I didn't know Tyler. Mom said he was in his mid-twenties. I just remember laying on my bed texting Lydia about our plans for the night and meeting at our lake cottage with a bunch of kids. Mom came in my room with the phone pressed against her ear. She gave me a concerned look as she listened to my Nana on the other end of the phone. I knew something had happened. When she told me one of my cousins committed suicide my mind first jumped to the wrong cousin, before Mom corrected me and I realized I didn't know Tyler too well. My mind raced in many places. I have always been close with his sister. I see her at family reunions, but I never would see him. He was always disconnected from the family. She just lost her brother. Mom didn't say attempted, she said committed. He's gone.
I don't remember the last time I saw him. I don't know almost anything about him. Mom said growing up he was always getting into trouble. He was a risk taker, but he was in a long-term relationship and when she broke up with him he pulled a trigger. I do not understand. I do not understand how a break up could lead you to end your life. He had been drinking. He wasn't in the right state of mind. What if he didn't know what he was doing?
But what if he did? What if he always knew someday he would pull the trigger, and he just needed a breaking point, and now he had one.
I just listened to my Mom and I sat with her on my bedroom floor. I realized what time it was and I put my sweatshirt on, and grabbed my keys to head to the lake. I was okay, but somehow..halfway down my road, I realized I couldn't do it. I couldn't drive there. I was driving painfully slow. I didn't have the energy. I found myself taking a completely different road, and I realized where I needed to be. I sat at a park, far away from the other cars. I had my head against the window and I just cried. Lydia asked if I heard about Tyler. I texted Lydia that I would have to come another time. I wasn't even positive why I was crying. I had too many thoughts so I could not focus on just one.
I had an amazing weekend. I drove long distance on senior skip day, the farthest I've driven since my accident. I was happy. I was appreciative of the little things. I saw friends and family. I was feeling good, and now- this. He was family, but also a stranger to me. He was a person. Whatever thoughts were going through his head...
I just cried. What kind of world do we live in? I watched a group of boys from a distance play basketball on the court. What kind of world do we live in where somewhere out there..is someone taking their life. Where so many out there are fighting too hard to be here, and they can't just simply be here. They can't just enjoy this. Life can be so beautiful, but life can be a very dark place.
I drove home. I know my mom was worried about me when she heard I was sitting at a park at night in my car all by myself instead of seeing my friends. I went right to bed. I told her I was okay, I didn't tell her I had been crying.
I have been doing so well. However, many things have been a trigger for me lately. Certain words I hear manage to suck the life out of me. They are just reminders. Reminders of my lowest places.
But where do I go from here? How do I go about this? What are my options? I can fall apart and view the world as this dark and terrible place and accept the fact that when life becomes mentally unbearable it is okay to choose to leave it. OR, am I going to give myself permission to pause for a moment, and question all of these things, and allow myself to feel whatever I feel. Once I give myself that time, I will pick myself up again. Find ways to talk about suicide, and better ways to let the topic of suicide sit in my brain. It is a difficult topic, but what happens if we don't talk about it?
As great as I have felt this weekend, I am left feeling very drained. I am back to school tomorrow. This "living contradiction" has her mind consumed with
This blog has been jumbled just to symbolize those emotions.
RIP Tyler. I'm sorry you felt the world would be better off without you, but I know you won't have to hurt anymore.
I am not hiding the fact that I am very self-critical. It has been a part of me for so long, I do not even realize that I’m doing it. We all tend to do that at times. We put ourselves down without even acknowledging the hurt we put on ourselves. For me, I know it is a problem. It’s going to take some work. What got me realizing this was a bigger problem than I let on is this: Imagine you saying the things you say to yourself, to your best friend. This got me thinking. I would never ever say many of the hurtful things I put on myself to anyone else. And when my friends are self-critical, what do you do? You prove them wrong. You show them that their thoughts aren’t accurate, and if they are, you show them the good to outcast the bad. So why is it any different with myself?
Everyone has insecurities. I try my best to find ways to love mine. I really do try. Some days I forget, and i look in the mirror and pick them out. Other days I accept them. But I really do try. I am not a very confident person, but I do have moments where I am confident and I take those seriously.
