to a bottle of formula. To feel utterly devoted to a tiny baby while feeling terror every time you think of a whole life with him.

    This was my experience with postpartum depression. A mother who rejects her baby? That is the ultimate crime. I am so blessed to have had family and a few solid, amazing friends help me. Recover? Not exactly. I can’t recover from the horror it is to bring the most precious being ever to have existed into a world of hate and chaos. I did that. His beautiful, open heart will slowly close as the years go by and there is only so much I can do to slow that process and help him grow with love. And, god forbid the days when I contribute to the closing of that precious heart. Every day I grieve for the unimaginable tenderness and vulnerability it is to love someone so much. It hurts like hell. It is a dark beauty of a mystery to love that much.

    I was re-assembled by a team made up of therapist, psychiatrist, massage therapist, acupuncturist and medications. I still take lamictal and sometimes clonazapam or ambien for sleep. Sometimes, with hormones and fears for the safety of all of us on this planet it is just too damn hard to sleep.

    I thought of suicide intensely then. Fleetingly sometimes now, but can’t take my life for the beauty that may yet occur and for the sanity of my beloved 4 year old son. There is beauty. There is love. And that, when the curtains part to reveal it, has to be enough.

  78. you have suffered the virus inflicted on ‘those that notice’; those who do not notice, do not suffer, and cannot truly ‘enjoy’.
    [but sometimes living in the 'grey middle' has its benefits.]

  79. Mez –

    Thank you.

    Around the time I first met you I was actually receding into a depression myself. Normally outgoing and social, I became a hermit, afraid to go outside, knowing the panic attacks that could ensue by being in public. Interestingly enough, going to TPSC meetings was the one thing that actually got me out of the apartment on a regular basis — they were my only real social connection for quite a while.

    I find that meds are certainly more taboo than other things. Yes, meds are overly prescribed. There is still the stigma out there that you can (or, especially, SHOULD) figure your problems out without meds because otherwise you’re taking the ‘easy route’ out, you’re not strong enough, etc. etc. Saying yes to meds (especially with a strong stigma against meds in my family) was probably one of the hardest decisions I made, and I used to carry a lot of shame around because of this. Not any more. I’m one of the lucky ones who has not experienced (…that I know of) negative side effects; I’m on Effexor (venlafaxine) and it works for me. I’m blessed. And I share this with friends to let them know that it IS an option for folks to consider.

    Since that time several years ago, through therapy and the support of some close friends, I’ve come out of the darkest times, and am now the stable, confident, and social person I used to me. At least, most of the time. I’ve realized that my mental health issues are a chronic illness for me — one that I’m going to have to monitor for the rest of my life. I’ll still have some ‘bad days’ (even a bad week) every so often, but I’ve gained the tools and confidence to work through things, through friends, therapy, and meds.

    Thanks for taking the step with sharing, Mez.

  80. The sad reality is that the taboos you mention, at the beginning of this piece, are taboos because they really do happen. Case in point, the reason my boyfriend, well, ex-boyfriend now, no longer wanted to see me was because I was “to much of a drag to be around”.

    The ironic part is, I’m in a relatively good headspace right now. A bit down at times, a bit too focussed on the negative rather than the positive side of things. But a far cry from 10 years ago, when I was feeling suicidal.

    I tried psychiatry and psychotherapy, but unlike you Mez, have not had the good fortune of finding a professional that is a good match for me. At least not yet. Back then, the doctors also put me on medication. I got the sense though that the medication was more an opportunity for them to effect a quick fix and wash their hands of me – here takes this pill, if it doesn’t work come back in two weeks we’ll try another type – rather than to get at the root causes. I gave them up and vowed that if I couldn’t come up with a reason to live without chemical help, well, then it was time to go.

    What got me through that black period was two things. First, I broke down time into manageable increments. Rather than trying to face living the rest of my life, I would tell myself to just hang around for the next 30 minutes. If after that I couldn’t handle any more, than I would give myself permission to kill myself. 30 miutes stretched into an hour. An hour stretched into a day. Days stretched into quarter of a year. Now I’m comfortable planning a year out.

    The second thing that got me through was having the good fortune to meet one person who was willing to listen to me, in an non-judgemental fashion with caring (that seems to be the missing component with therapists for me – I sense that I am a job to them and that lack of personal investment as to whether or not I make it, which I had with my friend, may be why therapy hasn’t worked for me?). He would listen to me talk every lunch hour for a number of months. And when I was finished spilling my guts, and the sky didn’t fall in, and he hadn’t run away screaming (which others since him have), I started to feel better.

    The upside of that experience – and yes there is an upside – is that I no longer take life as given. I know there is a choice, and yes I believe that suicide is a legitimate choice. And today, and every day that I can see in my future, I have chosen to live. And because I have chosen to live as a conscious choice, I embrace it fully, passionately and live it in such a way that at the end of each day if I were to die, or if I get shmucked by a driver while cycling/walking, I have no regrets.

    So I concur that talking is the solution. But I also respectfully submit that the taboos are real and that you do run the risk of losing lovers, friends and family. But the people that remain will be gems of the highest quality.

  81. Dear Dave,

    Thank you so much for this letter. We never talk about suicide or mental health and for me years ago it was an option, a positive option. I had a really violent childhood and experienced violence in my adult life, and all the PTSD and depression that comes with it. And the suicide as an option was most prevalent when I started to do some therapy work in the early 1990s and began feeling the anger I had about what i had been through. I made many choices each day, to keep on living. But one night made the most difference to me. I was crying for hours, and it seemed like I would never move past the despair. Somewhere I had a new thought about why I went through what i went through. I knew there is no meaning in it, just random violence, or intentional since mine was from family. But I told myself that I could come out the other side of my despair and use it to live my life. I told myself I could figure out a way to write about it. Or to help other people going through it.

    That was in 1993. I still had suicidal thoughts for a few more years. And I had lots of set backs too, more violence and loss. But over the years I’ve been able to heal myself with lots of therapy – and I had a good psychiatrist, and a better psychotherapist, and now using some anti-depressant and sleeping pills. I have a really good GP and a decent support network. I have distanced myself from my family, which really helped. And I am now in a job where I can provide support to others.

    A few words on a page doesn’t get at all the work it takes. I hope that as more of us learn to talk to our circle of friends, our circles will converge.

    Reasons to live: one more hug; swimming in the lake in the summer when its still too cold; running faster than I should and knowing how good I’ll feel afterwards; riding my bike down St. George when the light is green at College and hitting that curve where it turns into Beverly; getting high with a friend and laughing at a bad vampire movie. knowing my friends still need me; hope for my future because I have made it through so much already; meeting women students who have been through so much more than I will ever be through from DRC; knowing I can get more skills and help more people like my therapist has helped me; wanting to travel more; knowing death waits for me anyway, my life won’t go on forever.

  82. Pingback: Grace in Small Things – Week 3 « Bad Mummy! No Cookie!

  83. I have an anxiety disorder – have had for 5 years now. I have been on medication for it, since it started. I am currently in another battle against it, having to switch medications and begin therapy over again.

    When my anxiety first began, I was completely alone. No one I knew had it because no one ever talked about it. I had no one to turn to, no one to talk to so I sat in my bed, crying for hours and hours while one of my brothers would just sit with me and hold my hand because they were all terrified for me and didn’t know how to help. I now openly say “I have an anxiety disorder” because I know how it felt to be sitting there alone and feeling like you’re the only one trying to fight through it, and wanting to give up on life sometimes. If I can help one person by just talking to them and saying “I’m with you 110% because I have it too”, then it could change the world.

    I applaud you for posting this message. Thank you. :)

  84. I have had PTSD for over 34 years now. That includes Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety Disorder. For the last 18 of those 34 years it has been chronic and I have had to be on medication for both full time. Unfortunately they don’t work all the time.

    Ironically I was in the health care field when it started and several of those years in the mental health care field.

    I have ALWAYS talked openly out my mental health issues. If you know me you know I have Major Depressive Disorder and Panic Disorder. I can honestly say though that I have neverr once seriously considered suicide.

    Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. “I’ll kill myself and then they will be sorry”….yep true, but guess what hoss??? YOU won’t be around to see it.

    Suicide is the ULTIMATE act of selfishness. The consequences of this one action sends out ripples like a concrete block dropped in the middle of a calm pond. It DEEPLY affects people you haven’t even thought of. That is why, especially in young people, you will sometimes see suicides in “swarms”.

    Suicide isn’t an answer to anything. Being mentally ill is no different than being a diabetic. Both are caused by a chemical imbalance in your body. There is no shame. Get help.

  85. “Get help.” is an interesting statement. Getting help has been a big problem for me. After a decade of trying to get help and trying to change things, I am in much worse shape than before. Asking for help and being ridiculed is expensive. Asking for help and being ignored is expensive. Talking to highly trained professionals and being told that they can’t do anything for you is really expensive,

    As far as killing myself and “they” will feel sorry goes, it would take months for anyone to even find my body. I really am that isolated. No family, no friends and a totally screwed up career.

    After a decade of trying to change things, I’m pretty much done. I don’t have either the money or energy to continue the effort. For me to me to live through my next birthday, someone else is going to have to pick up some of the burden of getting me help. Since I probably stand a better chance of winning the Lottery than someone actually helping me, I expect to be dead within a few months.

    Yeah, I’m asking for help.

  86. Hi Matt,

    I just read your post. I remember a long time ago having some doctor tell me “I just need to pull my socks up”. I was too young at the time to “pull my socks up” and give the guy a good swift kick in the ass. Instead , I cried and felt hopeless. You have incredible tenacity after all you have been through and to still say “Yeah, I’m asking for help”. After many trial and errors, I finally found a therapist that really matches with me. She is through the Family Service Association which, depending on you job, is either free or sliding scale. There is also the Gerstein Centre in Toronto. If you are able, you can call them at 416 929 5200. They have a crisis line as well as a really beautiful place that you can go stay for a few days FREE! They have around the clock councilors that you can talk to if you want or you can just be there and try to find your “centre” on your own.

    I wish you peace Matt. Good luck in your journey.

  87. Patti, thank you for your follow-up. I’m over 2500km from Toronto, so it is somewhat impractical for me to visit. I am looking around locally, but I don’t know that I will actually be able to find help. Being a couple of standard deviations away from average can certainly be a disadvantage at times.

  88. Hey Matt,
    I don’t have any new ideas for you except: Is possible to physically move in order to be closer to people and resources? It sounded to me like your isolation is compounding an emergency situation. Even if temporary, getting connected again could be of some value to you. Whatever you decide to do, I just wanted to let you know that I read your post and am hoping for your recovery. I also want to state that any guilt trips out there about suicide being selfish is beside the point and an absurd thing to say to someone who is already suffering so deeply.

    Hoping for you…

  89. Kate, thanks for the suggestion. I’m already living in a big city, so just moving somewhere else is unlikely to help. Being surrounded by uncaring strangers may be worse than sitting in a firetower in the middle of a forest. Or not. I don’t know.

    I do know that I am very short on resources, particularly energy and drive, Writing something here is difficult. Asking for help on some of the mailing lists I’m on has resulted in lots of ridicule and derision. That’s the way things are turning out for me, it’s frustrating.

    I feel a bit guilty for taking up space on someone’s blog talking about my problems, but there is a shortage of venues for me to say anything about needing help.

  90. Hey Matt,

    No need to feel guilty. This is my blog, and I welcome your comments and thoughts and personal story. Thank you for sharing.

    Curious, how did you hear about this blog? What brought you here? We’re happy to have you in the discussion.

    I want to echo Kate, and encourage you to consider a change of location. Seek a home that can provide some sort of emotional support, friendship, etc. It’s really hard to heal alone. That’s what friendship is for. It gets us through hard times, it gives us new perspective when we lose our own, it gives us a little faith, and at minimum it gives us distraction.

    Things do get better. There are good times ahead for you. But you have to seek them.

    Please keep in touch and let us know how you’re doing.

    It’s a beautiful day in Toronto. Grey, damp, drizzling, quiet, and beautiful.

    ~ dave

    • Francesca Allan

      Hey, Dave. I’m formally inviting you to the CAPA conference at U of T in May. Please get in touch with me. I’d like to interview you.

  91. Hey Matt,

    I just want you to know that you are in my thoughts. Please take heed of what Kate and Dave had to offer. Be kind to yourself Matt, you deserve it.

