Category Archives: Depression

Stigma Fighters: Sarah M.C.

More than anything, I want to help other people around me. Ever since I was young, I’ve always helped others before helping myself. I was under the impression from a young age that if you gave yourself self-love or self-care that you were selfish. This is unfortunately the conditioning that we receive at a very early stage in our lives, especially for young girls were we are primed for motherhood at four years old when we get our first doll. We’re taught to care for everyone else around us, no matter what the expense. As I helped my friends through their own parental struggles, I suppressed mine, and kept mine hidden from others. Only when my friends would come over to our home would they really see the tragic Shakespearean drama unfolding. From the outside, our house looked normal. We seemed like a normal family. We lived in a beautiful suburb in a small town close to the sandy shores Lake Michigan. I went to a public school that was rated more as a private school because of the high academic standards. I played some volleyball, and softball in school, but was drawn more towards the arts, creative writing, ironically drama. I had kids comment to me that our family was “rich”, and that they were actually jealous that they didn’t live in our house. They didn’t see, however, the hell that was unfolding inside of our Beaver Cleaver home.

The truth was that while I was busy helping the other kids in school with their own problems, I had to learn to live with my mother’s alcoholism. It started when I was about thirteen years old. That’s when I found out that I was an aunt. Everyone in our family knew that my brother had a child out of wedlock, but my parents thought it was best not to tell me until they thought that I could “handle” it. To this day I’m not sure why they thought that. My sweet little niece was nine months old before I finally got to meet her. I was so upset with my parents for lying to me. I knew months before they told me because of the not so subtle hints dropped around the house. It was also about this time that I noticed that my mom started to drink a lot more than usual. My parents always loved a good party and lived a pretty affluent lifestyle, but after my niece was born, everything shifted in our home. No longer did I look forward to going home after school. I would spend much of my time locked upstairs blaring my music, dancing, or writing poetry or short stories as a form of escapism from the hell that was below me in the living room. I lashed out with teenage rebellion and started to drink and smoke too, although that only turned into an enabling her behavior. My mom bought me my first pack of cigarettes at age sixteen, and let me drink as long as I was at home with her. I also learned very quickly, that you don’t talk about your problems with others because the first thing that people have a propensity to do, is to judge you. The only worse thing than being judged was to be pitied.

When I moved out for good at twenty-years old, I thought that things would be different. It was so much worse. The drunken phone calls at work, the weekends of her destroying herself, the cornucopias amounts of cigarettes and beer consumed to fill whatever void in her soul that needed to be healed. Yet, I never stopped loving her. I knew that whatever inner demons she had, she was working on it in the only way that she knew how to. I never blamed her for her shortcomings. Where she lacked in some areas, she excelled in others. Like every child of an alcoholic, I desperately sought my mother’s approval, and let her own self-destruction also consume me. I felt utterly responsible for her, and felt guilty if I didn’t pick up that phone call at work. Sometimes, I would just let her sob and speak incoherently while I typed up daily memos. Other times, I would softly yell at her, so my co-workers couldn’t listen, of what a mess she is. She never remembered our conversations the next day, so there were some nights were I said some pretty awful things to her.

I wanted so badly not be anything like my mother, but instead, I turned into the thing that I feared the most. I started going to parties to purposely get drunk. I was hoping that she would see how pathetic it was and learn something from my behavior. Instead, she tossed it up for her daughter just being a “party girl”. There’s actually three years of my life that are a complete blur. I would go to work in the morning, get off by eleven o’clock p.m., go get drunk with some friends, then go back to work the next day. I can’t tell you how many times that I was stupid enough to drive home drunk. I am so lucky that I never killed anyone or myself in those years. I was reckless, and had a wild abandonment, and I didn’t care. I just wanted her to see me. The truth was that she was so self-absorbed in her own narcissism that she never noticed what I did. As long as the appearance was there that we were a “normal” family, she didn’t really care too much about anyone else unless it was convenient for her. Neither of my parents paid that much attention to me.  My mom was consumed with grief from her own past, and my dad worked eighty hours a week, leaving me a lot of times to my own devises. I slid by with C’s and D’s in school, and they rarely ever went to my parent teacher conferences unless I was about to fail a class, and only a handful of times attended school functions. I didn’t like myself starting at a young age.  After being bullied for years, I thought for a brief moment to commit suicide at thirteen years old.  Luckily it was only for a minute.  For my own form of therapy I began to photograph, write poetry and short stories, and paint. The truth was, I had a lot of potential, but no one believed in me. I didn’t realize that I could’ve believed in myself, because no one ever taught me that before.


It’s no wonder then, that I developed General Anxiety Disorder and Depression when I was a child. My mother (having the stigma belief that if you had a mental illness that you were crazy) never thought once of how her drinking behavior would affect me in the long run into my adulthood. Never once stopped to think that maybe she had a mental illness.  After seeing one of my paintings, she threatened to take me to a psychologist in a not-so-nice tone.  As if I should be ashamed to seek help.

Almost two years ago I finally broke down to see a doctor because my anxiety was so bad that I had now developed IBS/ SIBO from the years of anxiety in my digestive system. My intestinal lining had started to eat away, causing leaky gut. One day I noticed fungal lesions breaking out all over my body. Then the panic attacks started coming more frequently and with more fever. I was desperate to get to the bottom of what was happening to me. I went to my naturopath with a list of symptoms, and for some reason that day I added anxiety and depression. After careful review of my chart she said, “You have General Anxiety Disorder”. She gave me some herbal supplements, and sent me to see another doctor who also diagnosed me with anxiety and depression.  For the first time I was in my life I recommended that I see a therapist.  I was terrified. But I took the leap of faith and had my first therapy appointment where she mentioned she suspected that I might have bipolar disorder. Immediately, I thought of my mother, and how my sister and I would comment about our mother’s own mental wellbeing. For years we speculated that she was bipolar. If I had it, chances were good that she did too.

The cruel irony of all of this is I had to move 5,000 miles away from my mother to start to heal our relationship. She continued to drink until three years ago; four months after my Dad passed away. She quit cold turkey. Overnight. When I told her that I was seeing a therapist, she told me that she went to a psychologist once when she too turned forty. She told me that when she left she was so upset with herself because the therapist made her feel inferior. She screamed at herself in the car as she was sobbing to pull herself together. That she was “stronger than that” then added, “That’s when I picked up my first case of beer”. I will never forget that conversation. I realized that she also didn’t have any self-love for herself, so how could she show love for others? If only she had stuck with therapy, and gone on medication, she might have not needed to feel a need to pick up that case of beer that day.  That would have made me eight years old.  I guess she and my dad hid it well from me until I was thirteen.

Today, speaking with my mother, you would never have thought she was an alcoholic for thirty years. As that scared child though, who never knew what to expect when she came home from school, I still am mad at her. A part of me might always be mad at her. I may not ever have the love that I so desperately craved as a child, but I have the love of my mother as an adult.  I have for the most part come to understand the reasons why she drank, but never fully forgiving her.

I so wish that I had started therapy while I was in high school. Today, I sit here and wonder how much different my life would have been had I sought help. I lived in that hell alone, as a thirteen-year-old girl. I wonder if I would have had the courage to go off to college. If maybe, I would be a social worker, or psychologist like I so wanted to be growing up. I wonder if I would have reacted stronger and not have taken it personally when she would go on a tyrant and call me “stupid”. I try not to live my life in “what-if’s” and have little regret, but now as an adult I can see that maybe I could have been a little happier if the stigma of mental illness didn’t exist and we both got the help that we needed. I would have gotten the proper care, and would have saved myself mentally and physically. Now, as an adult, I realize that I have the opportunity to encourage, and support others going through similar situations. I want to break down that social stigma by whatever means that I have. That starts here. Being open, honest, raw and real about whom I am and my own story of how mental illness has affected me.