I found this quote on Pinterest:
It is a shame that sometimes we are the ones destroying our own minds. My anxiety has always triggered embarrassment over the smallest things. Sometimes I remember stupid things I did when I was 11, and to this day, I close my eyes very tightly until the memory goes away. Why am I still stressing over things I said or did years ago?
I saw online the message: Be your own best friend
I want that. I want to try and pretend that when I say something hurtful in my head, that it is being said to someone else. And then apologize, or something.
I find myself saying “I hate myself” multiple times a day. Whether it’s being said while laughing and joking, or being extremely embarrassed, I always tell people I hate myself. That’s like saying “I hate you” to my best friend many times in one day.
The thing is..I know what I need to do. I know I need to not let the little things bother me. I know I need to remove the unnecessary negative thought processes from my head. I know that my anxiety makes me feel like crap, but I did not choose it, and I do not deserve it.
These are all things I know!! Why is so hard to believe in them. To trust them, to act on them?
I have had many unkind things said to me in my life. I will continue to experience unkind people in my life. Oh well. What are you going to do? My Nana always says “Kill ’em with kindness.” I’ve trained myself to be strong and to stick up for myself, and to show I am unaffected, even if I am. In a way..I want to work on that. I don’t want to “act” unaffected. I want to truly be unaffected by the stupid things people can say. If I stick up for myself when other people are unkind to me, why can’t I stick up for myself when I catch myself being unkind too?
This is so much easier to say than to do. It has become so natural for me to blame all my actions on me being stupid, awkward, pathetic, etc.
The thing that I realized is..it’s a problem within myself. Now let me explain. Say you are being bullied. You put the guilt on yourself for people not liking you. You assume you deserve the hate. We all know in reality it is the bully that is the cause. My bully, in this case, is my anxiety. I do not have an external bully to put the blame on. The anxiety is in my head, in my thoughts, in my symptoms. It’s within me. So instead of blaming the word “anxiety” in thin air, I take it out on whatever I am feeling. In a bad way, I am training myself to believe the anxiety is a part of who I am. Wrong.
Changing your thought process isn't rocket science. “You just do it.” No. It’s actually really fricken difficult.
I let a lot of things slide now that would have affected me much more when I was younger. I hope the same will follow for me into adulthood, and that as I get older I become stronger with what I allow to affect me.
I think what scares me the most is that I am picturing myself as I am now in an adult atmosphere and saying holy crap I can’t do this. I have not graduated, I haven’t experienced college yet, my first real career, buying a house, starting a family, etc. I am forgetting how much growing I have already done throughout the years and that the more experiences I endure, the more I will continue to grow. Adulthood doesn’t happen with a snap of your fingers. Growing up is a process. I can already recognize a drastic change in strength from when I was in middle school to now. I need to stop thinking that this is how I will think and feel for the rest of my life. Within time I can look back at 17 and say “look how far I’ve come.” I need to stop freezing this struggle in time and expecting I will always be this way. If I already notice I am getting stronger throughout the years, maybe later I will look back and things will be different.
Today started out on the rough end.
In art class I was fighting an anxiety attack. I recognized the symptoms. I was struggling to breathe, I got up to go to the bathroom twice, I had my head down on the table, I was filled with panic. My hands were shaking, my stomach felt sick, and I started fighting back tears. My friend could see what was happening and she rubbed my shoulder.
I doodled on the side of my sketchbook. Flowers, vines, and leaves. I tried to distract myself but the symptoms were not helping to ignore the discomfort. My mind went to the worst case scenarios. This was not a full on anxiety attack, but I was dreading reaching my breaking point. I didn't know where it was coming from, so I began to stress over the idea of needing to find words for it too.
For our final we are doing the glorious self portraits. My anxiety went away when my teacher had us take goofy pictures of ourselves on our iPads. Once I started laughing and being my expressive self, I became more calm.
By the next class I was telling myself: Ok Haley, you're okay, you're fine, it's all okay, it passed, it was uncomfortable for the moment, but you are okay now.
I need those moments of reassurance with myself. When I experience a heavy amount of anxiety I am consumed with fear, and then depression as I allow myself to question my capabilities and my happiness if I deal with moments like this.