    Patti

  92. I’m glad to hear that I’m not offending the blog’s owner by droning on here.

    Moving really doesn’t look to be a viable option. All I would do is leave one place where I am alone and go to another place that I am alone, and in the new place I wouldn’t even know my way around. There’s no place where I can expect any of the friendship and support that I really do need. When I talk about being alone and isolated, it really is so bad that few people can even begin to comprehend it. I know that when I die there won’t be any tears shed, there really isn’t anyone close enough to care.

    I’ve done a lot in my life to help others, now there’s no one willing to help me. It’s a rather frustrating situation.

    Over the weekend I finally managed to work up the drive to fill out a web form for a local place that offers counseling. Today, absolutely no response. Someone should read them the riot act on how damaging that can be. Every time I ask for help and fail, it just makes it that much more difficult. I may be to the point that I need more help than will ever be available to me. If so, I really don’t have more than a few weeks to a few months to live. And then several more months until anybody discovers the body (have to wait for the house to be foreclosed on and somebody breaks in).

  93. Matt,

    You sound totally convinced that absolutely no one is there for you, but LOOK. People are writing to you here. People care that you find what you need. Something is telling you that no one cares even in the face of direct evidence to the contrary.
    I wonder why you are doing that.
    I’m glad you had the wherewithall to call a counseling resource.
    Call them again. They may have a big back log, one never knows. Keep trying.
    You are not alone. Saying that over and over again will only make it true in your mind. These posts are evidence to the contrary.
    Hang in, open up to the help around you.

  94. I can relate to Matt and his bad experiences trying to get help. I’ve been on many different medications, had ECT and even transcranial magnetic therapy and I still wake up every day I wonder why I bother living. And my case is considered mild because (at the time at least) I was going to school and working. Who knows, maybe I would be worse if I hadn’t at least tried.

  95. Kate, while I appreciate the kind words here, they fall far short of the actual help I really need. I know there isn’t anyone here for me because I have actually tried to get help from people I thought I could trust. I’ve actually tried to get help from highly trained professionals. After a decade of trying, I’ve learned that there isn’t much available for someone like me. I’ve run out of resources to keep trying. If the best I can expect in life is low level misery, it’s time to quit. I’m still trying, but I’m burned out. If there aren’t some positive changes soon, I’m giving up entirely.

  96. Matt,
    I’ve been following this thread and hoping you are doing better- did you have any luck trying to call the crisis center? Do you have any creative outlet you can do to try to break through this while you are getting help? Please see that this is some help, while not as much as you need, please see it is something. Don’t give up, and accept what little positive there may be.

  97. noreen mckechnie

    Matt,

    I am not sure you are listening to us. We are here for you. Maybe not there in person but listening and hoping. I tried talk therapy twice and boy was it useless for me. But one thing that one of them said that I thought was soooo stupid actually did help at times, and that was to say when I started thinking about being responsible for every bad thing that ever happened in the world was “I don’t need this” After a while it did work at times. I know I sound weird but that is because I am, so try it. Excercise is also supposed to be good for you so if you could do some walking it may clear your head, but keep in mind my mantra that physical fittness is bad for your health. It sounds like you are working, that is a good thing because it puts you in contact with people even if only superficially It still is contact. Have you had any drug therapy? I have a friend who spent almost two and a half years trying to get her drugs correct, but that sort of implies that you need a good drug plan because these babies are expensive. Hang in and remember there are lots of us who have been where you are and those of us who are here have made or are making it through and we want you to try as well

  98. Francesca Allan

    Matt, hang in there. I have been where you are now and it gets better. Write to me at cescasimpson (at) yahoo (dot) ca if you want to. I’m in Victoria, BC and we can talk on the phone if it would help you.

  99. Matt,
    If it’s an emergency, go to the emergency ward. Although not the most hospitable of places, there are nurses, doctors, other patients, and reminders of the miracle that is life all around you there. You may not been seen right away, but someone will be monitoring you in triage. Take the opportunity to advocate for yourself. If you wait for someone to call you back, you give them the control. You have it in you, Matt, find it. You are in a city with many emergency wards. Take your pick. None of them will be pleasant, but if it’s really as bad as you say, and we believe you, then go, do it for yourself. You deserve the attention and care that will be provided there. Be firm, tell them that you need their help, and tell them that this is serious!
    I thought of you as I biked past a sign yesterday that said something like “The best antidote to despair is doing something for someone else.” Have you thought about the possibility of giving as a way to find meaning in life?

  100. Matt,
    If you can make up your mind to write to this blog you can also make up your mind to do something else that will help. It turns out that you are the one with the solution; other people can only encourage and support you while you try to reach it.
    If your friend network isn’t working for you it’s probably because you’re coming across as extremely needy, and that most people find very draining. As Zara said, go help someone else – serve in a soup kitchen, help out at the food bank – anything. You’ll find that there are people who are more needy than you who are getting on with the limited lives they have, often cheerfully.
    Do something active. Go for a walk, a run, a bike ride, skating, whatever you’re capable of. Activity is anti-despair.
    Write down what’s good about you. Ignore what’s not – never write that down! – but just put down the good points. You obviously have some – you’re intelligent, articulate, you care about people, someone cares about you, you have certain skills, …
    Remember you’re a worthwhile person who can contribute to the world in some small way and who’s worthy of being liked and even loved by someone.
    One of the skills I learned in Anger Management was to recall an angry period and remember the internal dialogue. Then, when I was not angry, review that dialogue and see if it made sense. Of course it did not in general. From that I learned to recognize the dialogue that led me to explode and allow me to change it. You could do something similar with despair.
    The net of all this is that it’s up to you and you’re capable of dealing with this if you decide to.

  101. Let me say several things.

    1. I do not have any close friends. None. Zero. Nothing.

    2. Going to an ER would result in me being locked up and drugged against my will to keep me quiet. Not acceptable. I would strongly prefer to die rather than give up my freedom.

    3. I’ve done lots of volunteer work over the years. Now it’s my turn for someone to help me. I have managed to do some good, but I am burned out. I have paid my dues and then a bunch. Why the hell do they deserve help and not me? Because I’m not an addict? Because I’m not involved with domestic violence? Yeah, I’m seriously frustrated by the dozen of organization who would gleefully help me if I fit those categories and the total lack of any to help me.

    I will state this flat out. Just because someone has an MD and supposedly subscribes to a set of professional ethics is no guarantee that they will have my best interests in mind. I had to go through 4 doctors before I found one who didn’t insist on drugging me out of my mind to remove a small skin cancer. I’ve had another doctor misprescribe a drug for me (not dangerously so, but still…).

    And for the question about drug therapy. After eight years of trying a lot of different things, with some spectacular failures due to my atypical response, the best results have left me merely miserable. Without drugs I am annoyed, but not as miserable. I’m fed up with trying drugs and will not try any more unless there is someone to closely monitor my reaction. Since there is absolutely no one, and probably never will be, more drugs are just not going to happen.

    My current contract ends this week. I’m putting all of my energy into finding another gig. I wish I had some moral support. I wish I had the finances to be able to weather a long spell of unemployment. Instead, I think of the H. Beam Piper solution on a daily basis.

  102. Hey Matt,
    I feel sad that you are pushing away the love and help that the folks here are offering. It won’t save your life on its own, absolutely. But it is evidence that people are TRYING to help. I suspect people have TRIED to help you all this while. You seem to have decided that there is nothing valid in that help for you.
    I think someone even gave you their email address, willing to start phone conversations with you. Isn’t that something? I’m sorry that you are so deep in this.

  103. Francesca Allan

    Matt, you are not alone. I will email Dave Meslin with my phone number. Please use it.

  104. Pingback: A note about suicide (not a suicide note). « Mez Dispenser | depressionmgr

  105. Hey there,

    Just heard you on DNTO and was nodding the whole way through the interview. I’m on the other side of the worst year of my life and have come to many of the same conclusions and strategies that you described.

    Thank you so much for sharing. It’s so very important to bring these kinds of struggles out into the light of day.

    I’m going to go cook myself a meal now,

    Thanks again!

  106. I think I might be finally emerging from a very dark and desperate time. I have been trying to dodge some very painful memories and a few existential dilemmas by numbing my mind with a consistent stream of drugs for close to a decade. When I cleaned up my act, I noticed that I had lost the ability to react accordingly to situations and process my emotions without having meltdowns. I had stunted my emotional capacity and am now having to play catch up.
    Some of my “friends” have left me, I lost my job in which I had a flourishing career and my band that I had dedicated every ounce of energy to, broke up. All of these things occurred roughly at the same time and right when I needed them the most. At first I tried seeking people in which I could relate to but kept failing miserably and so I gave up for a long while. I now realize that I was probably subconsciously looking in the wrong places to give myself the excuses I needed to justify my addiction. I became very shut off and isolated from people and started to develop mild agoraphobia. I have very nihilistic tendencies and was incapable of making discriminating life choices, more often then not those decisions lead me to very dark ally’s. Doctors have suggested putting me on meds, and I’m sure it could benefit me in some way. I don’t see any shame in it, especially since many of my family members rely on taking meds for a whole array of imbalances and disorders, one of them being bi-polar disorder, but as it turns out pharmaceuticals where just a recreation for me.
    I have recently had some revelations which are giving me the self worth that I must have been lacking all these years. I am emerging from my state of paralysis, it wasn’t easy at first, getting out of bed to have a shower in the morning used to be a major accomplishment but slowly I added new and stimulating things to my routine, which have reawakened my curiosities, I’m starting to see purpose again.
    Thank you all for your honesty it’s made me feel less alone.

  107. Elizabeth and Nell,

    I have found both of your notes very inspiring. I believe, I too am crawling out onto the other side.
    I’m taking life a day at a time and am functioning pretty well most days now. If you could, would you mind writing a bit more about your journey to get to where you are now? I would like to know how you built your strengths.
    If that feels too invasive, no worries.

    I am so happy for you both.
    truly,
    Patti

  108. Natasha McKenna

    I heard you on DNTO this weekend and I’m so glad I did. I got very emotional hearing your story and while mine is different in many ways I could totally identify with it.

    I grew up with mental health and addiction issues in my family and have felt the shame and loneliness since an early age. It’s not something you ever feel like you can tell anyone about. When my father ended up in Unit 9 for manic depression, the name of the mental health wing of the hospital where I grew up – very welcoming huh, I was embarrassed and confused and at that time couldn’t understand what was going on for my dad. It wasn’t like my dad had cancer and I could tell anyone or ask questions. Why is that? It’s lonely for sufferers and their families.

    I’m almost 30 now and I’ve had my own challenges with depression and anxiety. It’s been a few years since I’ve had a panic attack and I feel like I have to tools to prevent one from happening again. Depression, I know will always be there if I listen to long to the negative voice in my head . For me mindfulness has been a real gift and a practice I continue to try to follow because I know how much it helps me (I know it’s not for everyone). I took an Mindfulness Stress Based Relief program with a doctor and group in Toronto and was able to start to scratch the surface of my issues and appreciate the good qualities I do have.

    I’m coming out of a low time again, I recently left a really difficult work situation, I’m beyond broke, I was struggling to find my motivation to leave the house and confidence to put myself out there. Who quits their job in the middle of winter in a recession? Me, I guess. I can honestly say I’m happy today. I’m making positive changes in my life, reaching out to people, sharing and I feel so good (since last week at least ). Tonight I caught myself sliding along the sidewalk like six year old and smiling while the snow fell on my face. I joked to myself that maybe this is a manic episode but the truth is sometimes I just forget what it feels like to be truly happy.

    I share my comments to share my story. I hope I have not offended anyone in how I’ve shared it but let me know if I have. It is not my intent.

    I’ve lost an uncle and a cousin to suicide and I don’t want anyone to have to go through what they went through or what my family goes through now that they are gone. I miss them dearly and I miss what I never knew or got to know.

    The conversation you’ve started (and everyone has continued) is so important. I wasn’t going to write my full name but so many people have shared and that is the only way we change the way people view mental health.

    I know what works for some doesn’t work for others. It has helped me to look up and see the world outside myself, to talk to someone even if it hurts, to remember to breathe, to do the things I love, to share and connect, to eat good food and to remove the negative things in my life.