FB_IMG_1456624638355Sarah M.C. is an Adult Child of an Alcoholic/ Bipolar II Disorder/
General Anxiety Disorder. She has struggled with anxiety and
depression most of her life, but wasn’t diagnosed until near her
fortieth birthday. She is the Founder/ President of DBSA Aloha
Honolulu, a non-profit organization dedicated to raise awareness on
depression and bipolar disorder.  She is also a blogger featured in
Your Tango and Psych Central, along with being a tea leaf/ tarot
reader, photographer and hobby artist.  She and her husband of
eighteen years currently reside in Honolulu, Hawaii. When they aren’t
globe-trotting or working on their businesses, she can be found
sipping on some tea snuggled with her cat.

Sarah can be found on Twitter

 

mangled-selfie-crop-2

Jesse S. Smith

A Mental Health Autobiography

I’m never certain how much of my own experiences are unique to me, and how much of my experiences are universal, shared by everyone: a part of the human condition. Sometimes I think that our feelings are all more or less the same. Sometimes I think it’s just me. Sometimes I tell myself not to be such an egomaniac, because after all I’m not that different from anyone else. But then sometimes I open my mouth, and people give me this look that suggests perhaps my experiences are not entirely universal after all.
When I was very young, no more than six years old, my father told me a sort of a fable. I think he had heard it from his own father; but for all I know, it was something that actually happened to him when he was a child. The story went like this: A young boy is standing on a high place, on top of a piece of furniture or something. The boy’s father says, “Go ahead and jump off, I’ll catch you.” The boy says, “It’s too high, Daddy, I’m scared.” The father says, “It’s all right, I’m right here.” So the boy jumps, and the father steps aside, allowing the boy to plummet to the ground, where he lands with an agonizing face-plant. And while the boy is lying on the ground, crying in miserable pain and betrayal, his father leans over him and says, “Remember this, son. Never trust anyone.”
We live in a society that continuously repeats the obvious lie, that anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps if only they work hard enough.
My first job was at McDonald’s. One of my co-workers was a Mexican immigrant. This man worked full time at a chicken farm, and he had a 35-hour-a-week second job flipping burgers on the line with me. I will never meet anybody who worked harder than that man, and I promise you, he never managed to pull himself up by his bootstraps.
The “bootstraps” lie is just an excuse for intolerance. And part of the intolerance fostered by the “bootstraps” lie, is the intolerance for people who have had bad things happen to them. Uncaring society says, “Get over it.” Uncaring society says, “That’s your problem, not mine.” Uncaring society uses the “bootstraps” lie as an excuse, to make up a reason why the bad thing was, in fact, the victim’s own fault in the first place. When a person finds themselves in an impossible situation, uncaring society blames that person for being unable to magically transcend the impossible.
I no longer think the people who say these things even believe themselves. They know they’re lying, and they just don’t care. The point is to use their power to harm others for their own gain. I’m speaking now of politics, but the principle applies broadly to our society as a whole.
On the outside, I came from a good middle-class family, and had every middle-class advantage. But I had a dark place in my head that I just couldn’t get past. My father told me (in writing!) that it was the way I was born; but I think it’s more likely, it was related to the things my father said and did over the years. When I was in eighth grade, I was suicidally depressed. After that, I saw a counselor for a while. That was a complete waste of time and money. All I learned from those sessions, was how to lie to a counselor. Later, I saw a second counselor. After months of visits, I finally opened up to him with the dark truth about my family life. He didn’t believe me. He thought I was making it all up as a sympathy ploy. The one person whose actual job it was to make a real difference in my life, blew it off as a fantasy, and essentially told me to get over myself. I will never respect counselors again.
A few years later, I went to an excellent college; but I partied too much and refused to take anything seriously. I graduated with a decent degree but no job prospects, and found myself still working the same kind of pointless minimum wage jobs I’d been working in high school. Then my father died, suddenly and unexpectedly, and his death threw the family into turmoil. Shortly afterwards, I lost my paltry life savings on an auto accident (my insurance company said it wasn’t covered, because I was on a bicycle when I collided with the car). This is just an example of how bad experiences tend to snowball and build on each other.
My struggles with depression led to a series of bad choices. I pushed away my long-term girlfriend, the one I should have married. I probably would have managed to get myself fired from a decent job, but I avoided that when an unexpected opportunity came up, and with less than three weeks’ notice, I left the country to go teach in Egypt for a year, along with my younger sister and several of our friends from college. It was an amazing opportunity, but it was also very stressful. I was unprepared for the experience. For one thing, my sister was the constant recipient of really awful sexual harassment from all the men around us, and I was powerless to do anything about it. For another thing, it was very difficult for me to adapt to the local culture and the work environment. One day my impatience got the better of me, and rather than wait for the bus, I decided to walk home to my apartment after work. I got lost, and wandered miles out of my way. After dark, I found myself in a lonely and deserted place, where some local hoodlums attacked me and beat me over the head. I still have the scars. I managed to get away, but I sprained my ankle on a rock as I ran away in the dark. The hoodlums chased me all the way back to a populated district, where the local residents called the police. The police let the hoodlums go, and detained me all night instead, peppering me with questions and refusing to believe my answers. This is the world we live in. It is a world that lets the hoodlums go, and blames the victim, seeking against reason for any explanation why the incident must have been the victim’s fault.
I returned from Egypt just in time for 9-11. Despite some of my experiences there, I had grown fond of my Muslim host country, and I took the terrorist attacks and their hateful aftermath personally.
I think it’s safe to say that, between my childhood, the car accident, the attack from the hoodlums, and of course 9-11 itself, I was suffering from some degree of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was often angry and impatient. I often began the day with rum in my coffee, or sometimes just rum straight out of the bottle.
Meanwhile, I lived in a barn. It was a nice barn, in a remote location. For years I had dreamed of an opportunity like this, to devote myself to solitary pursuits, writing and playing music. I accomplished a lot during that time, but I turned out to feel incredibly lonely as well, and ended up driving ridiculous distances to meet with girlfriends. Also, there was no work to be had in that remote location; and even living in a barn, I needed some income. So I would drive two hours to work in Portland, where I often slept in my car, or crashed on my friend’s couch, rather than drive back. Technically, a person who either sleeps in their car on on their friend’s couch, for weeks at a time, is considered homeless. I was homeless. This is a story of how a promising boy from what looked like a good middle-class family turned into an angry homeless alcoholic.
Society regards a story like this as an “excuse.” Society tells us that we should just “get over” whatever bad things have happened to us. Society regards our difficulties in “getting over” those bad experiences as a kind of moral failing.
Fuck society.
Well, after this, I watched all my hopes and dreams crumble. I put all my energy into starting a rock band: but it was nearly impossible to land paying gigs; the band never attracted a following; and eventually it all fell apart. I had always wanted to be a writer, and had majored in English for that purpose: but I was unable to figure out how to get published; and I lost money on my multiple attempts at self-publication.
Despite myself, I got married; and due to economic considerations, I ended up being the primary childcare provider for our children. That arrangement was meant to be temporary; but then the recession came; and it turns out it’s difficult for a stay-at-home parent to reenter the workforce at even the best of times, and it’s essentially impossible during or in the immediate aftermath of an economic downturn.
But life goes on, and I did my best to put on a brave face and power through.
I have never repeated my father’s story to my own children. It ends here.
A few years ago, I spoke with my physician, and he prescribed me medication. The medication is not a complete fix; but since going on it, I have had fewer mood swings; and when my mood takes a downturn, it doesn’t go as deep, or last as long. I drink less, and I rarely touch hard liquor any more.
I still struggle, as people who have seen my somewhat random Twitter posts may be aware. Some days are better than others; and this must be true for most people. But since I got on medication, my world has brightened, my outlook has generally improved, and I have learned to have hope for the future. I have even returned to believing it’s possible I will someday soon become not just a self-published author, but an actual published author. That’s a kind of optimism I haven’t felt for a long time. I just hope it holds.
So, to all of you out there, feeling stress, and anxiety, and mood swings, and depression: you are not alone. The world sucks! There is medication that can help to a certain extent, and if you need it, I recommend taking it. No prescription will ever fix your life completely, and sometimes we just have to put on a brave face and power through. But if anyone ever tells you to “get over it” or to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” you hereby have my permission to punch them in the face.
Thank you.