Those moments have been infrequent, but they are still there. They still come back to me at times. Next time, I need to almost joke around with myself, if humor does help me. Not that anxiety is funny at all..but sarcasm to get me through the discomfort. "Ah well hello there anxiety, I have missed you my buddy ole pal. You sure are being one pain in the ass today aren'tcha? Ok anxiety I hear you, yes anxiety I feel you, but I'm going to keep doing me. You do you."
That is probably easier said than done, but because I KNOW it feels like the end of the world in the moment, but "this too shall pass" I need to treat the moment as it is going to pass.
On a brighter note:
I spoke up today. With writing, but still! I advocated for mental health issues. I participated in the twitter account @StampStigma's mental health month chat. I received more followers, and likes and retweets on my responses to the public questions.
I am very much enjoying Mental Health Month. This conversation should be continuous all year, but I thank this month of awareness for giving me a voice and less fear in the start to get there.
I have always NEEDED to have an idea in my mind of what I wanted to be. There has never seemed to be a period in my life where I was “undecided.” There was always something needed to be put in place.
I recall wanting to be an actress at age 10 and asking my mother to get me an agent (unsuccessful) but at the same time what on earth was I thinking because I had severe stage fright. I also remember wanting to be an author. I would still love to be an author but I find it more of a hobby than a career. Throughout my Criminal Minds obsession I wanted to be an F.B.I. agent. Like, JJ, and Derek Morgan. The second I closed my eyes and actually pictured myself with a gun I immediately changed my mind. Then with my Grey’s Anatomy and HOUSE obsession I wanted to be a registered nurse. My longest career plan. 3 years of high school that was what I had told everyone I was going to do after high school. With my gpa not being where I wanted it to be, and realizing I was not good under too much pressure, or at Chemistry (or most sciences) I questioned my plan.
For years I told myself that I understood. I understood it would be hard. I was going to stick with it anyways, and I was going to prove to myself I could do it. The moment I realized I was mainly in it for the “helping” aspect I drew myself out. There are so many jobs that allow you to “help” people. Was nursing really my top choice? I eventually narrowed it down to fit in the medical field, but became interested in cardiovascular technology as an ultrasound technician. (Due to experience with heart problems) but that interest also faded away.
With my constant venting to my aunt and grandparents about my issues with my household in 2014, they were also amazed when I told them how I was handling the issues. “Haley, you should be a counselor. You are amazing with words.” Then I would make a sour face and shake my head. “Ew no. No way, I can’t deal with other people’s problems.”
I can not count the amount of times my family has suggested a counseling career for me. “Haley, you should be a guidance counselor. You know so much about colleges.” “Yes, mom but I do this for my own knowledge so I can get into college!!”
To be completely honest- I do not recall the exact moment I thought of being a social worker. I do know why-
My experience with mental health has gotten me fired up. So many of my friends have experienced depression, anxiety, bullying, self-harm. I have watched these things tear people apart, and the more stories I hear I find it frustrating to accept how much this goes on. With my anxiety experience, I know what it is like to need help, or to struggle with asking for help. I want to continue on this pathway to discovering the routes to these problems so that in the future I can do something about it!! These issues will never disappear. One person can not make a change. However, one person can help to make a difference in a small community or large. I would like to be one of those people.
My family strongly supports my plan at this point. My Papa-my best friend, who passed away almost a year ago- had always spoken with me about my future and I thoroughly enjoyed our talks. My Nana tells me often that “Papa will be very proud” at my wish to be a social worker. Maybe that is where I’m meant to be?
As much as DCF social workers are needed, or the right type of people for that job are needed..I am finding my heart leaning towards school social work. Sometimes kids need more than just a friend, family member, guardian, or teacher to guide them. From experience, your mental state can have a huge impact on school performance, and I would love to work with kids going through that!
Again, my mind changes too often. I may find different routes within time. For now, I have a plan of achieving serenity and optimism in my life. It is great to have goals. This is mine for now. We shall see what the future holds.