  109. Hi my name is Deborah.I suffer from chronic.clinical depressin,aniexty,ADD,OCD and I am an alcoholic-11 months sber this time around. I am 52 yrs old and started self medicating at 15yrs old with weed/alcoholic,and few other drugs. I grew up in a less than ideal home environment with an alcoholic dad with aviolent temper and a depressed mom. My younger brother and I went through “hell on earth” during our childhood. My brother is an addict as well. I continued to self medicate throughout my life,only to stop 2 times during my 2 pregnatcies and I had 6 years sober ’95-01. I was in patient the first time.This second time I was in an intensive out patient program. I takes meds they help, but I always feel depressed inside.Its chronic. I have a 24yr old duaghter and 19yr son with Asperger’s,just diaganosied last FEB. Mental health gets such a bad rap,I dont get it.It gets me upset that “society” does not look at mental health the same way physical issues,are looked at. theres is a stigma attached to mental illness,but not to any physical issues. For me meds are helping and going to thearpist. I have read some of the shares here,please feel free to email me,it helps to share with one another.I just wanted to introduce myself and hope to make friends. Love Deborah. iam also on facebook .email-wolterdeborah@yahoo.com

  110. Interesting article about Ecopsychology which may be of interest to some of you.
    http://nyti.ms/bwVgbH
    “the relationship between environmental issues and mental health and well-being…. Ecopsychologists…propose a new clinical approach based on the ideas that treating patients in an age of ecological crisis requires more than current therapeutic approaches offer.”

  111. In answer to your question Patti, I’ve been able to think of and deconstruct a few things that were very useful in helping me out of my hard times.
    Most of my problems stemmed from my virtually non existent support network and the fact that I didn’t have a single soul who I felt a connection with. This was because of addiction and fear of rejection.
    One good person entered my life and was strong enough to take me on and show me the things that I was missing out on, so I was lucky for this fluke encounter, and it snapped me out of it. The rest of the work I have had to do on my own, which at first was scary without the chemical crutches I was used to using but it’s getting easier.
    One of the hardest things to do during a melt down is to stop and do something nice for yourself but I find if you can, it really works, it could be something as simple as having a bath or getting out of the house for a walk to rent a movie, it’s the simple things.
    Sticking to a routine no matter how mundane or trivial the act is, really helps to slow down and redirect a runaway nihilistic train of thought, routine punctuates your day and gives you some purpose. I found exercise to be very good for self esteem and a general feeling of well being. Reading and using my mind trained me to discipline my thoughts towards more interesting and useful thoughts and activities. Eating well and basically anything that I regarded as a healthy and compassionate act helped to develop my self worth again.
    Now that I’ve begun to feel worthy again it’s easier to identify road blocks. To solidify and forge new strengths I’m trying to be mindful and present in my awareness of things that get in the way of my happiness. When ever I find out what these things are, I do my best to begin eliminating them from my life (easier said then done).
    One other thing that’s helped, is having things to look forward to, so you’re not just looking into the future abyss all the time.
    Anyways these are just a few of the things that come to my mind, that have aided me in my recovery. Hope this is of some use.

    N

  112. Hi Mez….not sure, but isn’t February suicide month in Canada? Other than the “holidays”, more people tend to harm themselves at this time of year.

    You can put me down in your book as saying that one of the best ways I have of not resorting to the ‘last resort’ is thinking of people like you!!!!!

    not to worry…..all is well in my life and I have had thoughts, at times, but would probably never resort to doing myself in. I would feel guilty about leaving a mess for someone else to clean up.

    Anytime I need a lift, I go somewhere like a park where there are kids and dogs. Getting OUT in nature is also very therapeutic.

    Thanks for doing what you do so well!!!!

    XXX Hazel

  113. I remember you, Hazel Jackson! You’re the one who at the all-candidates’ Forum advocated a greener, more beautiful Toronto as a major part of your Mayoralty platform in 2006.

    You were right then; and if you ran on the same platform today, you’d be right again. A beautiful city such as you envisioned would make us all more energetic, happier people…something that in these days of drearier and drearier Torontoscapes we all need more than ever.

    Thank you for holding the vision. Don’t even think about doing yourself in. You would leave a whole lot of us out here who would be very sad losing a bright light in the community like you.

    Mark

  114. How long will it be before anyone notices I’m gone? Weeks? Months? Years?

    How long will it take for someone to discover my body? I’m betting several months and it will be the poor soul who has to break into my house after the bank has finished foreclosing on the house.

    I never set out to live a life this isolated. The people I deal with in the world think I’m a nice guy and are happy to see me. At least as long as I don’t ask for help. I’m really burned out. If I’m doomed to live the rest of my life like this, I would prefer that it not last much longer.

  115. Francesca Allan

    Matt, the problem is that you *don’t* ask for help. I gave you my email address and my phone number but you declined. Why?

  116. Francesca Allan

    Nell, it’s important to have some place to be at some time in the future. It’s 3:00 a.m. and they’re expecting me at Starbucks at 6:00 a.m. That means that all I have to do is survive three hours. I can do 3 hours in my sleep, if you know what I mean.

  117. Francesca Allan

    Matt, if you decide to die, everybody will know that I tried to help you and that you turned me down. Do you want me to be famous? Should I be that chick at the Mez Dispenser that failed to save a life? That’s not a good place to put me in, Matt.

  118. Francesca Allan

    It’s all very Keatsian. Did anyone see “Bright Star”? Remember his friend who “failed” him?

  119. Francesca Allan

    I’ve never done an epic fail before.

  120. Francesca Allan

    And now you’ve got me scared.

  121. Francesca Allan

    Thanks, S & B:

    For bringing Heidi over.
    For bringing dinner over.
    For doing my dishes.
    For helping me craft a better plan than calling 911.

    Alan met me at Starbucks and gave me a ride home.
    Starbucks gave me a free decaf.
    I slept from about 10 to about 2.
    Looks like I’m having a nap this afternoon.
    Interrupted sleep is better than no sleep.
    Considerably better.

    My Sunday plan is to go to Starbucks at 6:00. And then to go to M’s hockey game. And then to have a nap. And then to work on my
    apartment. And then to thank my lucky stars that AHTP is coming at 6:00.

    My essay (for the conference) is going to be on “negotiating the crazy.” I don’t know yet if I’ll submit it. I might just write it and take it with me to distribute.

  122. Francesca Allan

    You cannot know what tomorrow will bring. You cannot know how much pain you can cause. I like to think that David Foster Wallace was an intelligent and humane man but he failed me.

  123. Francesca Allan

    Hazel, I’ve walked to the edge and back 3 times, always in February: 2003, 2009, 2010.

  124. Francesca Allan

    See you guys later. I’m heading out now.

  125. Francesca Allan

    Matt, if you are still alive and reading this, please delay any foolish plans until we talk. You never know when a new restaurant’s going to open up in town. You never know when you’ll meet the love of your life. You never know. You just never know.

  126. It’s been a while since we’ve heard from you. I do often wonder if you’re still “with us”.
    At the risk of being to radical here, I just want to say that I hear you that you want to end your life. And I support the idea that this is your choice. I don’t think saving a life at all costs is necessarily the deepest truth. Only you know. When people are terminally ill, often they need the permission of loved ones to die. Is that what you’re looking for? And I wonder about your concern, repeatedly expressed, that no one would find you if you ended your life. Why does that bother you, in particular?

  127. I disagree with Kate here.

    Not with everything she said. I agree that saving any life, at any cost, is not always the answer. I disagree with the “Only you know” part. There are countless stories of people who attempt suicide, and survive, only to realise that they were wrong about their decision. Their judgement was clouded by negativity and/or delusion. They end up living full lives filled with moments of happiness.

    Just because you “know” that your life is no longer worth living, does not mean that you are making an accurate decision.

    Saying that some lives may be in an appropriate phase to end, may be ‘radical’. But saying that anyone who wants to kill themselves should do it, is irresponsible.

  128. Francesca Allan

    What I meant was that you cannot know how fast your life can change for the better. I’m not “pro” suicide, by any means.

  129. Francesca Allan

    Matt, if you’re reading this, please do a quick post so that we know you’re alive. I will be very, very angry if you attempt or “accomplish” suicide. I have a lot invested in you staying alive.

  130. Yep, which is why I didn’t say anyone who wants to commit suicide, should. I just keep hearing Matt and everyone is naturally responding to his pain with encouragement to keep going. He is clear about not wanting that encouragement. What to do?

  131. Francesca Allan

    Matt’s not being at all clear on that (to me, anyway). I think he’s not being heard and he’s brave enough to post his pain here. We should help him. What can we do?

  132. I guess we lost one?

  133. Matt, you there buddy? Please let us know. Peace and Love.

  134. I’m still around. Things continue to get worse. Being unemployed is very unhealthy, particulalry when I am very low on financial reserves. I haven’t had a solid night’s sleep in weeks. And, now I seem to have developed a problem eating, I have trouble finishing even a moderate size meal.

    The isolation is just getting worse and worse. I don’t see much in the way of changes for the better ever happening.

  135. Matt – Thank you for your response.
    I hope that the fact that we are responding to you allows you to see that you are not completely isolated. We are human beings interested in your well being. Can you allow yourself to accept that as a reality? It may not seem to be much, but it is something. Try to embrace it and tell us what you think.

  136. Matt, thanks for not letting us down. email me any time.

  137. Hello! Very good forum! Its incredible and Perfect! Big Thanks!

  138. Personally, I have never had the depression/suicidal thoughts problems. I grew up thinking that it was an attitude, not a real problem, but I was wrong. I could feel your despair as you talked about it and you are right: it should be out in the open.

    Why is going to a psychiatrist TMI when people talk about cancer or the dentist?

    And meds? why is that TMI when people openly smoke weed and do crack?

    We do need to raise awareness because not everyone is normal and okay. We all have these feelings deep down inside and I have been impulsive. I have no desire to kill myself but I did when I was a kid. I got over it but some people can’t get over it. Those are the ones we need to help.

  139. Help? Yeah, like that’s going to happen. I have just discovered that the suicide hotline is totally fucking useless.

    I’m getting really tired of asking for help and getting crap.

  140. Hey Matt,

    There are many different hotlines. Some might be helpful, some might be useless to you. Similarly, there are many different therapists out there, many types of meds, many different talking groups, etc. Some might be helpful, some might be useless.

    It took me a bit of looking before I found the right psychiatrist. One guy I tried actually made me feel worse, and triggered additional paranoid thoughts. He was a nice guy, but just didn’t connect with where I was at.

    I have a lot of friends who are on meds, and most of them tell me that they tried a few different brands before they found the right one for them.

    So, what I’m saying is, you need to decide that you love yourself and that you’re willing to put in the time it will take to find the right hotline, find the right therapist, and find whatever else you might need.

    You WILL encounter things along the way that are “totally fucking useless”, as you noted. That’s not the time to stop looking. That’s the time to show who’s in charge (you) and keep moving forward.

    Matt, I was thinking about you this week. I was thinking about what what piece of advice I could offer to help you get out of your dark place. I was walking in the park near my house, and I was thinking about the “light at the end of the tunnel” metaphor, and how it could apply to your situation. This is what I came up with:

    There are three types of tunnels. The first type is a straight tunnel. In a straight tunnel, you can always see the light at the end. No matter how many miles you have left to go, you can always look ahead and see evidence that there is indeed light at the end. Seeing that light is what keeps you going.

    Then you’ve got curvy tunnels, with bends and corners in them. The second type of tunnel is a curvy tunnel, with reflective walls, like a huge fibre optic cable. When you look ahead, you can’t see the actual source of light, but you see a bright glowing and you know something is there waiting for you at the end of the tunnel, and that’s what keeps you going.

    Then you’ve got the third type. It’s a curvy tunnel with dark walls. There’s no way of telling how many more bends lie ahead, or how long the tunnel is, or if there is even a light at the end. You’re literally in the dark. In these situations, your only way on knowing if you should carry on, is to yell ahead “Hello!? Anyone up there? Is there a light?!”

    I’d like to be the one of the people in your life, who is ahead of you in the tunnel. Someone who walked forward through the bends, fumbling in the dark, because I had people ahead of me who were telling me about the light.

    I made a list pro-active things I could do to get better. And even though it often felt futile, and even though I didn’t always believe there would be a light, I kept walking around those bends and forwards. I took meditation classes that I hated. I took anti-anxiety pills even though the thought of meds really scared me. I went to a hemeopath and took his tiny little pills, even though I was 90% skeptical about them. I forced myself to eat, and I forced myself to jog. Because people were telling me that there was a light, that I couldn’t see past the bends.

    After many months, I started noticing a dull light. My sense of humour was trickling back, songs would get stuck in my head instead of fears, I was crying less, i was shaking and twitching less. I was still in the tunell, and I still had bends to walk through but there was a little light, and I could see my feet and I could see my hand in front of my face and I kept walking.

