Why Am I Still Asking Why?

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I READ THIS ARTICLE FROM A LOCAL NEWS STATION and was astounded at the numbers they gave for the percentage of teens who seriously consider attempting suicide. It raises so many questions in my mind. How can it be that many? What is causing this? Why aren’t we talking about it? And why am I still asking why? It’s time. No, it’s way past time for mental illness to be a part of our daily conversations. It’s past time for it to be normal to discuss mental illness. It’s past time for things like mental illness and suicide to only be talked about in hushed whispers. And it is so far past time to be embarrassed if you have mental illness or you have a child with mental illness.

I also question how resources can still be so limited. Why don’t we have mental health Urgent Cares? A place you can go to anytime if you need someone to talk to, if you need help. Someone who can then refer you, if need be, to a specialist who can help you long-term. Isn’t mental health a part of our physical health? The brain is a physical part of our body, isn’t it? And although we aren’t to that point of having help and care as readily available, it is out there. If you or someone you know and love is showing signs of needing help, please get it. Please take it seriously. We all deserve the best care and health we can get.

Bouncing Back

The last few weeks have been really rough. On top of dealing with some difficult things in my personal life, my depression and anxiety have been worse than they usually are at this time of year. I’ve felt myself slowly sliding down this rough and rocky slope towards the bottom. Then Wednesday night I finally hit rock bottom again. But this time, I decided I wasn’t going to stay there.

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Emotions are real. All emotions. There’s nothing we can do about initial emotions we have as reactions to things that happen to us, things we might witness or hear or things that are said or done to us. No one ever tells you to stop feeling happy after you’ve just witnessed your child do something silly. No one ever tells you to stop feeling excitement after you’ve won a prize vacation. No one ever tells you to stop feeling peace after you’ve had a spiritual experience. So no one should tell you to stop feeling hurt, pain, anger, frustration, disappointment after something bad, sad, frustrating, hurtful or disappointing has happened. It’s okay to have those feelings. But it’s also your choice how you’re going to proceed and react after the initial feeling has happened. With mental illness, it is extremely difficult to let go of those feelings and not let them sink in and consume you. But there are things you can do to help.

I’ve often stated how there’s no one set cure, or even help, for mental illness. What works for one person may not work for someone else. We’re all different and we all need different things. It’s also frustrating that what worked for you a few years ago may not work for you now. Or maybe something that didn’t work for you before is something you should try now, as hard as it is to realize that. Each day, each time, can be different. Hitting rock bottom for me this time was different than last time.

trammpolin-2635260_1920Last time I stayed down. I moved forward, but it felt like I was inching along hard, rough ground the whole time, and it took a certain experience with a certain person to really pull me up. This time it was like I hit a trampoline. I landed hard enough to hit the ground, and it hurt! It really hurt, but then the trampoline bounced me back up. And it’s because I decided I didn’t want to stay down. I decided I was sick of feeling depressed and confused and in turmoil, and I was going to do something about it. I decided I wasn’t going to let initial feelings of hurt stew inside of me. I decided I wasn’t going to let someone else determine my emotions for me. I’m a fighter. I’m not weak, I’m strong. And I’m stubborn. And this time I needed to prove to myself, and others out there, that I am all of those things, that I know what I’m doing and that I can do it!

So, despite still having a lot of unresolved conflict, despite uncertainty, despite unfulfilled hope, yesterday was a good day. I was happy! There were times I started thinking of what has hurt me, what I have done wrong, and I’d start getting that sinking feeling in my stomach, but I’d move past it. I didn’t let it overtake me, I didn’t let myself drown in it. I pushed it aside, knowing it was still there, but also telling myself I was okay. And I was okay. I am okay. And I know I will be. You will be, too. You can be. Whether it’s by your own sheer will power or medication or therapy or coping mechanisms or help from another person and whether it’s the same as it was last time, or different, you can do it. You can come back from rock bottom. I know you can. And I know I can.

Glove

Here’s another poem from my young friend, Kelsey Gibbons.

