Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Before I Fade Away: The Hardest, Most Important Thing I'll EVER Write (Pass it On, Save a Life)

So, something happened.

You come here for balls-out honesty, right? Right. Remember the discussion on Robin Williams' suicide and how ridiculously difficult it is to reach out when in need? And then there are those times you muster everything in you to ask for said help and the response is underwhelming, to say the least?

That happened. To me. 

Note: If you're reading this, and you have triggers such as talk of suicide, self-harm, or any depression-related field, please do yourself a favor and don't puff, just pass.

Did you go?

How about now?

Okay. Back to what I was saying. I'm a writer so I will write, I will tell my story, un-apologetically, no matter what, because without these words, I might fade away, disappear without a trace.

I want to leave a trace. That's why I write.

You, my lovelies, know I have a lifelong history of depression, where, in my postpartum phase, had to be peeled off the cold, dark, bathroom floor to be saved. Before that, though, I'd gone through most of my life in different therapies, on many medications, and even in clinical drug studies when I couldn't afford treatment. But, I was relentless in seeking the help I needed and have always been proactive, despite lack of money or resources, or most of all, humility. Mental illness runs in my family, so I knew I'd have to fight to be somewhat normal. And here I am. With my dukes up.

The funny thing about depression is, you never know when it's going to strike. It could be when one of your kids says something hateful, when you notice a close "friend" hasn't contacted you in months, or when you hear a song that reminds you of someone you will never see again. It could be when nothing happens. It could even be, and this happened yesterday, when you see a bag of doughnuts/donuts randomly left by a caring co-worker (without a clue as to how badly you needed the pick-me-up) and realize you're not worthy of Bill's. Not even close. Bill, himself would fling doughnut/donut grease at you and say "No Soup For You," which would be weird since they don't serve soup.

This time around the sad train, there wasn't one single trigger. I noticed I'd been feeling blue, a little unsure of my path in life, over the last couple months/years/decades. It has manifested since coming back from the ocean, the home of my heart, in Cocoa Beach, Florida. The waves are the only thing that calms my very loud mind for longer than a cemetery run or writing a chapter of a book.

(Side note: Someone please finance an oceanic retreat for my "mental health." I'm not even joking . No, really. Seriously. Money DOES buy happiness! KThnx.)

We all struggle with a little sadness here and there. We all have down days. Some of you can pick yourselves right back up and climb back on your shiny pedestal where you can look down and knock us little guys over the head with "smile, be happy," and "choose to be happy," and "silver linings," and...sorry, I stopped listening because I'm too focused on punching you in the ear or throat. Your choice.

This, my friends, is what I refer to as the "shit of the bull."

Not all of you will know this kind of pain, this level of blackened grief that consumes your every thought on the worst of days  no matter how proactive you are. The kind that spits at you, says the things that make you cower like the pathetic, little biotch you are but pretend not to be in front of people. But some of you know. You really know. You know what it's like to sit on the floor, in the dark, with the pills, the razor, the [insert your vice here], the voices."You'll never heal those old wounds. You're not good enough. No one needs you. Everyone is better off without you. You're just a mistake. A waste of space."

My blue quickly progressed to a full-on sadness. Like crying at a funeral sadness. In a way, I kind of live in a funeral in my heart so I guess that's right. It came out of nowhere, as they say, though looking back, it wasn't nowhere. It was all these somewheres that had built up into nowhere. I'm passive aggressive which means I hold onto a lot of suppressed rage that I sometimes punch into a fluffy pillow or Justin Bieber cutout. Though, if I could get my hands on some plastic cups, I'd totes destroy them in a blind fury and have no regrets.

(It's cool. I'm a self-trained assassin.)

Then, just when I thought this whole wallow would pass, that I don't really need to jump back into the therapy/meds taxi, an incident happened that caused a short-circuit in my brain. I had a full-on panic attack while screaming a voice I didn't realize I had. It came from somewhere deep down where all this pain has been fermenting for too many years. I always know it's there, but something inside just snapped. It opened a portal to so much darkness, I even scared my cats. Meowza!

I should have known, should have recognized the signs, such as excessive straightening of hair products with the labels out, being acutely aware of the time, counting seconds with a fear of how short life is at all times, talking to myself more often about normal things, scratching the skin on my hands, rubbing my knuckles together or clawing at my chest or throat when stressed (which is just weird), sticking to the schedule/routine to the minute (if I don't have my yogurt between 8 p.m. and 8:25 p.m., life is ruined), etc. But this time, it's very different. A part of me died when that voice erupted, and in a strange way, a part of me came alive. The part that knows I'm not okay. But hopefully (and yes, there is still hope), I can be.

After Erik called off work the night prior to make sure I wouldn't hurt myself, I found whatever courage and humility I could gather, and with trembling hands, picked up the phone. I picked up that phone, and as my voice shook and tears fell, asked for help. I asked for help because I knew I was a danger to myself. And during this out-of-body experience where the intake nurse was asking my location [in case I hurt myself] and if there were any sharp objects nearby that should be removed, I realized this is part one  of the exact reason people don't reach out. 

It's terrifying to realize you're not in control of your mind. That you need real help.

