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Archive for the tag “mental illness”

Project Semicolon

No, this isn’t a grammar lesson.

Project Semicolon is a movement that promotes mental health and suicide awareness. The stigma that is attached to mental illness often prevents sufferers from speaking out or even seeking help.

The stigma needs to end. And that starts with all of us rising above and sharing our stories.

I’ve struggled with mental illness my entire life.

[cut for talk about suicide]

Read more…

My Thoughts on Robin Williams, Mental Illness, and Suicide

"Robin Williams 2011a (2)" by Eva Rinaldi → Flickr: Robin Williams -  Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Robin Williams 2011a (2)” by Eva Rinaldi → Flickr: Robin Williams – Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

It’s been over a week now since the world was shocked with the news that Robin Williams, beloved actor and comedian, committed suicide. Celebrities die all time, but suicide? He’s not the first and won’t be the last. The rash of suicides filling the airwaves, from big name celebrities to small town teenagers, has had one positive effect: it has gotten people talking. Talking about tough questions like what does it really mean to have a mental illness, what pushed these people to suicide, how can we help, and what is wrong with our health care system?

For me, Williams’ death hit a very, very tender spot. Last month, I found myself spiraling into a deep, scary depression after my bipolar medications stopped working. Things escalated quickly from being just a little tired and sad to suicidal a week later. Even in my diminished condition I managed to reach out to people online. I posted a few comments on Facebook eliciting responses of “contact me” and “hope you are okay.” I emailed two friends to apologize for not being strong enough and made preparations to turn over control of my livejournal to one of them. I wrote down the passwords to my laptop and most important websites where I wanted my husband to leave a message about what happened to me. I wrote a letter to my husband explaining why I broke and couldn’t hang on any more.

Through it all, I cried. I cried because I didn’t want to die, but I could see no other way out of the constant pain. It was agonizing. I emailed back and forth with my two friends for twenty minutes, but the more they worried the worse I felt. At some point I had downed about ten Ativan, a few Klonopin, and two Trazadone (sleeping pills). I think in the back of my head I knew this combination at those doses wouldn’t kill me, but the intent was there. I told both friends good-bye, turned off my computer and laid down in my bed. I wanted to sleep and never wake up to the pain again.

It couldn’t have been ten minutes later when one of my kids came in and shook me awake. I was sleeping and confused, but followed him into the other room where the police were waiting to talk to me. They called for EMTs to transport me to the hospital because I had taken so many pills. During all of this, my husband and kids were in the rest of the house enjoying their lives and oblivious to the abyss I had fallen into. I couldn’t reach out to them. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t. It ended up being one of those email friends who called the police for a well check.

I spent the night in the ER–probably the best night sleep I’d had in weeks. There were no ill-effects from the pills I took. The next three and half days I lied in an inpatient treatment center where I had some therapy and got my meds straightened out.

So, you can imagine, hearing that one of my favorite actors committed suicide hit a little too close to home. Having just gone through the desperation, my heart broke thinking of how much pain Williams must have been in to end it all. In the days following I read articles and Facebook commentary on the death, mental illness, and suicide. Many times I had to shut my computer down and do something else.

While reading, I alternated between tearful joy at the number of people that understood depression–who had the same experiences I had–and rage at all the people that had no clue but spouted their opinion as fact. We’ve come a long way as a society in understanding mental illness, but we still have a long way to go.

I read some very hurtful and dangerous comments giving out false information and guilt trips equally. The outpouring of love from other sufferers and their family and friends, though, has outnumbered the haters, at least in what I’ve read. I have hope that in the future we will understand this awful disease and the people that suffer from it. No more will people have to languish in emotional torment with nowhere to turn. There will be no stigma in admitting you have a mental illness and people will all be willing to help you with only love and caring. No more will we hear news reports of ten-year-olds having hung themselves.

Robin Williams is sad. The world lost an amazing entertainer, philanthropist, and man. I’m not sure any one else could fill the hole left in his wake. It will take time for the country to mourn and heal from this emotional blow. In the meantime, we need to continue the discourse on mental illness and the lack of resources sufferers encounter every day. The best way we can do that is to simply keep talking. Tell our stories and not hide in the corner. It’s not easy, I admit, but the more people that share, the stronger we will be. Our voices will be louder than the ignorant haters that try to keep us down.

We are strong. All of us that suffer and survive every day–we are strong. And those that didn’t make it were strong until that last day when the disease won. They were strong to make it that long. 