OK. Sleep has been a SERIOUS problem since October 2015 for me. I would go a straight 7 days without an ounce of sleep. Since then, it has been better. My anxiety has decreased which has helped A LOT, but my sleep pattern is still a mess. Lately it has become an issue again. I haven't been grumpy, or overemotional, if anything I am so overtired that I laugh at basically anything even if I don't know why I am laughing. Besides my humor in my daily life, the lack of sleep is a major pain in the butt. I get tired by 5:00pm, in bed by 8:00pm like a grandma, but then spend 3+ hours just trying to turn my brain off. Once I do fall asleep, I wake up around 2:00am with my mind racing again. Sometimes I can go back to sleep, but not all times.
It is not healthy for me to be taking melatonin, or Z-Quil every single night. Part of the problem as well is my constant need to scroll through my cell phone that is under my pillow.
I'm going to try something different here. Instead of just looking up funny insomnia quotes and alerting the world I am 4 days past my bedtime, I am going to try and change up my routine.
Instead of making this a "chore", I will try to think of it as my "zen." I will think of bedtime as MY time to relax and clear my mind as much as possible.
As a teenager, a consistent sleeping schedule just doesn't happen. I need to find a way to make this work. I am coming up with a routine to "test-drive" as I am typing. In 1 week, the night Memorial Day ends, I will record any noticeable changes from this week's adjustments. That is what's great about beginning on a Monday!
My Afternoon/Night time Routine Plan:
Alrighty! We will see how this goes. I'm not quite following my technology rule tonight considering the current time, however, I am going to make myself read in bed tonight instead of scrolling through my phone.
Wish me luck!! I will do a blog post for a sleep update next Tuesday to see if my tiny changes have made a big difference.
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I have noticed that I have been significantly happier for over 2 weeks now. In therapy when asked why I think I have been happier, I tried my best to refrain from just saying "my med adjustments have kicked in."
I knew the real answer was about my control. I shouldn't just give antidepressants the blue ribbon for making me happy. I have done plenty of this all on my own.
I become very hesitant when these phases of happiness come back to me, because I have been known to relapse shortly after. The reason I can tell I will not relapse this time, or as I used to, is because this is the longest I have gone with consistently making positive progress for myself.
Now, it is much easier to become more positive, and become more motivated if you do have a little boost (in my case, antidepressants.) The rest of the work, however, is on me. Antidepressants are not "happy pills" they do not make everything sunshine and rainbows. With depression, it is a chemical imbalance in your brain. Antidepressants help to balance everything, but there is still a load of work you have to do yourself.
In therapy, it was pointed out that I frequently feel the need to minimize the worth of my efforts. I am learning that I must celebrate or acknowledge every tiny accomplishment, because months ago my biggest task was to get out of bed.
So here are some little things I have done that have made a huge difference:
Time for a touchy subject.
This post will very much be opinionated, and though I am genuinely open-minded I do not intend for this post to offend anyone. This is my blog, these are my opinions, and I don't expect you to agree but I do ask for you all to be respectful.
I have always been proud of being a part of my high school. (I am purposely leaving out names.) It is an accepting atmosphere that promotes equality despite race, sexual orientation, beliefs, and disabilities.
Just recently there has been a ginormous controversy regarding the transgender and non binary gender students at my school. Some felt discriminated when voting for the traditional "Prom King and Queen" for our Senior prom. Some were disappointed to find that their names were not placed in the gender category they identified with on the voting ballot.
When the issue was brought to administration, they needed to take the time to consider the big picture. It is a state law that there should be no discrimination regarding gender issues in school systems. My school did not want to be faced with a lawsuit. My school changed the traditional prom idea so that nobody would face discrimination.
We re-voted for prom court candidates. This time on the ballot there was no longer a males & females section. All names were listed in alphabetical order despite the person's gender. We are no longer having a King and Queen. Instead, there will be a prom court as before, with 2 winners that could be anyone rightfully deserving of it by votes, regardless of gender.
There has been major controversy with those who argue that the traditional prom titles should be kept in place, and there should be a King and a Queen. There are also those who are pleased with the change.
In many ways this is creating a large separation between the students. It seems as though many are walking on egg shells and no matter what you say to express your opinion, there will always be someone who will be offended. These are social issues that are testing the amendment of freedom of speech.