When she was finished quizzing me, making sure I wasn't going to kill myself before I could be evaluated, I hung up the phone and asked for help from person number one.

Insert part two of why people don't reach out when the need is dire.

There's this thing that happens when you tell someone you need help. It goes in stages.

1) OMG! Of course I'll help. I'm so sorry. Here's have a hug. And my last dollar. Anything.

2) Wait...I don't know if I know how to help but I'll try/pretend and cross my fingers.

3) Yeah, I'm listening but could you speed this up? You've been crying for days and I have to go to work.

4) Obviously you can't admit yourself into an inpatient treatment facility because who would take care of the kids? And your job? And my job? And, uh, who will PAY for this?? Those things are more important than you losing your shit so how about you talk to me every night instead? It's way cheaper and easier to figure out on this end. So, hold said shit together until, well, forever, because there will never be a good time for you to go take care of that shit. Good luck, friend!

5) Life is fine. Let's just forget the whole thing happened and do the same things we've always done because it's easier. How was your day? Great! I didn't really want to know the answer! I hope that depression thing is going well for you. What's for dinner?

Back the truck up. 

If someone I care about is hurting to the point of possibly being hospitalized, not only will I drop the mic and figure that shit out later, but sweet, baby Jesus, I will hold you, cry with you, throw on a romcom (with Zac Efron, maybe?) and dance around in my unders until life feels better.

I will not let go until it had been pounded it into your head: YOU ARE NOT ALONE, I AM HERE, WE WILL GET THE HELP YOU NEED. NO MATTER WHAT.

So, if you, like most people I know, feel clueless about *how* to help, here are a list of things to do when someone is crying out:
  • Listen if they are talking, talk if they want to listen. It's a fun game.
  • Hug if they are open to touch. If they are anything like me, they will fight the hug at the times they need it most. Don't stop trying.
  • If they open up to you, take care of that. You may not go about your day, pretending as if it didn't happen, and/or not say another word about it. This opening up thing is a scary game and most of us (ME), are tired of having feelings overlooked, stepped on, or disregarded.
  • Check on them. Often. You're not a babysitter but for now, yeah, you are. If someone is a threat to his or herself, you have to be there. Maybe not making them feel weird every time they go to the bathroom, but they need to know you will not abandon them when it gets tough.
  • Gather everyone up who loves this person and get them to "show up" in some form. A text, a card, in person. Whatever. Now is the time for extreme measures. Like an intervention. You are making a case for their life. Get everyone involved so this person DOES NOT FEEL ALONE.
  • Help them create a plan of attack. If immediate help is needed, call the facility for them, drive them there, stay with them until days bleed together. This is crisis management 101. If they seem relatively "stable," then sit down and show support in helping he/she figure out what the next move should be. Research doctors or Florida beaches or Ryan Gosling abs. Anything that shows you are not going anywhere, that you are going to fight this together.
  • Distraction is nice, but don't rely on it too heavily. The thing is, I can be distracted for short periods. Bouts of time at work, when the children laugh, when the cat chases her tail, but ultimately, the voices, the darkness is always there. It won't disappear just because I crack a smile when Beat Bobby Flay is on. When you're in this head space, it's hard to concentrate for long periods and really, anything can set you off into a tailspin of negativity. It's hard to come back from that, even if you think I'm "doing better."
  • Don't disappear. I can't stress this enough. Even if you physically leave, be their sponsor. Two of the biggest reasons people commit suicide are feeling hopeless and/or alone. Strip them of these feelings and there is nowhere to go but up. Sure, medication to balance the malfunctioning chemicals will help, too, but just by showing your unwavering support, you are proving to those voices in his/her head, that they are wrong. That life would be empty without them, not better.
  • Help them find an outlet. I don't always feel like vomiting my life story onto people but there are days it spills out (sorry, you guys). On the days I don't, (most of my life), I either run, write, or both if I'm feeling especially anxious or on edge. These two things have helped me grow as a person while keeping my thoughts re-focused to positive things. They both give me a rush and sense of accomplishment, which are always good things. The caveat here is that if I'm injured, running stresses me out more. If I'm working with a client to write something and they're not happy, it stresses me out more. Both things only work best when used for purely selfish reasons like writing MY OWN book or running for fun instead of time. Regardless, a re-focus is different than a distraction in that the re-focus will enrich the life for longer than a temporary re-direct, if that makes sense. Wow. I sound like an expert (I should by now). Go me.
My point is, just be there. Be present. You might even get off talking about Ryan Gosling (yes, please) and Eva Mendes (get outta here) having a baby.

Eww. So gross.


It's now been a full 36 hours since I started this post. In the time since, I've been sitting, alone, in a movie theater, watching my life on this great, big screen.

My mom looks at me after work and says "Are you okay?"

I swallow a ball of prickled pain and grit my teeth because it's obvious. "No, I'm not okay."