    Matt, I’m out of the tunnel. You’ve got a ways to go, but let me tell you this: it’s worth it. There’s so much light here, I think I need sunglasses. I’m still seeing a psychiatrist, but only once every three weeks. I’m off my meds, but I would go back on them, or try new ones, in a second if I had to. I’m eating better than ever, and I’m still jogging 3 times a week.

    Getting through that tunnel was hard. It’s a shitty place to be. It’s dark and slippery and it can feel lonely. But if you read through all the comments above, you’ll find many people who are walking with you and many who have reached the other side. Let them guide you, and let all of us help make you feel less lonely.

    Matt, keep walking. It’s not a futile exercise. It’s how you save your life, and get into a brighter place. And it’s worth it. I’m here. My life isn’t perfect, there are still ups and downs. And my walk through the tunnel left me with scars. But I’m through that tunnel, and I’m really glad that I kept walking on, even though I couldn’t see where I was going.

    No one can straighten out your tunnel. All we can do is shout back at you, and promise you that it’s worth walking ahead. if I could put light in a jar, and mail it to you, I would. It would be labelled “proof” with directions to keep walking.

    But I can’t put the light in a jar. You have to rely on trust, faith and hope, which is a hard thing to do when you’re feeling down. But you can do it.

    Try another hotline. Find a psychiatrist to talk to (it’s free). Eat well. Get exercise. Talk to people. Love yourself. Keeping putting one foot in front of the other. Keep walking.

    There’s good stuff ahead, Matt. I’m asking for your trust. I’m ahead of you, but I can feel you’re catching up. Keep walking.

    ~ dave

  141. You say there are many different hotlines. Actually there are a huge number of web pages that point to the same two 800 numbers, which seem to be operated by the same organization. I spent a few hours looking last night and probably went through at least 50 websites, so it’s not like I haven’t made a real effort.

    I also noticed that the US seems to have a lot of guilt over how Vietnam veterans were treated and there are a lot of sites out there wanting to help veterans. Probably a good thing overall, but it doesn’t do anything to help me.

    After years of trying to find help and failing, I’m tired. Somebody else is going to have to pick up some of the load. Since no one even notices that I’m gone, I think i stand a better chance of winning the Lottery.

  142. Hey Dave,
    I just wanted to say that I felt the love and passion and caring you put into that note to Matt. It is hard to have faith. Sometimes even when I’m out of the tunnel and walking around trying to figure out where the source of that light is so I can really plug into it, I can feel jaded and disappointed. It isn’t always automatic sunshine when you emerge from the tunnel. But it IS worth it. Not perfect, but WORTH it.
    peace.

  143. Matt, we could try and locate some resources for you, but it would be helpful to know what area you’re in. There are hotlines that are operated locally, rather than national 1-800 services.

    thanks. hope you had an ok day. ok is good.

    ~ dave

  144. The national services seem to just be forwarders to local services. As far as local services, I don’t meet their qualifications. I’m not an addict and I’m not involved in domestic violence. It seems that folks like me don’t really deserve help.

    I guess that’s my flaw, I’m just a straight white guy who is a computer geek. I just don’t meet the criteria for being pitied.

  145. Matt, have you ever had to call a customer service line? Sometimes the people on the other end have no idea what you’re talking about, and sometimes they just don’t give a crap about what you’re saying.

    Seeing specialists or calling help lines can be like that; you may need to give it a few tries before you find the right person. And often when you reach them, they’ll go above and beyond what you expected.

  146. I just saw someone post this on Facebook. Wow. I would have so much I’d contribute I don’t even know where to begin. I’m going to have to come back to this to share more later! Incredible job you’ve done in writing this.

    (feel free to edit / cut this.)

    THE FAILSAFE CRISIS LIST –

    The thing I resonated most with is that everyone needs to create an easily accessible ‘failsafe’ crisis list *while they’re healthy* of who they can call in a crisis, along with several tips & tricks they could use that have worked for them in the past, or may work for them.

    Many of us have spent time figuring out various things that make us happy and healthy, etc., and not everything works all of the time, which is why it’s good to have an idea of several things.

    And many may completely forget those simple ideas when we’re in a crisis – I’ve been there before – unless we have an easily accessible ‘failsafe’ list to rely on to guide themselves with.

    Random Quick tips:

    #1 – LAUGHTER THERAPY

    #2 – TRUST YOUR HIGHER SELF / INSTINCTS

    #3 – USE NATURAL APPROACHES: IMPROVE EATING, SLEEPING, ENVIRONMENT & MORE FIRST

    #4 – ROUTINES CAN BE CRITICAL

    #1 – LAUGHTER THERAPY (I find this helps) –

    Go to Youtube.com & look up “Whose Line is it Anyway”, or “Robin Williams”, or another favourite comedian / comedy. It helps! :)

    #2 – TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS (I didn’t & learned the hard way) –

    If you decide to reach out for help, and act on it, then run up against a wall (the therapist or remedies seem like not a good fit, or someone in your life doesn’t understand, or some other challenge comes up) – keep that original trust in yourself & your instinct: that you decided for yourself that you needed to make use of some outside help – and keep at it till you find what someone / something works best for you.

    It can be a major challenge, but it is worth it.

    (When I was younger, I hit a particular wall once, and rather than seeking other resources, I allowed it to turn me around & decided I’d try solve it on my own, and everything became incredibly significantly worse.)

    #3 – First things first: improve what we’re ‘consuming’ & what ‘fuel’ we’re running our bodies on, through: our thoughts, words, actions, nutrition, environment, sleep, energy and spiritual health, and exercise, and take natural remedies custom recommended by a qualified natural healthcare provider as well.

    Try out various types of holistic practitioners until you find what works for you.

    For me I’ve learned that these are the first things that can cause or exacerbate mental health issues and seem to be the last things that conventional healthcare considers.

    In our society, many of us learn a lifetime of unhealthy habits – if we are taught to do things more harmoniously from the beginning, that could really address / prevent / solve pretty much everything else.

    Holistic practitioners consider the more logical things to address first: what we consume, creates & affects us – so should all be the first things addressed.

    The drugs should come last (unless it’s temporary in a crisis).

    (I’ve been on them, and do everything I can to avoid ever reaching that place again, or going back on them.)

    I have since found that various natural healthcare providers / holistic practitioners, including Naturopathic Doctors and Homeopathic Doctors, as well as others working with vibrational energy modalities, work more wonders, and have taught me more, than anything conventional healthcare has offered.

    Then start campaigning for the government to change their ‘disease care’ model and start doing the intelligent logical holistic approach first, like we used to in the first place, many many moons ago.

    I remember the injustice I felt when I first learned that nutrition causes or worsens many mental health issues.

    This was AFTER I’d seen several conventional top qualified professionals, AFTER they’d put me on drugs, after they’d given me what counselling they had to offer.

    #4 – Routines are critical, and life saving. They can be the first thing that’ll trip us up, and the first thing that’ll help us out.

    Figure out what works for you, write it down as a guideline for yourself, assign a start time & duration to everything, keep the sheet accessible, refer to it daily, fine tune it as needed so it works for you. Create routines / systems for everything.

    (If you think about it, we each have pretty set routines, and what some of us are doing could be working a whole lot better.)

  147. What a person can do to help someone with mental illness is ask what they can do to help, and offer to listen, share what resources they’re aware of, and offer to be there for them in a way that they’re able to.

    What those of us experiencing mental issues can do is take responsibility for ourselves, and be accountable for ourselves, and do everything we can to get healthier. And find and make use of every resource that we can. There are countless resources available. It’s our job to find & make use of them .

    What the very happiest people do apparently (according to the books & research), is *choose* to be happy every day, every moment that they can.

    Something else that works that they do is volunteer their time, in some way that they’d like to. It almost always ends up helping our own mindset in the process.

    “Reasons to choose to live” –

    It was summed up well in an episode of “Sisters” long ago, by Sela Ward’s character: when one is in that suicidal place, there is sometimes nothing anyone can say or do to pull them out of it. The person needs to find one reason in that moment, any single little reason, to choose to live.

    Her character told of how she was in the worst headspace one night, and then an old movie came on that she wanted to see, and then another one came on after it, and then it was morning. And she lived.

    I chose to live one night in particular many years ago for one (seemingly rather last minute) reason: I didn’t have a driver’s license yet, and I really thought that I might enjoy driving some day. (It’s interesting that I didn’t get a license yet to this day.)

    I have read books by psychics, who talk about the afterlife, and I found them to be very informative, about what can happen once people commit suicide, and the stories & perspectives they share from the other side.

    I read spiritual & self help books & articles by leading authors.

    All these books helped lead me to shifting my perspective gradually over the years about a number of things, including deciding that:

    - suicide is simply not a good option for the most part

    - we chose to be here, in these life circumstances, for a reason

    - we have lessons to learn & a purpose to fulfill,

    - if we check out early, we’ll just have to learn those lessons in the afterlife, or come back & learn them the next time around, so we might as well do it this time while we’re here.

    - we have a duty to follow our own path / calling & fulfill our purpose, as it also affects others in untold ways.

    - TIP: SPIRITUALLY RECONNECT in whatever way works for you –

    I’ve read that whenever we feel extremely emotional, perhaps in a way that we feel like we can’t handle or is ‘out of control’, it only happens when we’re disconnected from ‘Source’ (the Universe, or God or Allah or whatever name you like to call it by), and we need to remember that we are not alone, that we have guides all around us, and we need to reconnect energetically / spiritually (in whatever way works for you) with the lifeforce that is in us all, that interconnects us all. And we need to remember that we only need to ask for help, choose & allow to receive guidance, and it will be there. (Perhaps not always in the way we expect, but in a way that is for our highest good.)

  148. This was a really great post, if only there was an easy way to change the stigma of depression. It’s amazing seeing all of these people be open about it in a positive way.

    One of my favorite things that keeps me motivated to be alive is a simple one, but I think everyone can enjoy it.

    Today I felt the warmth from the sun on my face for the first time in a little while, and just the thought of that is getting me excited for tomorrow.

  149. Hey check this out, I just came across it!

    Sound Therapy Radio
    Radio Show Broadcast 1st, 3rd & 5th Mondays of the month @ 7pm PST / 4PM EST
    Plus broadcast archives available to listen to online

    http://soundtherapyradio.com/
    http://www.cjsf.ca
    http://www.cjsf.ca/pguide/grid/description.php?ID=29
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sound-Therapy-Radio/238285791207
    http://soundtherapyradio.com/about/
    http://soundtherapyradio.com/show-hosts/

  150. Oops, that’s 7pm PST / 10PM EST

  151. More possible resources, check these out, just came across them! (I’m not often one for Oprah, but I admit many of these articles are good, better than good – they’re great! :)

    “Tired? Here’s How to Get Your Energy Back” –
    http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Tired-Heres-How-to-Get-Your-Energy-Back

    “A New Earth Phenomenon: An Hour That Can Change Your Life”
    http://www.oprah.com/showinfo/A-New-Earth-Phenomenon-An-Hour-That-Can-Change-Your-Life_1

    Also see:
    Jim Carrey & Jenny McCarthy talk about Eckhart Tolle’s philosophy in A New Earth , & explain what it means to them.

    Jenny says one of the great things she got out of the book was learning more about presence —everyone’s always looking for peace and the only peace you will ever find is in the now.
    http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Jim-Carrey-and-Jenny-McCarthy-talk-about-A-New-Earth-Video

  152. More tips & resources:

    Nothing makes me feel better & happier than when I take the time to: drink more water; practice yoga, feldenkrais/pilates, or stretch.

    You can borrow DVD’s/VHS from the library or try free online @ http://www.Freecycle.org and http://www.Craigslist.org. It’s possible you can get a free DVD or VHS player at those sites as well – they’re both international sites.

    In Toronto, I took Feldenkrias/Pilates with Judith Dack @ http://www.uptownstudio.ca/ – she teaches combo classes using just mats, no equipment, so you are empowered to do it on your own at home easily (a bed works; a mat & theraband are nice, but not required)
    http://www.thera-band.com/contact_us.php

    Nothing creates ease, enables a smile after practice, improves quality of any physical movement, and helps improve sleep, like practicing what Judith teaches!

    I will say that first for me, I do prefer seeing the chiropractor for reducing pain & headaches and improving physical movement, and when I didn’t have a DC (Doctor of Chiropractic) who I felt a good fit with, I kept asking around for referrals until I found one who I love!