mangled-selfie-crop-2Jesse S. Smith is a self-published author living in Oregon. Smith is a former musician and world traveler turned husband and Dad.

 

 

 

 

 

Find him on Twitter.

An “Investigation” into a Means of Ending Stigma By Jim Russell

As advocates for mental health and help seeking, we often discover
that a great chasm separating us from help is gouged open by fear and
shame. Treatments have become more effective, and more people in our
community voice their support, yet it seems that too many people who
need help slip through the cracks and spiral, alone, in to
destructive, and sometimes fatal patterns. To those of us who are
outspoken, supportive, and ready to shout for our place, it can be
disheartening to see those we care about suffer. We write blogs, we
speak publicly, we show our art and write poetry, we create and join
groups, and we pour our hearts out in every media outlet available.
Yet, still, so many people fear taking the step to seek help.

While is seems counterintuitive, we may be experiencing what has been
a phenomena in law enforcement, my world, for years. It is called
“siloing” and speaks to the idea of like-minded people forming a
supportive, but exclusive social group, because persons in that group
have a unique experiential connection. Similarly, we who experience
mental illness feel more safe around one another, can confidently back
each other up, and have an understanding and empathy that is truly a
separate world view. We can see this in our Twitter and Facebook
accounts. I for one, have a large percentage of my friends and
associates identifying as persons who either suffer from mental
illness, have experienced it in their family, or who are clinicians in
the field.  I really like it that way, but I have also come to
understand that the people that we need to reach, and who are mostly
likely to perpetuate stigma, are not in our group, but are outside our
silo.

My personal advocacy has focused on reducing stigma by highlighting
the fact that persons with mental illness, such as myself, can, with
treatment and support, often live fulfilling and successful lives. I
use my position as Deputy Chief of Police at FSU while also being
diagnosed with chronic depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and
panic disorder, as a personal example. It has been a good tool to turn
stereotypes about mental illness on their heads, and the means I have
used to deliver it is a program called Sworn to Silence, which I wrote
in 2012.  Sworn to Silence has provided an excellent delivery, but one
of its shortcomings is its first-responder centered focus. It
explains, clarifies, and debunks a lot of myths about mental illness,
but it does not recruit allies outside of the mental health world.
With that in mind, late in 2016, I knew that I needed to develop
another program, and this program would be focused on developing
natural allies.

So, I set out to create a presentation that would encourage outreach
into a group of people who are not deeply entrenched or invested in
the mental health world. At its core, the program would have as its
mission, “To invest in a new vision to eliminate stigma, promote
help-seeking, and save lives.”  This would be accomplished by
providing an easy to remember and utilize action-template that sets a
path toward mental health ambassadorship. I created an acronym for the
program: I.N.V.E.S.T.I.G.A.T.E., for Invest in a New Vision, Eliminate
Stigma, Tell and Inform, Guide Attitudes, and Take up Empathy. Of
course, the name is also a nod to my cop roots – I can’t help it!

Each piece of the framework seeks to empower and create guidelines for
an advocate/ambassador to systematically promote a vision of mental
illness as not something to be feared, but something to be understood.
Moreover, it strengthens facts and removes fallacies that often cause
afflicted people to withdraw. For instance, take a single section of
the training, Tell and Inform.  Here, this is further expanded to
impart to advocates that they must invest in their own knowledge and
education concerning mental illness, and it also discusses
environmental scanning. Environmental scanning, being a fancy way to
say that one should actively seek and take in current events and
research from a broad spectrum of media. Finally, with a well-informed
and objective advocate, this investment in education is demonstrated
through the ability to constructively engage in discussion up to and
including sharing one’s own story as a foundation, if comfortable
doing so.

Importantly, the program does not seek to develop or create a new
concept about what stigma is, or unveil some new wealth of knowledge.
Rather, it pulls known ideas and facts about stigma, mental health,
and advocacy and packages them into a compact and useful toolbox that
can be applied across a variety of social situations.  The information
was reviewed for accuracy of content due to the gracious efforts of
the chief clinical psychologist at the FSU Counseling Center, which
provided me the confidence to push forward. For those who take part in
the program they can think about it as a multi-tool for mental health
advocacy. How you use the tool and how often is up to you.

Stigma-fighting is not so much a science as it is an art that is
fortified through knowledge and good facts. As advocates and
activists, it is our job to paint the picture of mental illness as it
really is, an illness, and not a statement as to the value and worth
of the person who suffers with it. Unfortunately, we share our canvas
with untold numbers of people who paint with ignorance. It is our
charge to ensure that our artwork, our fight, is more rich, more
engaging, and more absorbing than all of the noise that’s splattered
about.

The people that we are, and who we fight for are beautiful, and our
work must help open the eyes of others who should see them.

I hope this program will help do that.

image1Jim Russell is the Deputy Chief of Police at the Florida State University Police Department where he has served for over 24 years.  He became involved in mental health awareness and suicide prevention

as he dealt simultaneously with increasing incidents of suicide on campus as well as his own diagnosis of major depressive disorder in 2010. Deputy Chief Russell is dedicated to advocating for the elimination of stigma concerning mental health issues, prevention

of suicide and self-harm, encouraging senior management in first responder agencies to become better educated, and encouraging first responders to practice help-seeking without fear.  He often conducts his advocacy on a bicycle as an ultra-marathon cyclist

demonstrating that “persons with mental illness can and do achieve great things and deserve respect and dignity”, and has completed multiple extreme distance cycling events to promote this concept.  The core of his advocacy centers on his belief that, “If

I truly love the people I work with, then I will stand up for them on this issue”.