It is an absolute shame how this is tearing us apart.
I have mixed feelings, and agree with parts of different sides.
In MY opinion, prom is overrated anyways. I am not poo-pooing on the idea of prom all together, but I for sure believe equality and acceptance are much more important than who is King and Queen.
In all honesty, if we did have a say in the turnout of the prom court situation, I would have preferred to keep it as it has always been. HOWEVER, now that the decision has been made I wouldn't fight it one bit. I believe though it is a change, we all should just go with the flow, realize prom isn't the most important thing in the world, prom will be what you make of it, and something good could come of this change.
This also is a tricky subject because even though there will no longer be discrimination by gender, there will still be a popularity contest with people being left out no matter what. Now that is not exactly grasping the goal of equality.
I try very much to avoid my political opinions on my blog, but I will definitely say I am a very open-minded person, I consider myself a liberal, and I am very accepting of the differences in people and their backgrounds. I am young as well, and I find that the younger generation is far more accepting of these changes than the older generations.
It very much bothers me when i hear adults complain about all of the "Gay" "Lesbian" "Transgender- talk." As if they are a separate part of society. They say they don't judge them, yet they become annoyed when talking about their social issues, or seeing them presented on television.
I find there is a difference between being closed-minded, and being straight up ignorant, and racist. I have seen comments from adults on social media talking about my school:
"first they get foreign exchange students, now this, i guess i will have to see if i want my kids to attend there when they're older. Not like when i was there."
People are not open to change. There is a difference between not being open to change, and being disrespectful when change does occur.
I have always been proud of the fact that my school is so diverse.
People are people. Regardless of sexual identity. The world needs to open up their hearts more and let people in. It really isn't that hard to be accepting. It isn't really that hard to be a nice person. You may find it takes more effort to complain, to judge, to beg for change, and to beg for things to stay the same.
Through the years, things will always evolve. Years and years ago racism was the biggest issue. There were blacks and whites only water fountains/bathrooms. Blacks only or whites only proms. Do you think everyone was accepting of that change at first? Today, racism is still existent but much less of an issue. More people are grasping that skin color does not change a person and nobody should face discrimination because of their skin color. Why should sexual orientation be any different?
If more schools made changes to ensure student equality, there could be less bullying, less suicides, less mental health struggles, more acceptance over time.
A change that involves bringing people together is a change I will support.
As for the changes among the prom tradition, prom will be what you make of it. Complaining and making ignorant comments do not resemble the school itself, or the transgender students, it only is a representation of you.
Time to babble:
Social Anxiety has always been a part of my life and my daily struggles. It is something that growing up i was very ashamed of, and i let it label me as "pathetic" or "wimpy."
I have always felt hopeless with it. I thought that it was a negative part of me i would never be able to get rid of. With research, and experience i have learned that it is something that will always be a part of me, unfortunately, but the light at the end of the tunnel will be the steps i take to make it manageable in my day to day life and not sufferable.
The first step i took to accepting my Social Anxiety was
being honest about it: Once i was able to outwardly say, yes presentations make me want to cry, when i get chosen to do something social without being prepared i feel as though i'll have a mental breakdown. I suck at eye contact and i spend most of my time focusing on trying to make eye contact than actually listening to the conversation. When i came clean about my discomfort it was easier for people to support me and know how to help me. It was easier for people to understand my behaviors and where i was coming from. They understood that when i would ask them to ask questions for me, or confront someone for me it was not because i was just lazy. They understood that if i was being spacey in a conversation it was not me being disinterested. It was also a good thing for me to be honest, because i learned how many others also struggle in social situations, and that i am not the only one and it does NOT make me pathetic for feeling such fear around a group of people i am not fully comfortable with.