    Other things like Homeopathy, massage therapy, physiotherapy, and energy work (http://www.mydivineblueprint.com) have helped me, and they’re for me imperative to make use of, when one creates resources.

    This morning at home I finally practiced my feldenkrais/pilates again, lying in bed, and it was awesome!

  153. FYI, 3 new quotes I ‘happened to come across’ in the last week that I liked! :)

    1) “Let LOVE for others drive your life”

    - “Love is the most powerful thing in this world.”
    http://learnthis.ca/2010/02/100-ways-to-serve-others/

    * I landed on the LearnThis.ca site via a link posted on SoulAcrobats.com, it’s an amazing site that also shares a whole stash of *great* links in this post:

    http://www.soulacrobats.com/2010/02/10/personal-development-and-law-of-attraction-carnival-2nd-edition/

    2) “One of the most successful strategies I’ve developed is an attitude of EXCELLENCE & DETERMINATION.”

    - excerpt from “An Interview with Mike King”
    http://www.timelessinformation.com/an-interview-with-mike-king/#more-2715

    Review of top book he recommended, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”
    http://learnthis.ca/2007/06/book-review-what-got-you-here-wont-get-you-there/

    3) “COURAGE is the art of doing what we fear to do and doing it well, no matter how difficult we think it might be. Courage is having the strength and the vision to make a commitment in life, then standing by that commitment simply because you know it’s the right decision. Courage is truth. Courage is confidence. No matter how dark a night might be, courage always finds the light and the promise of a distant star.”
    – quote attributed to Mary Kay Ash.

  154. Okay, this is it for resources from me for now! Back to the article above’s proposed 6 items! Stellar! I have shared the link to this article with others!

    Natural Health Articles About Mental Health
    http://www.vitalitymagazine.com/search/node/mental+health
    http://www.vitalitymagazine.com/search/node/depression
    http://www.vitalitymagazine.com/search/node/bipolar
    http://www.vitalitymagazine.com/search/node/mental+illness

  155. RE: Carly’s post above – item (f) TRUST –

    This reminds me of something that got me through one night. I have read & believe that the universe (God, whatever) does not give us more than we can handle. And that everything happens for a reason.

    When nothing else works, I put my TRUST in that, and myself – and I come out the other side stronger, more healed, more cleansed – perhaps emotionally drained at first, but we are stronger than we think – we can get through things, survive & thrive. More than we know.

  156. NEW Online resource: IMAlive!
    http://www.pickupthephone.org/IMAlive/home.php

    Folks behind this:

    To Write Love On Her Arms
    http://www.TWLOHA.com
    - a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope & finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury & suicide.

    & Kristin Brooks Hope Center
    http://www.Hopeline.com

  157. ” IMAlive , the first live online crisis network with 100% of its staff certified and trained in crisis intervention” – http://www.preventsuicide.us/hopeline-new/aliveim/index.html

  158. AP33, pardon me if I am extremely skeptical. I’ve been ignored and blown off by too many organizations already.

  159. Dear Friends, – I have spent the better part of my morning reading throught all the comments and shared experiences and as many of you have said it feels good to share!!!

    I want to invite you all to the community of http://mindyourmind.ca! We invite you to meet people just like you, who may be struggling and coping with the challenges in their lives.

    This is a place,where you can think something new and do something new, where you can get what you need to help yourself and help your friends.

    This is a place to get unstuck!

    In this community you will find everyday heroes, and celebrities sharing their stories, coping tools to help you handle stress and resources when nothing else seems to work.

    Take a look around, and take the opportunity to tell us how you cope through tough times. Sharing your experiences may inspire someone to change the course of their lives.

    And when you finish taking a look around, tell us what you think. We appreciate the feedback.

    Thanks for joining us and come back again soon.

    From the crew at mindyourmind.ca!

  160. Pingback: A Note about Suicide (Not a Suicide Note): Article by David Breslin « Give Her A Voice

  161. Just came across this, it looked worth the read – and it is –
    “Dear Depression” by Ehron Asher
    “This is a letter I wrote breaking up with my arch-nemesis, Depression. If you’ve ever suffered from depression or known someone who has then please read this.” ~ EA
    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/01/dear-depression-ehron-asher/

  162. This is a great post. Defintely worth the read. Thanks for bringing light to a very important subject.

  163. Forget all the other resources if you like, and just watch this, it’s hilarious! “Tales of Mere Existence” – a comic strip in video with voice over, on its own Youtube channel:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/AgentXPQ

    “Procrastination – Lev gets his stuff done”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4P785j15Tzk

    Tales Of Mere Existence Website
    http://www.ingredientx.com/

    Enjoy!

  164. How does one treats the disorder bipolar affective?
    Effective treatment of bipolar disorder is often based on the combination of several elements including the following: PHARMACOTHERAPY The drugs are the key to treatment of bipolar disorder.
    Drug therapy is effective in 75-80% of cases about.
    In the remaining 20%, it can lead to significant reduction of the effects of the disease.at
    http://bipolaraffectivedisorders.com/
    http://bipolaraffectivedisorders.com/disclaimer/
    http://bipolaraffectivedisorders.com/page/2/
    http://bipolaraffectivedisorders.com/page/3/
    More
    http://psychiatrist-blog.blogspot.com/2008/09/top-mental-health-blogs.html
    http://kaanyucel.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/famous-psychiatric-patients/
    http://climenole.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/know-what-when-you-feel-good-you-re-sick/

  165. Thanks Dave for an inspiring point of view on the subject.

    I, too, was a victim of mental illness and suicidal thoughts and find your words very helpful. I lost all my friends, even my family, after my breakdown. I almost lost myself. Talking about it didn’t really help me at the time, but I agree it should be done nevertheless. I had more to lose than win had I kept my mouth shut. Today I realize I lost everyone I thought I loved and loved me, but I did not lose my breath. I lost them for being open, but I gained a new life, and that’s more important for me.
    I gladly rejoice on the fact that life is as beautiful as I always wanted it to be now; that life is a choice I make daily.
    I encourage people with overcome the stigmas of life, forget about taboos and embrace what’s given to us as a gift.
    Thank you all for the comments. They’re very inspriring.

  166. Dave,

    Thank you for hosting this discussion.

    I have been struggling with mental illness for most of my adult life. It was only after a complete breakdown, and suicide attempt, about a year ago that I finally received some help.

    Being hospitalized for mental illness was terrifying, humbling and left me feeling extremely vulnerable. I wish that I could say that it was a positive experience, but it really wasn’t. Fortunately it did lead me to a good doctor who has helped me better understand my illness and has put me on some very good medications.

    As far as reactions from those around me, in a few cases my experience brought me closer to them. Especially people who had had similar experiences themselves but who had never shared them with me. In most cases my friends and family started treating me differently and things were awkward for some time. But it’s the friends that were lost at this time that I am still grieving. It turned out that my worst fear, the one that had kept me from seeking help for so long, was very real.

    Stigma around mental illness is rooted in ignorance and fear. Depression, Bi-polar disorder, Schizophrenia, these are all life threatening conditions. Heart attack is to coronary artery disease, as suicide is to mental illness. I don’t know what it’s going to take to move people to understand this.

    For many people circumstance may play a role in their depression and thoughts of suicide. This isn’t true for everyone. In my case, I had continual, irrational, thoughts telling me that everyone around me would be better off if I was dead, and that being alive was selfish. At times these thoughts would overwhelm me, and in that horrible moment a year ago these negative thoughts became my complete reality.

    Through medication and cognitive therapy I have learned to identify these thoughts for what they are and have been able to move on from them. I still take things day by day, but I am so much stronger now that I am in treatment. But the irony is, now that I have been identified as having a mental illness, there are many people in my life who now treat me as if I have somehow become weak. The truth is that I am the same person that I used to be, only better.

    My thoughts go out to anyone who is dealing with mental illness at any level.

    Finally I’d like to leave this link for anyone who is trying to help a friend or family member who seems to be ‘in denial’ about their condition, or who continually refuses medication. Hopefully it will shed some light for you.
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3157373037314023921#

    Take care everyone.

  167. Happy New Year 2011,

    This is amazing… a year later and we are still being inspired by this note about suicide.
    Almost 4 years ago my brother took his life by jumping off an overpass! At only 21 years old with so much more to live for! At first I was angry… How could he do this to me…. to my family… he will miss my wedding, will never meet his niece(s) and nephew(s)… How could he choose to end his life without talking to us first!
    But that was what he was hiding from us, his pain and suffering was so overwhelming, now I know this. He could not go on living, I alomst am more angry at mylsef for not knowing or seeing his pain! Not only did I lose my brother to this pain and hurt, his best friend took his own life 2 months later! Same day, same way! So much pain and loss suicide brings to the surface! We miss and love them both soo much!!! By why couldn’t they have talked to us or found another way?
    We as a family talked, and talked, and talked! Some we say we talked about it too mcuh! We asked the paper to do a story on our journey through grief, we had the local news channel come and video tape famliy members who would talk so we could share our experience with the communtiy, and hopefully reach out and save somone or breing relief to another famili suffering like we were.
    At first the paper would have nothing to do with us…. they wouldn’t even publish the word SUICIDE!!! Don’t we live in 2011! How far behind are we if a newspaper wont even publish the word… like it gives them a bad name? Needless to say… they did eventually used our story… after countless efforts on my mothers behalf, constanlty questioning their decisions! To this day they have done more stories about our family and community efforts then we can count on our fingers! We are trying to do our part and bring awareness to suicde, but also to give support to survivors. It is a whole differnet kind of stigma when you share that someone in your family took thier life. Almsot like they look at you with blame. Like how could we have not seen or stopped this from happening. Or as my parents would put it, the look like they must have been really mean parents, too hard on my brother, why would we put ourselves through that after already going through the loss of a brother (son) and friend. BUT… we had to to help others….
    Please speak out, get help, give help, and talk to your friends and family! We have a website and have suicide awareness material for people to wear as our small way of bringing suicide awareness into the open. We also run conferences and workshops for survivours! For more information please check out our website!
    Happy New Year
    Melanie McLeod
    http://www.rememberingnicholas.ca

  168. When I see stories like this I am amazed that people dont attend self help groups. You will hear these stories there everyday from every new comer that walks in the door. I’ve been listening at these meetings for 28 years and the people who come to the meetings regularily and share find hope and recovery and get the help they need. Whether it be Alcoholics Anonymous, Codependents Anonymous, Survivors of Suicide, Narcotics Anonymous, Adult Children of Alcoholics…..it’s not the drink, or the drug or the food or the thoughts…we are taught it’s problems with daily living and the hording of these problems, thoughts and issues within ourselves that generates the “problem”. What we need is more Support Groups like this so people can “help” themselves and find the support they need to get through some of life’s tough stuggles and challenges.
    It would be great if people didnt stugmatize mental helath and a host of many other issues of judgement.(sexuality is another one) The reality is they will and they do. Thats why the word “anonymous” was attached to the end of all the self help groups. For a more in depth understanding of this please see the “Big Book” of alcoholics anonymous. A great read for anyone with “daily living” issues.

  169. Hello Dave:
    I have got to this blog late, more than a year after you wrote it, which is a pity.

    In my job, I actually have to ‘tune out’ a good deal of what I receive; I am swamped with pieces and correspondance from all over the world on mood disorders . And, as you undoubtably know, ‘too much information’ tends to trigger one’s own mood to react.

    But I am glad I came across yours. A good piece, and backed by more than just the usual ‘well meaning’ comments that so many writers say, when they talk about our illnesses.

    Keep up the good work, and stay healthy,

    Bill Ashdown
    V. P., Mood Disorders Society of Canada

  170. Re: Item #6 in the original post above: Ledge Reading (aka the failsafe list) –

    Note to self, for next time you decide to make use of the fail safe list –

    Put the failsafe list somewhere EASY you’ll remember and CALL the file the FAILSAFE list on your computer!!!