Visit FSUPD at https://police.fsu.edu.  Follow FSUPD @keepfsusafe and my personal Twitter @jimridesforlife. 
John-Funky-Photo-2

John Kaniecki

MORE THAN THE MADNESS
My name is John Kaniecki and I suffer from bipolar disorder. Please allow me to present my credentials. I have been hospitalized nine times three of them being committed. I have spent over a year locked away. I even spent a night in jail. When I first started taking the medicine I needed to get blood tests every week. Now I get them once every month. I had a pretty violent childhood. Not to the extreme as some but I’ve probably been in at least two dozen fights. Sometimes I would walk up to another child and simply punch them. The neighborhood where I grew up in was in the affluent part of town but the children were extremely hostile. I was a victim of bullying and name calling. My parents didn’t get along and my mother was constantly screaming. My father was selfish spending time working on his career or pursuing whatever his pleasures were. He really didn’t play an active part in my upbringing but he was around.
In high school I was very paranoid. I didn’t function well socially. As the shortest male child in my class I felt physically intimidated. It seemed like I didn’t fit in anywhere. Having the nickname “Myron” didn’t help. I did have a small group of friends. I did well academically. I think my dad put a lot of emphasis on education as he had a PhD. But he was a very distant individual. I remember after my grandmother’s funeral he was starting to cry. I went to embrace him and he pushed me away. That was the sum of our relationship cold and sterile. To his credit he always put food on the table and paid the expenses for my psychiatric care.
After high school I went away to engineering school. I studied very hard and did well my first semester. I pledged a fraternity and got involved with drugs and alcohol. In hindsight I may have been self medicating myself. Life was very dark and grim. I was drinking alcohol every day. I got interested in Christianity and it motivated me to stop drinking and drugging. I eventually became a Christian. At this point it seemed like I had everything in life I could want. I was a member of a very popular fraternity. I had of course my new found faith. There was a nice young lady in my life that I had romantic hopes for. I thought I had a host of friends as well.
Enjoying my new found faith I took off on a cross country trip hitchhiking and riding Greyhound buses. I made it from New York City, to Texas all the way to Washington State and back to New York. It was the best thirty days of my life. My horizons opened up immensely. Returning to my junior year I dropped out of engineering school. I wanted to go to Bible College and become an evangelist. I had experienced a period of prolonged depression and now I was to learn about the mania. I nearly got arrested going to the United Nations in Manhattan and telling them I had a message from God. A couple of weeks later I was committed and thrust into a psychiatric hospital. It was a traumatic and frightening experience.
By the grace of God and help of others I got through the first episode. So many whom I thought loved me simply vanished like dust in the wind. My ego had taken a tremendous blow. I had become something dirty and unclean. I was anathema. I had an awful doctor in that first hospital that literally spent no time talking to me at all. So when I got out I refused to see him as an outpatient. I didn’t like the environment at home so I cut out back to the fraternity. There was a lot of drinking and drugging going on there so I didn’t want to be there. I moved into a small room from a fellow from church. I spent most of my time lying on bed thinking about how I could kill myself. There were some books in the room and I started to read which lifted my spirits. I got a job in a pizza place and than one driving cabs. It seemed like I was getting a handle once more on my life.
Unfortunately I got a real stupid notion that God would cure my mental illness. So to prove my faith I stopped taking my medicine. In several weeks I was committed and back to the hospital. I could go on and on and on. My book is a story of hope and inspiration and takes a hefty swipe at fighting the stigma involved with mental illness showing that mental illness does not define my existence but rather is just part of a complex and human whole.
Hospitalizations are a very trying experience if one has never been there personally than it is hard to describe. There are long extensive periods of boredom with rushes of excitement. Group therapy, a meal or some other event becomes a rush activity. Visiting time is always a highlight. Even if you don’t have visitors yourself the influx of new faces is exhilarating. One thing I used to do in the hospital was write poetry. I wrote poems for the patients, staff and visitors. Also I always tried to write song lyrics. This was due to my fear that I would never be able to work in my life. Terrified that I would never be able to support myself I hoped for the miracle of having a hit song.
It has been thirty years later and finally my writing career has begun to take root. It is going painstakingly slow but it is doing well in its infant state. Of course between here and there has been a whole lot of living. I have had about twelve years in the business world working three different jobs. I bring up my writing because I want to show how good things happen from bad. This is the primary testimony I want to make about mental illness. It is a miserable and terrible thing to go through. The downside is immense. But if you allow yourself to be transformed by its harsh lessons there is a bounty to reap. Mental illness will humble a person and that is a good thing. Being psychiatrically sick will make you acutely sensitive of the feelings of other people. Overall if you don’t let the illness take over your life the results will be something wonderful.
Finally my mental illness has prepared me for the greatest task in my life. My wife suffers with dementia. From my experiences I can relate to the hardships she is going through and be more compassionate to her. I have seen so many of my kindred fellows fall into the surrender of suffering. I have seen the goliath of mental illness pulverize the foe to the point where they have abandoned all hope in life. It is my testimony that this does not have to be the case. As long as you can struggle, even if just a tiny bit, you can achieve and win the victory. The trial of a man is not marked alone by the distance he travels rather the road must be examined as well. Mental illness is a journey on a mountainside path slippery and full of obstacles. It will take all that you have on your trek to navigate the pitfalls but it will be worth it just for the view.

John-Funky-Photo-2I am a full time caregiver for my wife Sylvia from lovely Grenada. I volunteer as a missionary with the Church of Christ at Chancellor Avenue in the South Ward of Newark, New Jersey. I have served in this capacity for about eight years. I am a volunteer at New Jersey Peace Action serving as political action coordinator for the organization. I am a member of Woman’s International League Of Peace And Freedom. As a member of the mentally ill community I am an advocate for those who suffer in like manner.

John Kaniecki in an author and poet. He has four poetry books “Murmurings of a Mad Man” ,”Poet to the Poor, Poems of Hope to the Bottom One Percent,” “A Day’s Weather” and “Sunset Sonnets”. In addition he has a science fiction collection entitled “Words of the Future” and a horror novella “Scarecrow Scarecrow”. John’s poem Tea With Joe Hill won the Joe Hill Labor Poetry Prize. John’s work has been published in over seventy outlets. John resides with his lovely wife Sylvia in Montclair, New Jersey. John hopes one day his writing will have a positive impact on the world.

Also of particular note is John’s memoirs, “More Than The Madness”. This tells his story of dealing with bipolar disorder. It fights against the stigma of mental illness.