The next step i took after i was honest about it was
advocating for myself when things end up being too much: Here's the thing with Social Anxiety, with most fears the key to overcoming them is to face them. With Social Anxiety, it can be damaging. The humiliation and discomfort of forcing yourself publicly can cause you to avoid certain people, certain places, and find a comfort in hiding. There needs to be a balance. There should be a balance between leaving your comfort zone, but also not pushing yourself to your breaking point. For many years i would "fake it till you make it. Now, there is a key with that too. In order to "fake it till you make it, the "right" way, you MUST allow yourself to be honest with yourself first. I say this because i did this. I would force myself to appear okay and i would smile and shake as i was forcing it, but i also was not honest with myself that it was okay for me to feel that way. I allowed it to destroy my self esteem. It is a wonderful skill to grasp if you are able to appear confident, and fool those around you. Many times when i am uncomfortable i try to hide it with humor and a giant smile, and my mom has told me numerous times that when i do that you can not tell one bit how anxious i am.
With advocating, it is important to admit when you can no longer handle something. As long as you tried, it is OK to tell someone when you truly can't. It is self-care to know your limits, and you do not want to put yourself through hell to only gain an anxiety attack. It does NOT make you weak, it is NOT always something you can help, and you have a RIGHT to deserve support in those moments.
I wish i understood that sooner. If i knew it was okay to speak to my teachers in my early school years about my discomfort it would have saved me a load of tears in my classes. Even now, i still find it difficult to ask for help because i want to be able to handle things all on my own. For an example: I was PANICKING and in tears about a presentation or a test i was not ready for after a rough night. I spoke to a member of my support system and expressed my fear. She was ready to call my teacher if i was not comfortable talking to him about it myself. I told her no, because i felt embarrassed if she would have to call for me. "I should be able to do it." She pointed out the difference between being able to do something, and wanting to. "You speak to him, or I will." I took a breath and accepted the fact i was not in a place to do what i wanted. I let her call and once my teacher was aware, he was more than willing to accommodate me. That is just an example of a necessary time to ask for help. I tried to speak to my teacher, and i couldn't, but that is OK.
There is such an importance in knowing your limits, and giving yourself the respect to meet your own personal needs. Yes it stinks having Social Anxiety, and yes it makes things very difficult. However, you are never alone, and you should not compare yourself to anyone else. Everyone has different struggles and can handle different things.
Accept the things you cannot change, and find ways to make them manageable without wishing them away.
Happy 34th Birthday to my yoga-doing, health advocater, adventurous traveler, open-minded, extroverted, giggly, outspoken, painfully honest, Reeses lover, excessive happy crier, big hugger, enthusiastic, family oriented, motivated, and sassy Auntie Sara !!!
Growing up you were always the "cool Auntie." You instructed our yoga classes, took Lydia and I on a mall trip every year to celebrate our summer birthdays, and you had us over for sleepovers often. My mom always tells me how much time you spent with us as babies, because you wanted to develop a strong connection with us, and have us recognize you as being in our life at a young age. Your support is always there. You are someone we could roller skate with, go hiking, running, swimming. Your enthusiasm about living a healthy life has inspired us to find ways to make exercise fun. As healthy minded as you are, i appreciate your occasional need for reeses peanut butter cups and cookie dough.
You are someone we could always talk to. You would always listen with respect and never judge us even if our statements as kids were extremely irrational. I could ask you something personal or embarrassing without feeling uncomfortable.
(You may chuckle reading that because i'm sure you can recall some of the unexpected personal questions i asked you as a kid)
It was always hard for me to picture you having kids. You were always "Auntie Sara and Uncle Brad" and i honestly worried at a young age that when you had a family of your own i wouldn't spend as much time with you. But you being you, i should have known that would not be a valid concern. You are an overachiever and find ways to balance all the craziness in your life. At my age of 13 when little cousin Maya was born my worries disappeared and i became ecstatic that i was now in YOUR place. I would be the one to watch her grow up, have her over for sleepovers, and take her on mall trips. I will be her buddy and her person to spill her questions and stories on. I am blessed to do for her all that you have done for me. Family is very important to you, and I respect how you find ways to keep a strong connection with each member of our family.
Some memories and appreciation:
I still feel guilty about the time we were leaving the mall, and i started crying over a penguin Webkinz I had found in "Justice." I felt like a terrible person leaving because I had looked at it before and felt like it had feelings. You huffed and puffed and i could tell you were very frustrated, but you had us turn around and go all the way back up the escalators so I could take my penguin home. I'm sorry, and thank you :-)
Love you lots, and enjoy your day!
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.