    (I have moved since creating it, not unpacked & am as it turns out moving again soon, it was easy to find at the last place! still looking for it – and am as a consequence amused :)

  171. wait, I got it! LOL :)
    Robin Williams – Elmer Fudd Sings Bruce Springsteen

  172. Added to my own tool kit – when I was finding real joy in little else this wkend, at last I saw someone posted this on Facebook, and it really perked me up, sharing here in case it works for anyone else, enjoy! :)

    AmandaGoreTV on Youtube –

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6VtZhrsPd4&feature=related
    http://www.amandagore.com/
    http://www.thejoyproject.com

  173. Mat 1 – 7, 2011 was “Canadian Mental Health Week – Mental Health for All”
    See the Cdn Mental Health Assocn website here http://www.cmha.ca

    “The Canadian Mental Health Association has designated the first week in May as Mental Health Week. Here’s BestHealthMag.ca’s roundup of some of the latest research on mental health.”
    4 surprising new facts about mental health
    http://www.besthealthmag.ca/embrace-life/mental-health/4-surprising-new-facts-about-mental-health
    Scroll down to their “Recent Features” to read the following posts:
    5 reasons why we feel fear
    Mental health: How to cope with anxiety and depression
    8 signs you might be suffering from depression

  174. I love the lyrics to the new Foo Fighters song “Walk” (Learning to Walk Again), esp. the part that goes “I never wanna die!” :) Helpful! :)

    The versions live on SNL & @ the Roxy may be the best :)
    Live @ The Roxy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVNPeyU3Jqk
    Live on SNL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDk44RH65OA
    Live on Letterman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNT-e8AwmqU
    Lyrics: http://www.metrolyrics.com/walk-lyrics-foo-fighters.html

  175. In my ongoing personal investigations into depression, today’s related focus is Magnesium deficiency links – thought you might find these of interest. (Other recent links I’ve come across on other contributing factors to depression – as well as muscle/joint pain, low energy, brain fog & other issues one may experience – have included for example: aspartame toxicity; candida syndrome; heavy metal poisoning; and more – empowering, enlightening stuff! :)

    Rebuild From Depression, The Book – A Nutrient Guide
    http://www.rebuild-from-depression.com/blog/2007/08/magnesium_and_depression_keepi.html
    http://www.rebuild-from-depression.com/blog/category/depression-food-and-nutrients
    “The book, Rebuild from Depression, reviews the top seven nutrient deficiencies associated with depression. It reviews how to identify a deficiency, the best form of supplementation, and the best food sources. It is recommended by readers and experts. Read more about the depression book.”

    The Magnesium Miracle, By Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D.

    How to Treat Depression with Magnesium: Getting the right Balance of Magnesium, Calcium & Potassium
    http://www.ehow.com/how_4907207_treat-depression-magnesium.html

    Best source of Magnesium (in addition to food) that I just heard about recently is apparently MineralLife Pure Magnesium Oil topical spray:
    http://www.mineralifeonline.com/pd-magnesium-oil-8oz.cfm
    Ben Stone of RawNaturals.ca & HealthEducator.ca in Mississauga, ON has started carrying it & just got in their first shipment. Contact Ben for more info if it is of interest (I have already!).

    Google search results on “Magnesium & Depression”:
    http://www.google.ca/#sclient=psy&hl=en&site=&source=hp&q=magnesium+depression&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&pbx=1&fp=b6cf6853cd91f763&biw=1024&bih=578

    http://george-eby-research.com/html/depression-anxiety.html

    Google search results on “Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium & Depression”:
    http://www.google.ca/#sclient=psy&hl=en&biw=1024&bih=578&source=hp&q=magnesium+calcium+potassium+depression&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&pbx=1&fp=b6cf6853cd91f763

    Why minerals are more important than vitamins
    http://www.mineralifeonline.com/minerals_vs_vitamins.cfm

    If you like, let me know of any interesting links or tips that you come across.

    Thanks & best wishes.

  176. Was just re-reading the original blog post above. A holistic nutritionist friend of mine was on Ativan in the past year, and found Natural Factors brand GABA allowed him to get off it. I’ve tried it & found it effective, even for ‘regular stress’, and found 1 pill was too much sometimes, so did what my friend advised – would bite the pill & take only 1/4 or 1/2 pill at a time. FYI in case it helps someone else too. http://naturalfactors.com/ca/en/products/696/stress-relax-100percent-natural-gaba-100-mg

  177. Pingback: “Artistic expression is a curative process” | chinadasunheimliche

  178. Sharing suicidal thoughts with friends is never good for them or you. I have lost many relationships because of it. There is no cry for help, just an expression of thought, and yet, they still go away.
    It has been over two years and it is still sooooooooo hard.

  179. i am 57. im so bored and exhausted with this “story” of not wanting to live.they say its not likely to happen unless you have a “plan” to kill yourself.I have a plan. I’ve had it for two years since my husband had me committed to a psych ward. i told EVERYONE INCLUDING MY PSYCHIATRIST that I would kill myself if i EVER felt threatened that he would do that to me again. Well, 2 weeks ago, he called them again.yatta yatta yatta. everyday now i am getting closer. closer and closer and then i read about Kylen . Why, why did she not call for help?…..why .because its a process that doesnt end. at first friends may be there but, the interest wears off.and takes its toll on friends. you become a burden.i cant do this much longer. yet, i dont talk about it. last night i said i wished i didnt have to wake up this morning. TO SOMEONE VERY ? “CLOSE” TO ME.! I was told not to be so silly!
    SO, All you people above (and i havent the energy to read them all)
    PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS.
    I dont want any intervention at this stage. i’m too, too tired .penny

  180. 1) My take on sharing suicidal thoughts: I like the quote “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

    I also like to think that as Mez said, we’re taking away the taboo and making talking about it okay, so I would hope perhaps it’s just that sometimes some people don’t know how to respond, and we’re the ground breakers by being okay with introducing the subject.

    We probably need to be mindful to have & use really clear communication skills then, to help those still encumbered by taboo to know how to respond, perhaps by saying exactly what it is we need or would like to request from them (ie to listen to us; or offer us suggestions; check in on us; be available for us to call; help us look after some task we’re feeling challenged with; to have more compassion / patience / empathy with us; or be willing to share with us any of their own personal experience themselves of the same issues / questions / feelings we’ve experienced, etc.).

    2) I just re read the original blog post above. When Mez talked about ‘ledge reading’ he asked us to also mention our various reasons we each have to live.

    Somehow I interpreted that into it being a ‘toolkit’ of tips & tricks that adds up to a ‘failsafe’ list that can help when one is on or near the ledge, and hence I went off on that tangent.

    I want to re-read my comments to see, but I may have skipped answering the question he asked: listing our reasons to live. :)

    (Well, sometimes when nothing else seems to be working in the moment it IS Robin Williams comedy clips on Youtube & that’s okay! :)

    I will think on this further for myself & create my own list. :) Valuable consideration & reflection. Thank you. :)

    Hope others share in the comments here – I don’t want to be hogging the comments section of this AWESOME post – thanks again Mez! :)

  181. Friends? I don’t have anyone that I would really call a friend. For someone like me to ask for help is just an invitation to ridicule, abuse and exploitation. I have learned that the hard way.

    I am fighting back against a society that has become so disfunctional and uncaring. I’ve started taking seminary classes (Unitarian-Universalist), not for the theology, but because it will get me the tools and credentials to be more effective at making a change in the world.

    So, Abby & Barb, there is somebody who is paying attention and who is trying to make a difference. Maybe I’m not much, but I am trying.

  182. PS my own personal experience when having shared those thoughts with others about it, is that they wanted to help, and some others had experienced similar things & it created a closer bond / space where it was okay to talk about it, and they shared their own experience with me which helped both of us. The depression & suicidal thoughts and, later, meds, greatly defined me for awhile, to the point that I brought it up with perhaps, on reflection, too many people or talked about it too often, or did not exercise as much discretion / discernment as I could have in being more selective of who I opened up to & shared with and/or at least the timing / when. Yes I alienated a few people, and it sucked, however we were simply going through different things/different paths; and talking about it generally helped me. And as I later grew through it, I began to talk about other things as well, instead of only that. I think that can happen with time. I also found that talking about it in related support groups in the community & with a therapist were the most appropriate forums for me when I felt the need to talk about it at more length-it can be more productive, and it’s what they are there for. Talking about it with my friends & family, they could handle it to various degrees once or a few times as needed, and for more in depth or repeated discussions I saved that for only certain people.

  183. Abby & Barb, find a reason – any reason, to live for just a moment, and in the next moment find another reason. One step in front of the other. Decide not to do anything about the decision to die today. Watch comedy videos on youtube such as Robin Williams or whatever draws you. Just get through one moment at a time. *Take care* of yourself – instead have some tea, have a bath, take a nap, and then ask for help – and choose & allow to receive assistance, keep at it. Healing is like peeling layers of an onion to uncover the real you. Trust you will come out the other side. Even though you may not be sure how – trust it *will* happen. Ask, choose & allow yourself to receive assistance, from whatever works for you – angels, guardian angels, spirit guides – they’re there just waiting & willing to help you – each of us – on our various paths. Call a crisis line, call your doctor, call your minister or local trusted recommended spiritual healer.

    For me, I felt I had absolutely no reason to live and that it made absolute sense to me to choose to die, but then I suddenly thought of one thing, for example in my case, I realized I had never had a drivers license before, and I really thought that I might like to drive. Later, I realized what I couldn’t realize at the time, that while I thought I was being reasonable, rational, logical in making the decision to commit suicide, I actually was unbalanced & off centre in my thinking, in my mind – and you couldn’t have convinced me of that at the time, but I learned that *later*.

    *Personally, I believe what I’ve been told, that our spirit lives on, we are here to learn life lessons, and whatever we don’t work out on this side, we still have to learn & deal with on the other side, so we might as well deal with it while we’re here so we can get to move on to other fun interesting things.

    My cousin – best friend – died at the age of 24 in a car accident. I thought she contributed much more to life with her presence than I did. But it was her time & it wasn’t mine. We are each here for a reason, to serve a purpose, therefore I figure I & every one of us must be here for a reason. I’ve read & I believe that it’s not for us to end our physical lives before it’s time – we have things to do, a purpose to fulfill, lessons to learn, a purpose to serve. My cousin’s purpose was served by being on the other side, and mine obviously is here, since she was taken & I remain. I feel I have to respect that, and trust that there is some reason for my existence & being here at this time. So I try to ask for assistance, guidance, learn to develop & hear my intuition, and do my best every day, which greatly varies depending on the day, and it’s not all roses, but I choose to live, and that’s the way I want it, to be here.

  184. Personally, I’ve also read & believe that as spirits / souls, we *chose* to be here before we were born, and we *chose* the family situation that would contribute to the life lessons that we *agreed* to learn in *this lifetime*. We *agreed* to the general broad brushstrokes of our lives (if not the details, there is free will that plays a part after all). Our birth situation / nuclear family apparently *serves* our evolution. We can learn to make new different choices if we don’t feel we’re heading in the right direction. It’s possible we went off course with our path. And it’s possible to correct that. It’s never too late. As long as we stay away from irreversible decisions. I’ve also read & there is truth in this, that our area of greatest challenge can, later, be our greatest source of strength & growth, among our greatest gifts, because later we learn / realize, for example, how strong we are, we develop understanding & compassion for others going through the same thing, we learn how to take better care of ourselves, how to communicate better, we learn how to determine & choose what’s right for ourselves, and we learn that we *are* *capable* beings, and to rely on ourselves & trust ourselves, as we become healthier. We are inherently worthy *because* we were born. (I had a therapist tell me that once, and I actually cried, it was a bit of a breakthrough, I didn’t believe it till that time.)

  185. I too feel unease at discussing this with anyone. Its like I live 2 lives… One is the me who has everything going for him. But when I am alone, I’m always praying that there’s a non painful way to die.

  186. 1) Abby, Barb & anyone else in who may be in crisis, perhaps try read if nothing else in the comments above, Dave Meslin’s comment posted on February 27, 2010 at 9:29am.

    2) Hey Matt, is that the original Matt who posted who we haven’t heard from in awhile? If so, good to hear from you & welcome back. If it is not the same Matt, you are equally welcome too! :)

  187. Derrick, welcome. Take what works for you from the almost two years of comments above. *It gets better!*

  188. At the risk of being a complete outsider on this I have to say there are other ways of addressing this issue of suicide. Obviously maintaining mental health in today’s world is a complicated challenge. I believe that whether it is chemical or psychologically based depression touches most of us at some time in our lives. People who are in the creative arts seem to be particularly subject to these problems probably due to the highs and lows that are typical in artistic endeavour. Contrary to what you and many people seem to be saying in this blog I think help groups, physiotherapists and even opening up to friends can sometimes make matters worse. The social psychologist Elliot Aronson is a good source for information on this. He also sets an excellent example himself. In my own life I find my own problems diminish the more I focus on the world outside “the self”.