When You and Your Teen Both Have a Mental Illness

I have dealt with debilitating depression since I was a child, although at that time I had no word for it. I knew I didn’t feel write, didn’t seem to feel happy the way the other kids did. By high school I’d developed severe social anxiety that has only gotten worse over the years.

Recently my doctor changed my diagnosis from clinical depression to bipolar with hypo-manic episodes. I’m the kind of person that stays depressed for long period of times then suddenly has a week where I feel really good and want to take on the world. I don’t go overboard with the manic stuff, but I do a lot of out-of-character things for me. It was my getting a tattoo back in October that made me realize something was up.

Right now I’m in the process of weaning off of certain anti-depressants and easing into some bipolar meds. It’s not going very well and causing me to feel a little nutty. So dealing with my thirteen-year-old daughter who also has mental illness problems has become an ordeal.

She’s been diagnosed (well, her counselor at school and her primary care doctor both agree) with depression and anxiety. Whether a therapist said it or not doesn’t really matter because it’s obvious she suffers from both. Her anxiety is more general whereas mine is mostly social. I have a feeling she’s bipolar, too. My dad has been saying for a long time he’s manic-depressive. That’s another way of saying bipolar. Looking back a lot of his actions when I was growing up fit the description of the illness.

Trying to deal with my daughter’s mood swings isn’t easy when I’m already a mess in my head. We get into screaming matches. Well, mostly she screams at me and I try to ignore her so I won’t say something I regret. When I do yell it’s because I have to get loud to be heard over her tantrums (which can flip on at any second over any trivial little thing).

We both need to be in therapy, but even with our medical insurance, we just don’t have the money. So far the best way I’ve learned to cope is to stay in my room and try not to piss her off. It works to a point. Night time is the worst. Right around bedtime she suddenly feels a need to scream at me in the face and tell me everything I’ve ever done wrong.

And call me Satan.

That makes her laugh.

Honestly I’ll take the new name if it gets her to quit screeching at me. With my meds not set yet my head is too muddled up to deal with her.

Mental Health Week

Apparently this week is Mental Health Awareness week. Funny how I didn’t know that. One of the few things I’m passionate about is getting rid of the stigma around mental illness. So I’m going to talk about my story.

My name is Jen and I’m mentally ill. I’ve suffered with depression my entire life and then got slammed with some severe social anxiety in high school that has only escalated over the years.


The picture of depression

The first time I realized there was something different about me was when I was about eight or nine. I would see all the other kids happy and laughing and playing and I just didn’t feel. It just felt blah. And tired. I didn’t want to be around them. It wasn’t all the time but it happened enough that I noticed I was different, even if I didn’t understand why.

By the time I was twelve I knew I had depression. It was just typical teenage hormones as my parents wanted to believe. I would spiral into these terrifying pits of despair and somehow manage to claw my way out enough to fake it for my parents so they wouldn’t worry. Every person that suffers from severe depression learns to fake a happy smile, a normal life. Inside I was falling apart. I guess even then my anxiety was a problem. I wasn’t good a social interactions which meant I had no friends which fueled the depression and feelings of worthlessness. I was twelve and wishing I had never been born, that I would die, that maybe I could find a way out on my own.

Eventually my parents sent me to this psychologist because my parents were doing marriage counseling and they wanted to do some family stuff, too. So both me and my brother had to go on Saturday mornings. I fucking hated it. The chick was a cunt bitch. She was rude and condescending and looked at me like I was trash. There I was suffering from a severe mental illness and she was telling me to get over it and act my age. Her greatest advice to me was to stop hanging around my best friend who was five years younger than me (I was 14 at the time and she was 9 and we were like sisters) and find friends my own age. I told her I had nothing in common with those girls who only talked about celebrities, boys, clothes, shoes, gossip and other girlie crap. I did not fit in with them, nor did I want to try.

Then one day she pissed me off so I quit talking to her. I was so mad. I screamed and cried for my mom to not make me go but they forced me. So every week I wasted an hour of my Saturday staring at the ugly carpet in her office, arms cross defiantly over my chest. She tried to sooth me, cajole me, sweet talk me, bribe me, and when none of that worked she threatened to have me sent to a group home for bad girls because I was a bad girl. That hurt but I knew it was a bluff because she’d need my parents’ permission and they’d never in a million years send me away. My mom finally stopped making me go after that but I never told her about the threats. Read more…

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