John Kaniecki can be found on his blog, Facebook, and Twitter

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Michael Deady

The voice, the confusion, the hurt.
There’s days you get ready for the week ahead and you spring up out of bed and just cannot wait to get on with your day. Then there’s days where someone is telling you how shit your life really is. There’s someone telling you that your fucked, you made a bad choice, everything is going horrible and you struggle from the off, you cry and you look at yourself and wonder.
You have people telling you that you’re a legend or that you’ll be ok, you do so much, we are here for you, yes that’s grand I appreciate every single thing you do for me, but can you fight these demons for me by any chance? I only keep myself occupied by doing things to see can I get this voice in my head off for a few hours but it keeps coming back to affect every bit of my life.
Not many people understand my decision or believe me for that matter. Things get inside your head, its negative, it’s hard, but it’s equally as hard to get rid of, I just need to learn how to manage it.
Here’s how to explain it in my way, Imagine winning the 100m sprint in the Olympics and having the best time of your life, you’re a beast an utter beast and then the next day this figure comes along and kills you inside saying you are lying, you cheated and leaves you crying for days because your achievement is taken away. You try to progress but you keep taking hits.
Thinking I can get rid of the past by changing my appearance thinking this might work but it doesn’t, it’s not who I am, and it doesn’t help things.
That’s what it’s like for me, now, one day I’m on top of the world and the next I’m being told by this voice and you are terrible. It’s confusing as hell it’s effecting my life, left right and centre and only for the people who believe in me and try to get inside my head and overlap my thoughts I’m still here battling on.
Trying to fill that gap in my life, having nobody personal to turn too when alone because I’m like this, sometimes is hard, telling your friends about your personal life is a tough one but this is where I am at, I don’t like bothering people, I don’t but if people weren’t there I don’t know where I would be.
Imagine trying to explain to a girl about all this? You can’t even imagine how tough it is to be honest with someone I like. Nine times out of ten it is driving them away and that’s proving more and more difficult for me to be honest and open. Yes my life is full of bloody problems, but it’s for the right reasons There’s a stigma still behind people with mental health, its seen as a burden or a problem, it’s always going to be there, it’s how you manage it that makes you how can I say this “normal”.
Imagine being afraid to do the sport you love? Imagine not wanting to turn up at the local athletics track or gym because you feel you are being watched. This is what it is like sometimes.
This voice, this manner in which my life is lived is how I have lived most my life, it’s not the person I am by no means, some saw it others haven’t. I’m lucky I have good friends. It’s how I always saw life. I understand people running off from my life, it’s understandable, why would you want some fool looking worried about who’s going to be where or what’s going on? I’m not relaxed most of the time, I get into ruts of being in my bedroom doing nothing at all because of negative thoughts.
Imagine waking up in the middle of the night because you think something or someone is hitting you or because someone is inside your head, every morning trying to get rid of the voice, imagine having flash backs to the negative things in your past because of this. It’s horrible. I put pillows over my head singing trying to make it stop, banging my head against a wall, anything to make this noise stop, I’ll admit it’s bloody dreadful. I sometimes feel like I’m being watched, to be honest I think I am, and this is how I feel all my life, trying to remove myself from the circle of pain but I still feel this way.
At the start it had impacted so much, it was driving negative thoughts into my head and made me a completely different person, I put on weight, I was unmotivated as a result, I had no interest in anything, which saw my decline in athletics and my lifestyle in general. I kept trying to get myself back but I kept having those days and I turned too staying in bed, away from people. Ill keep trying until I see myself training properly even with setbacks, I think I know how to deal with them now, hopefully I’ll be that athlete again someday and ill wake up thinking I’m ready.
Going out on the street where you know people pacing around the place trying to avoid any contact with certain people you know, then other days you stroll around and not a care. It’s unimaginable what is next. Going into a shop, seeing someone you know that heard about your problems and you walk out of the shop before they notice you, you don’t want to be sussed out because let’s face it, some people are so nosey. Being honest, It’s my main goal to get away from it all eventually.
Sometimes people try and understand or make judgements of they know what’s going on with me, but I guess this is the best way I can describe it, nobody knows, only me. In writing, for me, it is much more understanding, speaking about how it is to be me is tough, I’ll speak about anything bar that, talking is tough, but sometimes my emotions pour out as some of my close friends and others have seen.
I must be thankful for anybody involved or associated with the sport of athletics. I’ll be bluntly honest here, without you I’m a goner.
I try different things like writing, driving or training to control myself. Nine times out of ten this works for me, but not always.
I look at myself and keep worrying about sport and other important things in my life, where I am going to live next, work, my car, I ended up on my own, it is scary, how well I used to be in comparing to how I am now, heavier, more negative, less relaxed, I’m battling on because without it, I know its failure, I won’t always be like this if I just keep trying and keep telling myself, I will, instead of, I can.
Hello? are you there? I hope not.

12063760_10153242791326818_105141351955383857_nMichael Deady
23
Irish Athlete and Care Assistant

Michael Deady can be found on Facebook and Twitter

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Shauna Dinsart

Lips are moving. Mouths: opening and closing. Food being broken into digestible pieces.

Smack. Smack. Smack.

The noise gets louder. It can’t just be in my head. Someone is turning up the volume—someone is out to get me.

My steady heartbeat begins pounding; harder and faster as the noise becomes louder and louder. Sweat drips down my face and soaks my shirt. My breathing feels blocked. Are my lungs giving out? I try to fight it. It will be over soon.

This is the breaking point.

I have persisted beyond the abuse—the neglect. Somehow I have moved through those times without cracking, and now a subtle and repetitive noise is breaking me.

The straw that broke the camel’s back? Or the child with depleting anxiety, unable to persist any further?

Composed on the outside, I stand up and walk to my room. My bowl of cereal remains on the table untouched; soggy.

When I push open the door to my bedroom I collapse to the ground again. This is the only place I can lose myself. No one will ever know. The door is shut and the world left outside.

My skin breaks open easily, but there have become too many marks. I pull on my hair—entire handfuls, grasping with all of my might. My muscles are flexed as I force the pain.

Tears fall onto the floor below me.

I can still hear the sound. Smack. Smack Smack.

It’s not possible, I think. The sound is stuck in my ears, rattling inside my head. It won’t go away.

My head drops forward and I release my hair—it’s not working this time.

As hard as I can, I whip my head backwards. Smack: against the wall.

I see stars, but the sound remains.

I’m still there. I can’t escape myself.

My first debilitating panic attack happened when I was twelve years old.

Anxiety came to me disguised in self-hatred, so I fought it with self-destruction.

Anxiety came to me disguised in body dysmorphia, so I fought it with an eating disorder.

Anxiety came to me wearing many masks, so I fought it with many weapons.

The only problem was that the anxiety was inside of me and the weapons I was using were against me.

I fought myself most of my life, trying desperately to separate myself from the twelve-year-old girl stunted by her inner turmoil. There had to be a way to get rid of the pain. There had to be a way to drown out the memories.

There were entire years I wished that a bus would take me out—quick and painless.

At twenty-eight years old, I have found myself to be relatively stable: relative to the girl nestled inside abusive relationships; relative to the girl seeking revenge on herself; relative to the girl who woke up every morning crying, simply because she woke up another day.

I’ve been in and out of psychiatric care for almost half of my life now. I have been professionally diagnosed with Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Major Depression. Personally, from my studies of Psychology and experience living with myself for my entire life, I think all of these diagnoses blend together and the symptoms manifest similarly with each. I also believe that each diagnoses fuels the others—they feed off of each other like a pool of unwelcome parasites.

My mental health is not great today. I’m not sure it ever will be. I still cry more days than I don’t. I still suffer from insomnia, which is managed in part by medication. I still look down at my stomach and wish I could shave off a couple of inches. I still have nightmares almost every night, and flashbacks of the abuse. I still have panic attacks, regularly; but I’ve stopped harming myself entirely, and I’ll take that for now.

heron-island-washington-elopement-ryan-flynn-photography-shauna-michael-00019Shauna Dinsart is a twenty-something Corporate Manager turned Freelance Artist, currently living in Paris, France. She is a proud feminist and lover of all animals. When she isn’t writing or working on other creative projects, you can find her nose buried in a good novel or out enjoying an eclectic restaurant with her husband.

Shauna Dinsart can be found on Twitter.

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Taylor Nicole

I remember driving over the Gold Star bridge as a child (the summer before the fifth grade), on the way to an art fair with my mom, and seeing him. He appeared to be standing on the opposite side of the fence of the bridge, and if I remember correctly he was wearing shorts. My mom tried to quickly divert my attention, but it burned in my memory, and I couldn’t stop talking about it. I came up with a million reasons that day that he was on and on the bridge like that; maybe his friend fell over,maybe he was a spy, maybe he was a bungee jumper, maybe he was repairing the fence. I never had confirmation about what he was doing, or what he did. Eventually I found out the truth, and discovered the word “suicidal.” It hit me like a ton of bricks. I never thought a fifth grader and a man on the ledge would have so much in common.

For years leading up to seeing the man on the ledge I had been suicidal, without even knowing it. The thoughts started back to my adoptive mom passing when I was three, and finding out she was dead two years later. I didn’t quite understand what my social worker was telling me, and my foster family didn’t provide the most comfort, but I remember thinking how I wished more than anything I could join her, and be with her again. I vividly remember my foster dad watching Star Trek, and seeing a shooting scene, an over dramatized death, and wishing it could be me, passing on.