  189. Hi Stan, good point.

    I’ve heard this is also true of those in some of the healing professions as well, that they may at least come from a background of having experiences these/related issues.

    Being of service to others, and also possibly volunteering etc., does give one better, broader perspective & does drawn them outside of their self-focused world, for a more helping, positive focused, mood shifting, confidence building & motivating experience, beneficial routine & structure. I have found that helps. *To a point.*

    I have also found that productively focused, positive growth focused, groups & counselling are also helpful, again *to a point*. The same as nutritional approaches are helpful, *to a point*, as are Naturopathic & Homeopathic approaches. It takes I believe a multipronged approach, which can require our advocating on our own behalf & taking responsibility for our own healing, growth & progress, making use of the guidance & assistance of others from various professions in the community, and an approach that is custom tailored / or tweeked to each unique individual. Apparently different things work for different people.

  190. [Upsetting frustrating tear-jerking experience today @ an intake appt for mental health services, in my efforts to address various issues & move forward with life, growth, getting better. So this is my vent, rant. It may be too long. Just posting to share, somewhere. And in the hopes that it may also help others?]

    Today’s thoughts to self – remember what you’ve learned:

    Take 3 long, slow, deep breaths, inhaling through the nose, starting with expanding the belly & moving all the way up, feeling the air & oxygen filling your body to the tips of your fingers, head & toes, then exhaling out through the mouth, starting with dropping the belly back toward the spine & moving all the way up. Repeat.

    Say yes to your universe. Say yes to what is going on in your universe.

    What you resist persists. Resisting comes from fear, ‘victim’ mentality, and reacting / drama. The more you embrace your universe you can deal with it proactively.

    Reacting, and possibly with anger, prevents us from seeing clearly, taking responsibility & accountability, and dealing with things proactively, and finding what works for us.

    Let go of your expectations.

    Ask for, choose & allow self to receive assistance from the universe, spirit guides, primary guide, guardian angels, other angels, whatever you want to call it.

    The universe answers our requests, just not always in the way we might expect it to. It always gives us what we need, not always what we think we may need or want.

    If it doesn’t give us what we thought we wanted / needed, it’s because that wasn’t for us, and there is something else that *is* better for us.

    Trust yourself, you asked for assistance / guidance, knowing that you needed it – stay with that – and make use of the assistance you have already received. Have you followed all of the advice that was good & that resonated with you? No? Go back & do the work. Start doing the work. Start doing more of the work, more consistently, daily.

    Take responsibility for myself. I am responsible for doing the work on my own behalf.

    No one can do the work, but me.

    [In my opinion] The medical community generally speaking largely pushes drugs & the big pharma agenda, and for the most part seems to know nothing about natural healing or the difference between natural supplements & pharmaceuticals. They [most of them] feel because they [pharmaceuticals & natural supplements] affect the same things, or have similar symptomatic aims, that they must therefore be similar and interchangeable.

    The doctors only know what they’ve been told, what they’ve been educated in. And that is a western, allopathic, focus of assigning LABELS to SYMPTOMS, and prescribing a related SYNTHETIC DRUG, without regard for so called ‘side effects’ (otherwise known as EFFECTS). Most of them have not been educated in anything else. So many of them simply don’t know any different or what else to do – except assign a LABEL to a SYMPTOM or group of SYMPTOMS, without treating the underlying systemic cause(s). And they’ve also been taught that what they’ve learned is the ONLY ANSWER, and that they are virtually GODLIKE. They don’t realize, many of them, that what they have learned is simply ONE PERSPECTIVE.

    But sorry, if you don’t fall into their mold, they can’t treat you, your healing is not covered by OHIP. Even if you have a more affordable natural effective means *of your choice*, you don’t get it covered by OHIP, so you’re on your own as far as help from most of the medical community is concerned, it seems.

    I have issues with apathy, care, motivation, consistency, follow through, depression, self esteem, some anxiety, and they simply don’t know how to fix it without prescribing synthetic drugs (which doesn’t always work, and can have a multitude of ‘side effects’ including depression & suicide, while they guinea pig you through types of meds & dosages, month after month). They aren’t even capable most of the time it seems in considering, identifying or addressing underlying causes. Lot of good they are.

    If I’m going to considering going out of pocket for drugs, I’ll spend it first on natural means & methods.

    Which means I still have to do the work.

    And if the universe saw fit that I wasn’t recommended for the group CBT Cognitive Behavioural Therapy program at the centre where I had an intake appt for today, then it must mean it wasn’t for me, at this time and/or in this location / forum, and there is something else I need to be doing that *is* for me. Starting with taking responsibility for myself, for being committed to & disciplined in doing the actual daily work, and making use of the tools & advice & homework I have already been given previously through other sources.

    I am committed to getting better without drugs. I am committed to healing myself through natural means, *free of drugs*. That means me doing the work. *And* finding other non-drug resources in the community such as counseling, and/or perhaps CBT programs that are through another location / forum, etc. or another program such as MBCT Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy.

    God fucking damnit I hate the medical community. And I hate how long all this takes, that getting treatment & getting well *can* take. And how much time & energy it consumes and how distracting & wide ranging it’s effects are. I fucking hate it.

    (Hating does not help. Release it. Let it go. They serve some purpose, some benefit to some in society. Say yes to your universe. There is another path for you. This is all part of the learning process. This is all part of your path. It serves your evolution. The universe loves you. :)

  191. FYI Counsellors covered by OHIP: Occupational Therapists –

    Know someone who needs help functioning?

    If you or someone you know may be looking for counsellors who are covered by OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance) (& perhaps other provinces as well) who work using more of a whole wellness based approach, ie for those who may want something different from what may be conventional psychiatry, and still be covered by OHIP.

    In case you may not already be aware, I’ve just discovered that OT’s (Occupational Therapists) are covered when you see them in a Community Health Centre or Hospital setting & they do much more than what some of us may have previously had the impression of.

    Following is an overview of some basic info as I understand it and some links incl. where to find an OT & about funding / coverage, in case it may be of use.

    While they’re not ND’s, HD’s, holistic nutritionists, energy workers, herbalists, TCM practitioners, psychoanalysts or psychologists, etc., they are therapists & do act as counsellors among other things, and may be of real practical assistance with some areas that some people may have as concerns themselves, or know others who do.

    My basic new understanding is that they seem to be focused on helping people function better & experience more balanced wellness,

    - in 3 areas of self care, productivity (work/volunteering, etc.) & leisure
    - including the things clients “need to do, have to do, want to do”
    - by focusing on / addressing three aspects:
    -> the person (strengths, weaknesses – thoughts, skills, routines, etc.),
    -> the environment (financial, spiritual, personal, etc. & supports – I haven’t listed everything here, my notes were incomplete), and
    -> occupation (work or volunteer activities / tasks, pursuits).

    * and also included is helping one function with any physical or health barriers they may have if applicable – which is what I previously had the misconception was all that they did.

    What is Occupational Therapy?
    http://www.osot.on.ca/eng/aboutot/ot.asp
    “OTs work with their clients to help them identify barriers to meaningful occupations (self care, work and leisure). While enabling clients to change these barriers, occupational therapists fulfill the roles of therapist, educator, counselor, case manager, resource developer, policy analyst and advocate.”

    Cdn Assocn of OT’s: How does occupational therapy help?
    http://www.caot.ca/default.asp?pageid=3027
    “Occupational therapy works to break down the barriers which impede individuals in their everyday activities. Occupational therapists examine not only the physical effects of an injury or disease, but also address the psycho-social, community and environmental factors that influence function.”

    Examples (of just some of the things listed that they help clients do for themselves) that I wasn’t aware of:

    Educating or instructing you on how to do things with the abilities you have, including (partial excerpt):
    - how to manage your time and money
    - how to manage your stressors

    Suggesting activities that will help you improve or maintain the abilities you have or are weak in, including (partial excerpt):
    - improving your coping strategies
    - increasing your confidence and belief in yourself
    - improving your concentration

    Where to find occupational therapists
    http://www.caot.ca/default.asp?pageid=3622
    Funding for OT Services
    http://www.osot.on.ca/eng/otinont/funding.asp

  192. Hi, anyone else out there? Everyone doing all right?

    RE: from the original post – a reason to live (a.k.a. one of my coping mechanisms, that often works for me) – *music*! :)

    Example: on Youtube I made several themed playlists for myself using music that I like (some new & classic rock music, lite, instrumentals that are uplifting, relaxing wind-down music, a collection of meditation videos, etc.).

    Then almost wherever I am if I have internet access I can listen to some of my favourite music free. My PC had some issues & I wasn’t listening for awhile, and am *SO* glad I’m listening again. Makes *all* the difference.

    Failing that, I *do* listen to the radio often, although it’s not always the same, it can work somewhat too.

    Was fortunate to get an older 2nd hand PC from a friend a couple yrs ago, pc speakers & my radio/cd player Freecycle.org. :) Actually, I got a harmonica there too last month & looked up videos on Youtube how to play it, just because I’ve wanted to for years. I learned how to play Happy Birthday so far & had so much fun, so happy doing it! :)

    PS I came across this today & found it useful for me, maybe someone else out there may appreciate it too:
    http://www.marcandangel.com/2011/08/30/12-things-happy-people-do-differently/ Enjoy! :)

  193. Pingback: Regarding suicide. (not a suicide note) « stay true to your nomad skies

  194. My entire family has mental-health issues, so growing up, I would be told “Keep it in the house. Nobody outside ever needs to know what goes on inside this house. It stays here.” My father’s bi-polar, my mother has severe depression and anxiety, my eldest brother has Bi-Polar, Antisocial Personality Disorder, severe OCD, as well as addiction issues that arose from attempting to deal with all of these. My other brother had terrible anxiety as a child, but he’s learned to cope with it. And me? My official diagnosis was Mood Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified until I attempted suicide, then they decided I’m probably a bit Bipolar too; I’m betting I have some anxiety issues as well because I’ve got the signs just not the diagnosis. Growing up, in a family like this — mental health issues, medication, talking about going to the therapist.. It has always been perfectly normal, as long as it stayed within the family.
    Until I got to high school, I paid attention to what my mother told me – keep it in the house. By that point, I was so desperate to feel like, maybe, maybe it wasn’t abnormal, maybe we weren’t all broken, that I started to speak out about it in a very honest way towards friends, boyfriends, even teachers that I felt I could trust (There were very few since I’d been taught from the cradle to push everyone away). Because I was so honest, it was almost appalling so to those around me; they didn’t know how to handle my statements. “Oh, dad kept us up all night last night with another of his manic episodes. I only got x hours of sleep.” or “I’m starting a new prescription because this last one was making me more depressed.” or even “I started cutting myself, and I’m scared, I don’t want to be like this.” (direct statement to a friend, I remember making it and being terrified) Now that I look back on it, it’s amazing how many people filtered that out, how nobody even tried to help. Or if they did try to help, they didn’t do it in a very proactive way.
    My best friends wound up being two girls with issues, just like me. One who wouldn’t talk about her family at all, or why she cut, or why she was depressed – just that she was and she had been cutting since middle school. Another who attempted suicide so many times in high school that I’m surprised she’s still alive, who drank, who tried drugs. Anything to make it all stop. We were our little band of misfits. We had nobody else, but at least we had each other, at least we understood each other.
    After I attempted suicide (and got caught), I started to see why life was worth living. It was the look on the EMT’s face when handed her a little paper crane that I’d made because keeping my hands busy helped (it still does). It was the nurse who took us outside so we weren’t locked in with bars, and security, and every bit of food watched as it goes down our throats – food we had no choice but to eat, even if we hated it (gods I still hate pancakes), because if we didn’t we were brought in to the main psychiatrist for being in danger of an ED. It was the look on my mother’s face when she said “Please.. tell me you didn’t DO anything” as I’m sure she was reliving when her childhood bestfriend had killed herself at 13 (which she never told me about until I was in the hospital). It was the sound in my friend’s voice when she asked me if I was ok, when I was coming back to school. It was the smile on everyone’s faces in the theatre department, when I came in the day after being released, ready for rehearsal, with all my lines, and ready to work. It was the hug our director gave me, how genuinely happy she was that I was alive.
    It’s the way my cat sits next to me and purrs while I cry, still, because sometimes you just need to cry it all out. The promise that someday I would go out into the world, and make a name for myself. That I would work with my hands, that I would find something to engage my mind, that I would work with my forever refuge – Nature.
    It wasn’t the psychiatrist who said she wouldn’t treat me afterwards because she doesn’t treat people with bipolar “because they’re too complicated” >:( Unfortunately, in the mental health community, some orders are still more stigmatized than others, nevermind that I actually wanted help for once. We found another to go to.
    It’s been a hard year for me so far, between the stress of my first apartment, having shit hit the fan at work and being told to stay late an hour, two hours past closing and missing important meetings/opportunities for my dream future because of it, losing sight of myself, and losing sight of my goals. For weeks I walked in a haze and there was nothing my boyfriend of 3 years could do for me, and that almost tore apart our relationship, because the distance was made all the harder by the fact that I needed someone’s comfort so much.
    But I started going outside. Taking walks. Painting. Knitting. Writing. Reading. I neglected some of my responsibilities for a while and let myself forget about them. I learned new cooking recipes. I did everything I could to focus on MYSELF, not everything that I have to do this semester, not everything I have to do until I graduate college, not everything I have to do in order to ensure I get a job. I focused on here, now, and myself, and it helped.