Glove

A glove is seen as a piece of clothing;
The piece that protects one’s hand from harm.
As hard as the outside tries,
It is unable to influence the hand.
Rain, come pour down but you will be
Unable to wet the hand.
Snow, come flutter down, but you will be
Unable to freeze the hand.
Thorns, come prick and poke, but you will be
Unable to pierce the hand.
Come chemicals, come bullets, come fire,
All will be unable to hurt the hand.
Everyone wishes to have a glove,
A glove to protect them.
Protect them from hurt, from pain,
But they don’t know—
They don’t know about the consequence.
You see, if one wears a glove for too long,
If one wears a glove through everything,
The glove will stick to the hand.
No matter what is done,
No matter what attacks,
It will not come off of the hand.
All things are protected from the hand.
The bad, yes,
But also the good.
The glove feels the wet of rain,
The soft of dog fur.
The glove feels the cold of winter,
The warmth of another’s hands.
The glove feels the prick of thorns,
The softness of a baby’s skin.
The glove protects, the glove covers.
The glove stops the pain
The pain of cutting the hand,
The pain of heartbreak,
The pain of divorce,
The pain of repeatedly broken trust,
The pain of constant stress,
The pain of being alone,
The pain of helplessly watching a loved one suffer,
The pain of parental affection denied,
The pain of never being enough,
But the glove also stops the joy.
The joy of good food, music
And romantic love.
The joy of exciting trips, playing with children
And platonic love.
The joy of trying new things, feeling happiness,
And familial love.
It stops the happiness and the pain from reaching the hand,
It stops the happiness and the pain from reaching my soul.

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I’m impressed that a seventeen-year-old has already learned this valuable lesson. It’s true—without the bad, we’d never know the good. The bad, the hard things, the pain help me appreciate the good things in life more.

Sometimes we want protection, and there are some things we do need protection from, but always having that glove on prevents us from experiencing life at its fullest. More than that, when we go through hard things, when we feel pain at its strongest, it gives us the opportunity to grow and to possibly help others as well.

Sometimes It’s Best to Ignore Your First Instinct

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My daughter had a panic attack today. My first thought was to tell her to calm down, that she didn’t need to cry, that she could be tough. Then I remembered how I react to others telling me those things when I’m struggling with my own depression, anxiety or OCD. It doesn’t help. Period. So instead, I sat next to her, put my arm around her, let her lay her head on my shoulder and my lap. I rubbed her arm and told her it was okay to cry and to feel sad sometimes. Eventually she stopped crying and was able to breathe normally again. I even had her laughing at one point.

So here’s the deal. If someone with mental illness trusts you enough to be honest in what they are going through or how they are feeling, just be there for them. Acknowledge what they’ve told you, give them a hug or a shoulder to cry on and tell them it’s okay for them to feel the way they do. I think our first instinct is usually to give advice or try to correct. Or worse yet, ignore. But those things don’t work. They only harm. Be kind. Be educated. Just be there. That is what helps, and sometimes that is all we need.

About Being a Parent

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Just based on my own experience being a parent is hard. Being a single parent is harder. You have no one else to help, to lean on, to offer shared experience or support. You’re doing it all alone, and that can be very intimidating, knowing that my kids are counting on me and me alone. Alone is exactly how I was feeling last night as I tried to help my daughter who was struggling because of someone in her school class who had been very mean to her when she was only trying to do the right thing. I immediately turned to scriptures and the words of my church leaders, then spoke of my own experiences and thoughts to try to help her, but I felt so inadequate and wondered if I was really helping her or not. After I finally got her into bed I sat on my own bed and cried, feeling that aloneness, thinking how hard it was being a single parent.

But then I remembered that I wasn’t alone, that I actually had the most knowledgable, wise, kind, perfect parent on my side—my Father in Heaven. He’s the one I can lean on for support and look to for guidance, and I know He can give it to me. I also realized, though, that in order for me to have that I needed to be living my life in a way where I can hear His spirit and His voice speaking to me. It ignited a fire in me to strive to live a more spiritual life. There are little things I know I can do better at, things that will bring the Spirit into my home and into my life. In so doing I truly believe that I can have that help and experience to guide me and that support I need to lean on.

What Helps and Hurts

I found this on a fellow blogger’s site, Bipolar, Uninvited, and she told me I could share it here. I get this one hundred percent! Of course, no one wants to feel like they’re walking on eggshells around anyone, but words are real, as are their effects. It would really help for people to know some basics of what not to say around those of us who are struggling with mental illness and things that are okay and could help. I doubt anyone would tell someone with multiple sclerosis to just “snap out of it” and get up and run a mile. It would be completely insensitive and inappropriate. Well the same is true of depression, OCD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. Hopefully some of you out there can relate and hopefully, for some, this helps and makes a difference.

Do You Believe in Magic?

Do you believe in magic? Of course you don’t. You did as a kid, until your parents told you the truth about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and fairies and that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—and crushed your happy, innocent bubble of a magical world. But you know what? I still believe in magic. I’ve felt it swirling through the air of Joe’s Valley, caught between long rays at dusk on golden cliffs. I’ve seen it in the reflection of sunlight on towering pines at Kolob Canyon. I wrote this poem once called Kolob’s Gift.