Even after I was adopted into my new, loving home, I couldn’t get the thoughts to go away. For a while they were passive. I didn’t really fit in with the children in my school, and that made me want to die a lot. Sometimes I thought about walking out of my classroom in elementary school, and running into the busy street our school was on. I thought about jumping off the top of the swings and breaking my neck, or sometimes leaping from a classroom window. This continued for years, until the week of my senior year of high school, when I started planning my suicide actively. I had opened up to my mother about my feelings, and she brought me to the hospital. The doctor asked if I had ever thought about killing myself. Immediately I said yes. He asked how, and I watched my mother’s face of disbelief as I listed off the countless ways I had considered hurting myself, as if listing off my favorite songs. I didn’t know that this wasn’t how everyone else was feeling, I didn’t know there was anything wrong with wanting to kill yourself. It was my comfort. That’s when my mother discovered a huge truth about being suicidal; children who are so young can think about thoughts this dark.

The thoughts came again when I had started college. They slowly creeped into my mind, like a familiar stranger. Again, the ideations were very passive; I could jump out my dorm window, what if I stepped into traffic, what if I took too many pills and just didn’t wake up? Depression got the worst of me in college, and I dropped out after one semester, at the age of seventeen. That’s when suicide really took a hold of me. I started cutting, not deep, but enough to punish myself and feel the pain. I engaged in fights with strangers, and sometimes even my boyfriend, in hopes I’d be beat to death. I would take a cocktail of pills, only to wake up with a medical hangover the next day. Nothing seemed to do the trick; I was constantly putting myself in harms way, and constantly trying to die, but still woke up. I finally sought out medical treatment, and again, I thought I was cured.

Time passed; I became a mother and a wife. I became a responsible adult. Dropping out of college and my reckless behavior was behind me. However, the suicidal thoughts weren’t. To this day I live with a dark shadow, always following me; my suicidal thoughts. They might just be whispers some days, a daydream of ending my life. Other days they might be screams, and wanting to start planning or relapse into pass behaviors. I’m medicated still, and I have a great treatment plan, but the suicidal thoughts still linger.

I think being suicidal is a taboo subject, and is often not touched upon. It’s seen in the media often, but rarely is accurately displayed (I honestly think the use of suicide in most media is a sales tactic for a shock factor versus bringing light to a very painful, very real subject). We often see suicide in cases such as Romeo and Juliet; two star crossed lovers not getting their ways, and killing themselves. While yes, events can trigger suicidal thoughts/actions, often times it’s a feeling that has lasted a lot longer than a few hours. It’s rarely a spur of the moment feeling. Suicide starts with ideations; the thoughts of, I could not wake up today, and that would be okay with me. It develops into intent, which is self harming behaviors, which leads into actions; the actual act of suicide. A lot of people live with suicidal thoughts for years before making a move. You don’t have to be harming yourself to be suicidal. Being suicidal is a state of mind, and one not a lot of us can escape.

I’m openly living with suicidal ideation; and while I may not be actively harming myself, it is still a very real, scary, and dangerous state of mind, that needs to be talked about. I have become the man on the ledge; and while I may not be standing on a bridge, I’m constantly in between a state of stability and insanity.

16807056_2224686771089221_107796558172569169_n1Taylor Nicole is a young author and mother based out of New England. Taylor is a foster care advocate, as well as a mental health advocate. She is a frequent blogger, and her memoir “Free Tayco” is set to be released April 7, 2017!

Taylor can be found on her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Nadya Hope

I am staring at the scissors in my hands and I am shaking. I am twelve and I don’t know that I can simply take the screen out of the window. I assume that I have to cut it away. I assume that even ending my pain will be difficult. I assume that I cannot do anything today without struggle. However, I am simply allotted more time to think through this moment.

I am shaking and crying, and I recognize that this is the moment when adults would advise me to call a suicide hotline or speak to a parent. I can’t do either. I don’t want to do either. I don’t want anyone to convince me otherwise. So I sit on the floor below my window sill and I hold the scissors in front of me like I am passing them to someone else; because, I don’t really want to die, I just don’t want to live, either.

In that moment, I didn’t know that I would decide to continue. In that moment, I didn’t know that I would decide to keep living and breathing and laughing and talking and making connections and breaking them and crying over them and wanting to die again later. I didn’t know that life would go on but at an alarming speed until I was bored. I didn’t know that the mornings I woke up feeling energized would be the mornings that everyone would suck the energy right out of me. I didn’t know that eating breakfast in the morning would hurt because suddenly, I wasn’t in control anymore, my hunger was.

I didn’t know that I would one day love someone enough to give birth to their baby nine months later, and I didn’t know that it would all go so poorly. I didn’t know that I would fight my own demons the way I fight with friends, I don’t. I didn’t know that I would be stopping on the side of a highway just to take a deep breath, or try to, at least; because, suddenly, I thought of a thought that I knew would make me upset, but I thought it anyways.

I didn’t know that I would be so terrified of love, but more terrified of being alone, so I’d chase it enough to be able to reject everyone else’s advances. I didn’t know that friends would feel so isolating. I didn’t know that family would feel so cold. I didn’t know that the damn suicide hotline lady would have such an attitude. I didn’t know that people could be so unsympathetic.

Back then I didn’t know that mirrors would be a bigger enemy to me than the skeletons in my closet, which is to say they were the same thing. I didn’t know that instead of lifting weights and eating healthy, I would simply stare in the mirror on an empty stomach, watching the fat fall away with the help of diet pills that had no business being in my system.

I didn’t know that instead of tattoos, I’d be getting scars on my arms like sleeves. I didn’t know that makeup would be so expensive. Better yet, I didn’t know that covering the stories on my arms would be so difficult. I didn’t know that people would be so curious to know about the reasons behind your mascara stains. I didn’t know that “I’m tired” would be a valid excuse for almost anything when you didn’t want to talk.

Back then, I didn’t know that I would get more excited about sneaking sleeping pills into a theater than food. I didn’t know that to sleep, I would need to blackout, but that experience is the first time I was ever taken advantage of. And they say that everyone makes it through somehow, but somehow, I’m still trying to end it all again like I’m twelve.

I didn’t know back then that I would put the scissors down only to lift the knife to stab my own back with it daily. I didn’t know that I would wake up only long enough to yell profanities in the mirror. I didn’t know that I would be okay as long as people reminded me why I shouldn’t be.

I didn’t know that

But right now, right here, today, I know that my scars are a story and my body is not a trash bin that fills up and looks better when it’s empty.  I know that mind is not the enemy and my heart is perfectly okay. I know that I will be okay.

Today, I put the scissors down. I lowered my voice and stepped away from the mirrors.

Today, I gave myself another chance. Today, I hope you will too.

14700920_1172435542850388_4181663310734351706_oNadya was adopted from Russia when she was eight and has struggled with depression and anxiety ever since. She has developed a passion for writing about these topics in her blog, “Where Is Hope” in the hopes of reaching someone else who may be struggling with the same things. Today, she is an aspiring author and poet, aiming every day to perfect her coffee brewing skills.

Nadya can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog. 

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Chris Coombs

For everyone with depression, the experience is different. But you wouldn’t know it from our societal image of the black dog. A million and one cookie-cutter ‘signs and symptoms’ pieces online, will blithely tell you the things to look for. Sleeping too much or not enough, isolating, lack of personal care and loss of interest, are always near the top of these lists and what one comes to realise the longer one lives with depression, is that these lists are almost always for the benefit of people without depression. What we might call the ‘worried well’.

