How soon after a suicidal period are you allowed to talk about it without people getting weird and worried about you? Is five months long enough?
It’s World Mental Health Day, and heckfest is gonna talk about it.
cuz folx, living every day when you hate living is a heckfest.
I’m a real big advocate for mental health these days. I didn’t really get loud about it until I went public with my struggles back in March, but now that I’m open about it, I feel like I have a responsibility to both a.) be honest about my experience and b.) take the necessary steps to get better.
So I’m gonna do that. Starting with May.
I was at my temp job. Stuffin envelopes, as one does. And I was just thinking about my life.
I felt like I was stuck at a red light. It didn’t matter how many directions I could go or how far I could go because the light was red. And I was stopped. And my car was running, but I was kinda running out of gas because I had been stopped at this red light for SO long. And I was cramping up and getting restless because I was packed up and ready to go places, but I couldn’t go any of those places because, as I have said, the light was red.
Simply put, I felt stuck. And I was crying. While stuffing envelopes. Because I am an excellent multitasker. And I drifted into thinking that maybe I would just shut off my car for good. Because it’s not going anywhere anyway, yknow? And while I was stopped, it’s not like I could do much besides listen to music and whatever else one does in a stopped, yet still running car. So I thought, hmm, ok, if the light doesn’t turn green in x amount of time, the car is going off.
If I lost you anywhere in this car metaphor, or if you think you might know what I’m talking about but you’re not sure, let me be blunt: I gave God a deadline. And I told him that if I was still jobless and hopeless by then, I was going to kill myself. And for the first time in my life, I actually made a plan.
This time was different than the previous times, though. Not only because I made a plan this time, but in years past, I felt like I maybe didn’t have anyone who cared/could help me. This time, I knew there were people who cared about me. I knew there were people who would listen and care. No amount of people reaching out and loving me was going to change my mind.
In my mind, I was useless. I was unproductive and my existence wasn’t beneficial to anyone, least of all myself. It didn’t matter to me how great of a friend I was or how intelligent I was if I didn’t feel like I had a purpose. It didn’t matter that I could contribute in meaningful ways to anyone else’s life; I couldn’t contribute meaning to my own life. So what was the point?
Now, I know this sounds dramatic when my biggest problem was that I couldn’t get a job, but it’s amazing how much that affects one’s life. Not only with providing the funds to have a life, but also giving you something to do, a way to find fulfillment, a path to success. I know that’s not all there is. But I didn’t have (or feel like I had) any of the other things, either.
By the way, this blog post isn’t for people who want to help their mentally ill friends. It’s for my mentally ill friends who want to help themselves. Because I am the only person that could have helped me back in May/June. And ultimately, I’m the only person who can truly save me from myself. And you are the only person who can do that for yourself, too.
So I realized pretty quickly after my suicide planning sesh that maybe, just maybe, my problem wasn’t the job thing.
And I made a very out of character decision. And it scares the heck outta me to share it publicly but it’s part of the authenticity and advocacy thing that I’m so passionate about. So here it goes.
My decision is this: I am going back to therapy. It’s going to be a real thing in my life from now on. It has to be. Because if I have to keep doing this alone, then I’m gonna need a better toolbox. Mine is filled with broken plastic forks that I tried to eat frozen ice cream with. And yeah, there are a lot of problems with that sentence. Which is why I need therapy.
Let me explain why this is out of character for me: I have been shoved in therapy since I was a child. I’m pretty sure I was six years old the first time I had to visit an old white woman who made me uncomfortable with board games and interrogations. I had regular visits to talk to the ladies who played speed with me and asked invasive questions that I don’t even remember answering. And honestly? It didn’t do anything for me. I started wanting to die before I was ten years old. That was after and during mandated therapy visits.
Then I got to college and was diagnosed as a psycho and I went back to therapy. I thought it might be more helpful or something now that I was older and trying? This time, I didn’t even wait for the invasive questions, I just divulged all the information one could possibly need or want to know. But no amount of talking made it better. I think my thoughts about it can be most accurately summed up in a song I wrote called “Therapy”:
I don’t know what I need, probably therapy
but why would I give money
to tell somebody my grief
when I can do it for free on your answering machine?
You might feel inclined to laugh, but this is real feels, man. I have plenty of people who will listen to me. That’s not what I needed then and it’s not what I need now.
But I didn’t realize until recently that I had a fundamental misunderstanding about what therapy is and what I’m supposed to be getting from it. And I think that’s way too common with people who don’t really understand what’s wrong with them and just expect therapy to “fix them.” So I’ve resolved to try again and establish expectations this time.
I’ve been feeling for a while that I’m just at the mercy of my life circumstances. I can’t control when I cycle up or down, and after six or seven medications, I can’t just make them fix me. But since making this decision, I feel a lot more confident that I can take control of my life again. But I also know that I’m currently in a manic phase where I’m on top of the world and this roller coaster is going to drop at any moment. And when it does, hoo boy. Yikes amiright? The goal is to still feel as hopeful then as I do now. And the goal is for therapy to help me with that.
Therapy won’t make the light turn green, but it can prepare you for when it does turn green. Sometimes we whine about being stuck at a red light, but do we ask ourselves if we’re truly ready for a green light anyway? If I was being honest with myself back in May, I wasn’t ready for a green light. I thought I was, but what good is a green light if you’re not in any state to be driving?
Besides my experience with making plans, there are two huge factors that pushed me toward this resolution.
One was a certain therapist I follow on Instagram who’s handle is @heytiffanyroe. If you follow her–she’s amazing, right?! If not, you should start. This woman has changed my life. She also has a podcast called Therapy Thoughts that rocks my world.
She is how I learned that not all therapists are created equal. She has taught me what I need to look for as I begin my journey back into therapy. I have learned more about how to take care of myself mentally and emotionally from following her than I ever did in all my previous years of therapy. The tools and validation I feel just from seeing her posts every day have been instrumental in my development this year. It started before May, but she’s the reason I warmed up to therapy enough to consider it at all when worse came to worst.
The second reason is another person–one of my super close friends who has no idea that I’m even thinking of therapy. Maybe I’ll tell that story another time.
But I love that just because these two people were good humans who didn’t know me/know me that well and they inspired me so much just by virtue of who they are and how much better they make me want to be.
I can testify to the power of being a stellar human being and how that affects us other human beings. But I can also testify of the power of being your own stellar human being and using the motivation from those around you to take back control of your own life.
I’m trying to gear this toward my past self and people like my past self, because if I had read this in 2016 and heard myself say “take control of your illness,” I would have thought “there is literally nothing I can do to fix myself.” If you’re the 2016 me, please believe that you are capable. Right now, you’re falling with the avalanche down the mountain, nothing to hold on to and nobody to reach out to. But it will settle. And you’ll find a toolbox. And you’ll dig yourself out. You have to.
Happy Mental Health Day. Do something to take care of your mental health today. Read a book. Do some yoga. Take a bubble bath.
Sidenote: I actually bit into a bath bomb the other day because it looked AND smelled like a cupcake. Yeah, it was hard, but I thought it was just a little crusty on the outside and would get softer when I bit into it. In my defense, I was right. 0/10 did not taste like a cupcake. Pretty excited to use it for its original purpose, though…