  195. You have mirrored my years of thoughts and sentiments on the subject.

    Went to more Drs. than I can count, for years. Not until about 7 years ago was I properly diagnosed by my current Dr. who has been incredibly supportive.

    Over the many years, I used to get excited when I got the flu or a cold. Could not for the life of me understand why I would feel that way. Who gets excited about stuff like that. Only in the last few years did I look back and realize that it was because I could get sympathy from friends for not feeling well. Depression is such an invisible disease. Many don’t understand or want to get near it cause they are scared of it. I can understand that to an extent. Horrible to say, but I have actually wished I had something more severe so I could get real support from people. I mostly suffer silently, except for a few close friends who understand.

    I am fairly open about my illness over the years, in the hope to help destigmatize this intangible illness. From when I started my journey to wellness to now, there is certainly more information about it. I read an amazing book called “The Noonday Demon” which really put a lot of perspective on the whole thing, for me. I learned that this is not new. It has been around since the time of Hippocrates and had many different names and Herbologists have worked to find concoctions to help people all back through time. Laudanum was one of them. Melancholia was what it was once called. I learned that depression is a type of pain and that some people have a lower tolerance to pain than others. That’s why I always joke and say that Morphine would be my drug of choice, if it were not so addictive. Thank goodness I don’t have an addictive personality.

    Health issues I’ve had for my life. 35 years of psychotherapy and probably til I die. I was finally diagnosed with PDD (Preminstrual Disphoric Disorder), Clinical Depression, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Post Tramatic Stress. Many years of just barely getting through things. They got the PDD in order by putting me on the pill 3 months at a time and after trying different meds for depression, I finally researched my own med that I thought would be helpful and it is. Not perfect, but I have more of my life back.

    Until I found answers and got my life back somewhat, I never followed through on things because every time I did, the rug got pulled from under and I stopped trying. I have more consistency now and have been able to pursue things somewhat more fully for once in my life. Wish these answers had come about earlier in my life, but then the science wasn’t there at the time.

    I am on long term disability right now. For a year and half I had a note from my Dr. on file at work that said I could take days off when I needed. Things are not perfect and I slide at times. Those few days here and there gave me a chance to get back on my feet. Could feel when it is happening. My work never suffered.

    My old boss was very supportive. I have a new one that wanted to have things done formally through Health and Wellbeing at the University.

    Long story short, they told me the University has never given this kind of accommodation so I cannot go back to that job. No one will take me back because I don’t know when I am not well. Unpredictable absence. Kinda of a shame though, cause as I said, when I could work, the work never suffered. I still had everything done and on time. 12 years of 2 very understanding bosses. The new boss was not willing the look at my work history and see that things were going well other than they days off here and there. She never had a discussion with me before hand, just handed me the letter. Really upset me. Very sad.

    It’s been quite a journey that is always filled with more learning for me on how to feel better. Music, writing, dance, photography and my son give me a lot of joy and help me a lot

    One of my poems:

    Make Wick My Soul

    Turn dark into light
    Bring light into dark
    The wick of life
    For some
    Can loose it’s spark
    Build the bridge
    A way back in
    To the place
    Where we all begin
    Bridge is my hand
    Hold on tight
    The wick in me
    Ignites your light
    To awaken again
    Your dormant still soul
    From the sleeping place
    In it’s deep dark hole

  196. If people are not aware of this… Here is a movement to pledge our support to improve mental health here in Canada. http://www.notmyselftoday.ca/start?locale=en_US

  197. Thanks Vicki, good link & movement in Canada! Related, just came across this today: “Glenn Close: Let’s End the Stigma Around Mental Illness Now” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-patricia-fitzgerald/glenn-close-mental-health-stigma_b_1557015.html?ref=healthy-living

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  201. Thank you so much for having the courage to put this all out there. I couldn’t agree more, we have to bring this stuff out into the open. You might appreciate this piece I wrote about mental health a few months ago: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/erica-berman/antidepressant-for-anxiety_b_3268670.html

  202. christine taylor

    Thank you for Sharing… I agree fully; verbatum.
    Ive struggled n suffered with the horrible things life threw at me as a child and on…beyond my control. However at age 32 I eventually found a dulling peace in Alcoholism. All the abuses n losses and my Mom dying took its toll.
    As time n depression moved in… Suicide became a thought that occurred once too many times. I’m a Mother, a Sister, a Wife, a Best Friend, a Niece a Aunty and a Cousin… Yet that wasn’t enough to keep those thoughts at bay. I reached for professional help numerous times… Rehab/Detox Centers…Crisis Units multiple times and yet I was over looked…adding to my feelings of lonliness, unworthy, helpless, hopelessness, and despair. I tried to occupy myself by going back to school ..i stayed sober 1.5 yr then relapsed n back to the cycle again. FAILURE haunted me….and Those thoughts became my alternative source of peace … Never did i have a plan..but i figured my anxiety, OCTD, PTSD, and depression Would eventually take care if it.. I was Now terrified to Die…. I was now angry that Doctors wouldn’t help, therapists had 2+yr wait list..a Phsyciatrist i met with once was let go from the hospital for overdosing a patient!!! Id knew many ppl who had meducations..and just abused them, meanwhile I envied them for recieving a Prescription alone…but pissed that I was a risk cuz I drank..alll these ppl were addicts if many sorts! Yet I didn’t deserve a chance.. No meds no therapists ..no nothing but my countless visits to Family Doc, Alcohol n Crisis. I felt so mad and with my kids n Bf, BFF i fought hard emotiinally n mentally and went on my own healing n fight to live n chg n help others like me. Thats a little about me.. I’m 39 and now live to enjoy the most of everyday..I have a Grand on the way and two amazing kids ..3 pets n a BF that LISTENED AS I EXPRESSED what was going on inside me. I had encouragement to do whatever i had too to find a happy life. I no longer feel I just exist anymore I now feel I truly belong.I truly encourage dialougue about Mental Health Issues and Wellness..I encourage anyone struggling to reachout and never give up trying. I realized it takes courage to take my life…and i’d rather take that very courage and put it towards living. I thank you again for opening dialougue on a necessary issue. Be hopeful n Keep on Keepin on! Everyone.
    Christine

    • christine taylor

      Btw.. I left out .. I am going into 3rd year of Sobriety.. I knit..crochet..love photogging…and tv of course lol. I still have my woe days but i dont feel the way i used too. And trust me dealing with life sober is difficult but its so worth it. I found It starts with talking, then forgiving yourself, allowing forgiveness of others, then Healing begins.. I hope ive helped or encouraged. Im Available if anyone needs to Reach :-)

      • “I realized it takes courage to take my life…and i’d rather take that very courage and put it towards living.” Simply and Brilliantly said!

  203. I realise I’m coming to this long after it started, and I hope it’s been as helpful for you to write it as it was for me to read it. I’ve started doing the same – talking that is – on my blog. Warts and all, no holding back, good days and bad. Feel free to take a look.

  204. Reblogged this on syrens and commented:
    Reblogging as a signal-boost.

  205. Four years later, and this post is still current. Especially this year, (and next year), with the Bell Let’s Talk Campaign. We are a society that needs to “see” what is wrong with each other. Your example of a broken arm is so real. People with an invisible illness, of any kind, find they frequently have to justify or expalin. Even headaches, migraines, if you do not suffer them, they are often glazed over. Among my ills are chronic migraines. “Just a headache?” Yes, just a headache……

  206. Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will
    be waiting for your further post thanks once again.

  207. I lost my son Kit Skelly to suicide nine months ago after a four year battle with schizophrenia. I applaud your efforts to open a discussion and to take steps to end the stigma. Mental illness is so misunderstood and people suffering are poorly cared for. Thanks for speaking up

  208. Thank you for this wonderful piece. All you say is true. I have been suicidal off and on since I was about 17 (I’m 64 now – so far, so good!), even to the point, twice, that I was sitting on my closet floor with two loaded handguns – one shoved into the roof of my mouth, one with the muzzle right against my chest where I thought my heart was located – and I was ready to silently count to three, and pull both triggers simultaneously. Some little voice in my head said “No.” So I didn’t follow through. The reasons I reached that point don’t really matter, but for clarity’s sake … well, one was when my wife left me (we got back together after 8 months), the other time was after my best friend died of cancer at age 57. The thing that scares me is that I’m not afraid to eat a bullet. I look at suicide as an open option – one I can take any time I choose to do so. I even told that to my psychiatrist.

    I’ve been seeing the psychiatrist for over 8 years, and I haven’t even told him about my darkest, most dangerous thoughts and feelings. I am on meds – older anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds because the new ones (SSRIs) do nasty things to my digestive system. Apparently, on some subconscious level, I want to stay alive as evidenced by the fact that I still see the shrink and still take the meds. But I don’t do all of the things I know would help me, and I keep that to myself. I know it makes no sense on an intellectual level, but somewhere inside me it does.

    Reasons to live? Hard question for me. See, I’m stuck in a life I don’t want, caring for a sick wife, schizophrenic son, and flaky daughter. It’s hard to see anything good past that. I do look forward to “the end”, however that may come. I think the only thing I’d miss is reading books.

  209. When I started experiencing anxiety during Law school I didn’t know what was happening to me. I was terrified I was going out of my mind. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I was miserable. I was isolated and alone and terrified of everything.

    It took me many years to recognize that anxiety is going to be part of my life and I need to manage it. I do much of that on my own, and some of it with the help of Paxil which I’ve taken for close to a decade. They help and I’m grateful that they’ve given me quality of life. I also take a sleeping pill when I’m concerned that worries are going to interrupt my sleep. Why would I go a night without sleep letting crazy thoughts rent out space in my brain when I can just shut that baby off and have a good snooze?

    I’ve also experienced CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and think it was very helpful in recognizing and addressing the negative thoughts that drive anxiety. Regular ol’ run-of-the-mill therapy wasn’t helpful, but CBT has been.

    I spent part of the holidays with my family. I can tell you, my mom has undiagnosed anxiety. So, I come by it naturally. But I’m the only person in my family who has named their issue and dealt with it. It’s not easy when you’re all alone dealing with this kind of stuff, and the shame makes it even worse. Many years ago I told a former boss that I was dealing with anxiety and needed two weeks off. I also told him that I would be fine telling my co-workers that I was taking time off to deal with anxiety. They were insistent that I say I was dealing with “family health” issues. I did, but I regret the decision.

    I think that it’s critical to be open about it. I try to be open when talking about anxiety because I think it helps move the issue forward. Thanks for opening the door to this dialogue.

    Happy New Year to all!

  210. Thank you for this important article. I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression in 2001 and Bi Polar Disorder in 2004.
    I saw one of my siblings in late November who asked if I was making up the stories I was sharing with him about my illness. I am frequently left out of family gatherings. I usually find out about these when reading about how the “whole” family was there and had a great time. I guess I’m not part of the family anymore.
    Here’s the thing; not being invited to family gatherings tends to have me isolate more. I am yet to voice the pain I’m feeling. The emotional strength isn’t there yet.
    So now I withdraw in terms of some family members and now I have an extended family who love me unconditionally. There are a lot of support groups out there.
    Some people need to be educated about the complexity of mental health issues. I have no control over people, places or things. I do, however, have
    the power to pick and choose who I want in my circle of friends.
    I am living with Bi Polar illness. This illness is a small part of who I am! There is a lot more to me! Just dialogue with me.

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