In this movie theater, alone, she says nothing else to me, except goodbye. I watch this girl, me, who is so sad, and she is screaming at people to help her. But all that has changed since yesterday is George Clooney got married. I worked like a normal person, reached out to a couple people the best I could, sat beneath the cemetery tree with the wind chimes clanging above me, tried so hard to see the beauty in this day (this weather is my favorite), tried to play with my kids without feeling numb. But after I come home, make dinner, take care of kids, and everyone goes about the day like things are m-effing dandy, I'm still crouching over this laptop, typing this post, hiding in the bathroom where the voices thrive, sobbing, with a broken heart in my hands.

This, my friends, is what defeat looks like. It is more evident than ever that it's not just old wounds. It's life in general. If I were famous, I'd have checked myself into treatment for "exhaustion." So I can move on and be a whole person for once.To keep this SOB disease from taking your loved one, physically, emotionally, whatever, let me help you recognize the signs, please, because some people here ain't got no time for that.

Warning signs someone you love may need help:
  • THEY ASK FOR IT! (Hello? Can anyone hear me?)
  • He/she is looking into life insurance policies, making sure there's enough for the rest of you to live on "in case something ever happens."
  • Erratic behavior. Furiously cleaning, high highs and low lows, throwing things away, saying goodbye in strange ways, lingering in moments with a sadness that doesn't go away.
  • He/she is locking them self in the bathroom to self medicate.
  • He/she is driving recklessly.
  • He/she is self-medicating in plain sight.
  • He/she has lost the ability to see consequences past any harm or dire action and are only stuck in "the now."
  • He/she has lost hope.
  • He/she is sleeping too much or not at all, or tossing and turning.
  • Appetite changes.
  • Talk of what life would be like without him/her.
  • Feeling all alone, unable to perform daily functions, or on the flip side, is really good at masking the pain in an unbelievable way.
  • Unable to enjoy the present. Too focused on the sadness to be present.
This is a disease, a cancer of sorts, that eats away at people's livelihoods, their personalities, their souls. It is not a choice. They cannot just feel better if they "try." There are chemicals and things that don't flow the same ways as it does for "normal" people. It requires intervention in some way, be it medication, individual/group therapy, support, and really any-effing-thing else. Because you know what? It's not their fault. They just need the tools to cope (something I've never had).

And that brings us to reason number three people don't ask for help. The GD stigma.

I was afraid to tell anyone, to make the necessary phone call, to talk to anyone about this loss of shittage. Afraid of feeling even crazier because, hello? The mental health facility told me to come in, shoes without laces, no belts, no pens or markers, no scrunchies (people still wear these?), no balloons (party time!), no talcum powder (uh, I don't have a sac) or candles, NO COMPUTER. And the list really goes on and on because this really is serious business.

If I didn't feel crazy before, I sure as hell did after. And all that crazy just makes me want to fall into more darkness. See the pattern? The truth is, we do whatever we can to numb the pain, whatever that is. So if someone is screaming out to you, LISTEN TO THEM. People who are hurting don't want to paint this picture because it's messy and embarrassing and maybe we look like we have it together on the outside, at work, with "friends," but it doesn't mean we're okay. There are so many judgy people that just don't get it so we pretend for them, not us. But I can tell you beneath the exterior, there is another more complex layer of paint and in general, people don't want to die. We just want the pain gone. End of story.

I have two beautiful children I refuse to screw up, so really, I have no choice but to get better. Whatever that means in my current state of life. If I have to go away, if I have to disappear, I will do what I need to. To find my way.

Pain is a reminder we are alive.

But it shouldn't hurt so much, you want to end it all. If you're depressed or having suicidal thoughts and feel like you're all alone, I desperately urge you to find the courage and pick up that damn phone. I don't care who you call, honestly. Just call someone and tell them you need help. No, it's not going to be easy, I know this now more than ever. And no, your loved ones might not know how to help. And actually, they might even makes things worse (temporarily) because you'll realize you're not only crazy,


And dammit, if there's an end point to your life now, or in the future, you can't say you didn't try.

Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-TALK

If you need to talk to someone, and aren't ready to go pro, I am always an email or text away. If you call, I won't answer because talking on the phone is the worst. Facetime? You might as well shoot me. Unless you really need to. In which case, no one has your back more than me, boo.

Take it from someone who's lost her shit and is still losing it by the nanosecond: We're in this together. Promise.


Candyland. OUT.


Kelly Polark said...

Hugs, Candace.
I'm so glad you reached out for help. And I'm so sorry that you are feeling like this.
Stay strong. I know you don't feel strong but you are. I have a friend who struggles with depression and I sincerely believe she is the strongest person I know. Hang in there! xo

Matthew MacNish said...

Hugs and fistbumps.

What I struggle with is figuring out whether I'm actually depressed or just sad. Like, if a lot of shitty stuff happens to you, and your life sucks, can't you just be sad all the time and not be clinically/chemically depressed?

I don't even know, but life sucks sometimes.

SA Larsenッ said...

(I saw this a few days ago, but I was on my phone and the stupid thing wouldn't work - or I just suck, which is more likely.) So much of this post I understand. I suffered from post-partum after the birth of my third child. I've been down before, but NOTHING like that whole of desperation. But that isn't enough. I grew up with - what they called back then - a manic depressant parent. Tough, doesn't even come close to describing life at that time. ((Hugs)) Thanks for being so brave, and know you are loved.