Because the thing that I notice when I know I’m truly in a hole, (as a depressive with over ten years’ experience), is almost never mentioned.

It’s the silence.

In this silence, it is peaceful, but nothing enters from the outside world. If you’re lucky you lose the concept of the negative thoughts at this point too – the positives have long since departed. But more than likely, they’ve just become old companions, they don’t sting as much – but they’re still cruel bedfellows although their chatter is so well known to you at this point you don’t have to pay attention. They are mantras and negative affirmations. You can look without seeing, you can have food without taste, and interacting with people is done as if from behind a glass wall. You see them, but they see only the mask you want them to see at this point. And it’s a role you’ve gotten used to playing. And of course, it is silent theatre.

I have on occasion spoken publicly, and in media about depression and my own suicide attempt. I am always asked variations of two questions. First “How are you these days?”, as if the trajectory for someone with depression was purely linear, and depression not an insidious mass of thoughts, life experience, perceptions, body chemistry and who knows what else. The second one though, is more interesting. I’m always asked a variation of “What’s it like when you’re down there?”. And this is where the silence comes in. I suspect that most interviewers I’ve dealt with are expecting me to portray a seething, tangled knot of grief, loss, misery, suffering, pain and regret – maybe with a tincture of psychosis or delusion thrown in for the sake of a stereotype. I always wonder if it is therefore a disappointment, when I tell them how bland the experience of depression at it’s worst is for me.

The silence of depression is truly extraordinary. In the days leading up to my first suicide attempt, it occurred to me that I should at least try and write a note to explain how things had come to this point. After an hour of abortive first lines – I gave up. Because I had nothing to say. It wasn’t that I felt too upset to write how I felt, it was that I felt nothing at all. The internal torture of depression comes earlier when you’re on the way down to your own dark finality. When you’re there at the end – there is nothing to do. In the cookie-cutter pieces, the symptom listed as something akin to ‘loss of interest’ is often seen (I think) to be like this silence. It is not. I cannot stress to you the sheer paucity of the English language to sum up that feeling of grey numbness. It’s not to lack interest, it is to lack that quintessentially human spark of personality and originality that every one of us has by virtue of being a unique individual.

And that’s how I can tell when I’m in real trouble. Andrew Solomon put it well when he said, “the opposite of depression, is not sadness, but vitality”.

I find this such a vital concept to try and explain, and yet I know that I will have failed miserably. That is OK, it’s that paucity of language that is the hindrance – I think that’s why so many people with mental illness, speak in simile and metaphor. My own personal metaphor? I direct you to a piece of music by Thomas Newman from the movie ‘Road to Perdition’ called ‘Ghosts’. And even that only gets a tenth of the way.

So often we see ‘headclutcher’ publicity photos to signify mental health problems – I always think they should just as often have someone stare blankly into the lens. That silence is something that needs to be appreciated more when we talk about what depression is.

10649652_915185021830378_171709918246398032_nMy name is Chris, I’m 28, I live in Worcestershire in the UK and I live with depression.

When not writing I can be found training to become a counsellor, delivering mental health training, speaking publicly when called upon about suicide and depression, attending humanist gatherings, exploring and debating political and disability issues, watching cricket, drinking cider and ales, singing a cappella harmonies from across the world (with particular interest in the traditions of the Republic of Georgia), procrastinating, and cuddling my cats.

Though not all at the same time.

Chris can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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TINYLETTER.COM/CRYING Eve Peyser

TINYLETTER.COM/CRYING
Eve Peyser

I began sending out a newsletter every time I cried because I thought it would be funny. A compulsive journaler obsessed with keeping track of my various mental health issues—depression, anxiety, severe suicidal ideation, ADHD—I never had much desire to keep any of my mental health issues a secret. Talking about what I’m going through openly helps me overcome the worst, to release my emotions out so I can be free of their weight, to be not embarrassed about who I am. I wasn’t sure who would want to get the email and what I would even say in them. But having to explain what’s been going on with me over the past six months has helped me better understand why I feel and who I am. Here’s what happened, excerpted:

•••

9/8/16
subject: teared up

life is hard.

•••

9/13/16
subject: crying, unexpectedly

i was walking home, rushing because i have work, feeling anxious about picking the ideal food, a food i could stomach eating, a food i could desire because i’ve had issues with my appetite lately but feel really hungry — whatever besides the point — when a car full of men began catcalling me. it was flamboyant catcalling. loud and silly and performative. i think one of them howled “scooby dooby doo” at one point and there were a lot of “damns,” comments about my body, etc.

i’ve been getting catcalled since i was quite literally 10-years-old — grew up in manhattan — i can handle it, BUT there was a group of sort of hipsterish looking guys walking toward me who witnessed the whole thing. being silently watched amplified the feeling of deep inhumanity that comes along with getting sexually harassed. there’s a real humiliation to getting catcalled — an implicit understanding that, A. this might not be happening if i was dressed differently, and B. it’s a reminder that, as a rule, strangers have no fucking respect for you for reasons that are largely outside of your control. i can usually swallow that. but having one group of men witness another group of men aggressively catcall me felt like shit, and not because i was looking for them to save me, just because having someone witness something, especially someone who is going to construe you as a victim, makes your innate victimhood more real. had women bore witness, at least they would understand.

then there’s this anger that comes up with all this shit stealing away your time and energy — i walked a couple blocks out of my way because i didn’t want to walk in the same direction as the car. i didn’t end up getting food. i fucking spent time tweeting about it. then i started crying. then i wrote this fucking email. it took up a moderate portion of my time because i am who i am, for sure, but i want to be in control of how i spend my time.

anyways, the crying was brief and now it’s over. i’m fine. i should order food and get to work now.

welp, suppose it’s all right summer is ending. i love wearing shorts, but the repercussions of doing so almost seem not worth it.

until next time,
e

•••
9/24/16
subject: cried a little bit in a bar last night

approximately half my sexual experiences from ages 15 to 20 were nonconsensual. i don’t say this to shock anyone. it just comes with the territory of being a woman. you become sexually active; bad things happen. the thing no one tells you about getting sexually assaulted is that you’re not always sure if it happened, if it was your fault, because sometimes, it sure feel like it partially is.

it’s easier not to discuss sexual assault in this way. the reason we talk about it in such black and white terms is because no one believes women when we say we got assaulted. what i mean to say is this:

i’m 18, visiting a friend from high school in chicago, first time there and he’s the only person i know, i’m more or less stuck with him. one night, he takes me to a party at his friend’s apartment, where we’ll sleep because it’s in a supposedly unsafe neighborhood. my friend hasn’t been particularly nice to me throughout my stay and i get tired-drunk at the party and go to sleep early. he comes into the bedroom hours later—we’re sharing a bed, which is no big deal to me—to go to sleep. when he comes in, i realize i’ve fallen asleep with my very tight uncomfortable jeans on and i take them off and proceed to try to fall back asleep. suddenly, i feel him groping my breasts, reaching his hands around my underwear, and i’m frozen in shock. i say nothing. finally i muster the courage to grab my pants and go, but i’m in stuck in this frigidly cold stranger’s apartment in an unfamiliar and i don’t know anyone else there. (this is pre-iphone, like, damn.) i spend the night trying to sleep on the couch, using my coat as a blanket because i can’t find one, shivering. i am so so trapped. the next day, we have breakfast, i say nothing. (was it my fault for taking off my jeans?)

that is, when it comes down to it, what i cried about last night. that trip to chicago certainly is a small bad thing that happened to me; it’s certainly not the worst that’s happened. the crazy thing? i was triggered by seeing the bed intruder meme video.

i cried about it last week too but didn’t send out an email.