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Shimmering gold grabs my eyes.
Mesmerized.

Individual needles of pinyon pine
reflecting the streaming sunlight
against the brilliant blue sky.
A treasure worth more than all the jewels
I could ever buy.

 

Magic. I also experienced it once at Bryce Canyon. Most people would probably call me crazy. I call what happened a gift. Let me take you back with me.

In high school I was different—different, weird, an outcast—a freak. Most of the time I was fine with that. I didn’t want to be like everyone else, and I proudly walked around in my tie-dye and bell bottoms, not caring what anyone else thought. But some of the time it did affect me. Some of the time I hated being different, hated knowing that people thought I was a freak. And it made me feel bad about myself. Low self-esteem is a common side-effect of depression. I hated looking at myself in the mirror. I was ugly. I was worthless. I was different. I was a freak. And I hated myself.

The summer between my junior and senior years of high school, we took a family trip to Bryce Canyon. I loved being there. I was a nature girl, a desert girl, a red-earth and green-pines girl. But I was also a very depressed girl, feeling so worthless and alone, feeling like my life didn’t matter.

Our last day at Bryce we took a shuttle ride. It stopped at certain lookouts long enough for everyone to get off, take a few pictures, get back on, then drive to the next stop. The main road comes to an end at a large parking lot with several lookouts so this stop was longer than the rest. Everyone shuffled out of the hot, muggy shuttle and took out their cameras. I noticed a trail disappearing into a cluster of pines and took it, wanting to be alone. It led to a lookout called Yovimpa Point.

I stood there at the edge, next to the wooden fence separating me from a long, steep dive down, and took in the breathtaking view of red sandstone, white earth and deep green pines. A good place to take my last breath. All I had to do was climb over the fence and jump. I could end my worthless life and die in my beautiful nature. All problems solved.

I had just put my foot on the fence when I heard voices nearing me, speaking French—a group of tourists who had been on the same shuttle. I stepped back, suddenly nervous about letting these strangers watch me commit suicide. Not long after, my family wandered down the trail, as well. Plan foiled. Now, I can look back and say I’m glad it was.

When I got home from Bryce I talked to my best friend about what had happened. She gave the generic answers any Latter-day Saint person would give about how I was of great worth to my Father in Heaven and that He and Jesus Christ wanted me to live. It did help—enough for me to decide that killing myself wasn’t the answer.

Halfway through my senior year of high school I decided I was sick of being depressed. I remember this one day, sitting by myself in the dark in one of the practice rooms in the band room, thinking how I didn’t want to be depressed anymore. I wanted to be happy. So I told myself I’d be happy. And I was. I know it sounds simple and easy, and, well, it was. That’s not always how it goes, that’s not always how it’s gone at other times in my life, but that time it did. It was amazing how easy it was to make myself be happy after that. It’s not that life was easy. I still had challenges and faced difficult trials, but it was easier getting through them because I had a better attitude, and I wouldn’t let anything get me down.

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Okay, now let’s fast forward to my second year of college. Some roommates and friends and I decided to go to Bryce Canyon over spring break. One day, we drove to the big parking lot at the end of the road. I quickly took off away from everyone else and walked the trail to Yovimpa Point. I stood alone, looking out at the same scene, though painted white from several feet of snow. After a short time I noticed movement from the corner of my eye. I turned to look, thinking maybe one of my roommates had come down the trail, but no one was there. Odd. I turned, looked out at the scene before me, again, and again, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. I saw someone. I turned, but no one was there. As soon as I turned back, I saw the person again. But this time I didn’t turn to look because I knew who it was. I knew who was there—it was me. I saw myself—the past me, the one who stood there, thinking about jumping. And in this rush of memory I thought about how much I had changed and grown and evolved in the last two and a half years, since the last time I was here. The most incredible sense of peace, calm, and quiet satisfaction settled over me—just like the pure, white snow settled over the land. A gift to remind me that we don’t have to stand still in this life. We can become more than what we were, more than what we are. And it’s okay to falter, it’s okay to be weak. It only means we have some place to go, that we can make ourselves strong.

So, did I really see myself that day? I will always believe that I did. Was it magic? Am I just crazy? Just different? Just a freak? Well, whatever anyone else may think, I’m grateful—will always be grateful—for that experience and what it meant to me. What it taught me. What have your experiences in life taught you?