•••
9/28/16
subject: cried all last night, crying now, will likely cry tomorrow

i feel cold and extremely alone and also lonely. i really don’t enjoy being alive or my life and i’m very overwhelmed and i can’t stop crying about it. i don’t have much more to say. don’t @ me.

love,
eve

•••
9/29/16
subject: this comes as a surprise to no one, but i cried again last night

i had some important meetings last night. they all went so well! then i got home and cried for hours because i really, really, really, really wanted to kill myself.

i cried for a very very very very long time. probably hours. i cried because i wanted to kill myself and i didn’t know what was stopping me.

i didn’t end up killing myself. look at me, here i am, writing this email, alive.

also, i appreciate everyone’s concern, suicidal ideation is scary and you wanna help, i get it. but i do this newsletter as a way to track my emotions and as an art project. none of us need to fear crying!!! it’s ok to cry!!!! it’s ok to want to kill yourself all the time and it doesn’t mean you’re broken or bad. in fact, you can be functional, like me. (except when you’re not functional, like me, last night.)

so for the love of god, stop suggesting i do XYZ to get better. first of all, i didn’t ask for your opinion lol. but moreover i have a good therapist and a good psychiatrist and good friends and good family and a ton of support. i have people to go to. i just also write this KOOKY-ass newsletter.

ok should go do real work now.

with love,
eve

•••
11/7/16
subject: teared up a tiny bit on friday, but haven’t really been crying

on september 30, the night before my 23rd birthday, i half-assed a suicide attempt. i’m glad i didn’t go through with it. the next day, my birthday, i made the decision to quit drinking, at least for the time being. i also began taking zoloft. those two things combined have improved my life drastically. i feel happier, more awake, refreshed, actually excited to be alive!! it’s truly beautiful. but the combination of the new meds and the no alcohol means i haven’t been able to cry.

so i flourish but my newsletter dies? maybe. who knows what pain stands before me, what will trigger my next bout of uncontrollable weeping. the future is unwritten. but for now, my eyes are dry.

i managed to muster a couple measly tears—a tiny, virtually impotent load—when i was flying from portland, oregon to new york city on friday. they weren’t tears of sadness, but tears of longing. i wish i could’ve cried more, but i’m glad i’m no longer a weeping machine.

until next time,
e

•••
11/10/2016
subject: unsurprisingly, I cried on 11/9

when I woke up the morning of 11/9, I cried a little bit. if it weren’t for Zoloft, I imagine I’d still be crying. I’m so afraid for what will happen to women, people of color, Muslims, and LGBTQ folks in this country. I’m concerned for mentally ill people like me, all the people who are silent and terrified and want to die. I’m scared of what happens if I lose my health insurance, if I can’t afford my medications. It’s a scary fucking time. I’m grateful to have amazing friends and family and mental health professionals in my life.

Stay safe.
Fight the white supremacist heteropatriarchy.
Fuck fascism.

Until next time,
e

•••

12/23/2016
subject: why I cried last night

while I was crying last night I begrudgingly said, “oh great. now I have to write a newsletter.”

since I returned home from a two-week trip to Oregon earlier this week, I’ve been feeling very depressed, overwhelmed with this anger—that I have to be alive, that I have to deal with the utter exhaustion of existence, that I have to take a cocktail of pills to be a functional person in this world.

when will being alive get less exhausting? when will I be able to have real fun, to feel joy without pain? when will the self-hatred rest? when will I become less reliant on other people to feel worthy?

I felt mad and indignant about my mental illness because even though things in my life are going well—friends, family, romance, work are all very good right now—that I still have these feelings. circumstance helps depression, but doesn’t fix anything. I know this and I’ve always known this. but it nevertheless felt so deeply unfair that my psychology propels me toward these death-thoughts, this haunting misery.

I ended up FaceTiming with someone I really like for hours and that made me feel a lot better. having support and love is so important, and I’m lucky to have it.

today I feel less bad than yesterday. that’s the life of a depressive—things are better now than they were and it will forever be a struggle to remember life is worth living. but it is.

until next time,
e

•••
12/28/16
subject: do you ever start imagining all the terrible ways your life could play out…

do you ever start imagining all the terrible ways your life could play out and start to tear up? being alive is scary and hard—having depression means it’ll always be hard. even though things are better now for me than it has been in the past but it doesn’t mean things are easy. so the world keeps turning.

stay strong.

until next time,
e

•••
1/20/17
subject: happy inauguration i cried again

yesterday i found out i won’t have health insurance until march and there’s nothing i can do to get it before then and cried about it. i cried about it again this morning. also donald trump will officially be president in a matter of minutes. i’m fucking terrified. i’m so fucking terrified.

until next time,
e

•••

1/30/17
subject: cried yesterday and today

unsurprising considering what’s going on in the world.

i cried because a lot of the suicidal thoughts i’ve been working so hard to overcome began flooding back this weekend. my boyfriend, who was visiting me went back home, and i had to go off my zoloft for a bit after i lost my health insurance. i was feeling so scared and afraid for the future and all i could think about was wanting to die so so badly. a video about suicidality popped up in my facebook feed and i lost it because i related.

i wept all morning, and then the zoloft my doctor sent from canada finally arrived, which made me feel infinitely better.

i worry for all the other people who will struggle to get their medication if the ACA is further gutted or repealed. i worry for the muslim immigrants and refugees who have been banned from entering our country. i am worried.

until next time,
e

•••
2/7/17
subject: i cried again but i swear it’s not my fault

over the past week, my depression and anxiety surged, slowly engulfing me—hasn’t felt so bad since before i quit drinking. i hate the feeling—severe depression turns you selfish, lazy, and worst of all, it compels you to do nothing but feel bad for yourself.

the narrative goes: why me why do i have to be alive why is being alive so hard for me why am i not dead i wish i was dead if i was dead i wouldn’t worry about all this stuff i wouldn’t be in all this pain.

though i was barely able to leave my apartment this weekend, today i felt determined to do better than yesterday, to leave the house before the sun went down, to get some work and errands done. no crying, i told myself. i didn’t want another day helplessly stuck in the prison of my bed.

my mission to have a better day was, however, wrecked once i realized something can gone awry with my finances. i know i’ll ultimately be OK, but the whole ordeal exacerbated the pain and anxiety i had been trying to move past all day. i broke down and wept and probably (definitely) screamed a little.

even though i was “in a state,” having a lil breakdown ultimately brought me some feeling of catharsis. even though i’ve cried a bunch the past week—and will likely continue to cry in the very near future, if history’s taught me anything—this cry felt more necessary. some cries, you just ruminate in your pain and your self-pity and eventually you stop but only because you tire yourself out. other cries, better cries, begin with that self-pitying feeling, but the act of crying allows you to release it; in this case, you stop crying because you stop feeling so sad. i’d like to think my cry today was one of those better cries, but i’m still too close to the situation to make an evenhanded assessment.

i also talked to my mom and my best friend, who both really helped me feel better. i know i say this all the time, but i really am forever grateful for all the support i have in my life.

until next time,
e

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Eve Peyser is a writer and comedian who lives in New York. Her work has appeared in New York Magazine, GQ, Esquire, the Washington Post and Gawker. She is currently the night editor at Gizmodo. Get an email every time she cries: tinyletter.com/crying.

Eve can be found on her website, Facebook and Twitter