Don’t look back.
If I could give myself one piece of advice, that would be it. I would tell myself this, again and again, year after year. I’d whisper it in my ear as I stare out the window, dreaming of my youth. I’d say it and tug on my arm when I look at my brother, remembering how we played together so long ago. I’d scream it to myself when I walk away from my dad, remembering how I’d run up and hug him after he came home from work back in preschool. I’d slap myself in the face and tell myself, “don’t look back” as I cried over the years for so many people….
I guess I’ve always been sort of a nostalgic person. I used to keep journals and scribble my thoughts furiously, telling myself that they’d someday matter. I hang onto pictures, pour through them and will myself to relive the happiness I felt in them. I replay my memories like an annoying film montage that can’t ever seem to pause. The past holds so much knowledge, so many mistakes, and I constantly search through it so that my future may end up differently…or the same.
But I’m trying to stop this. My nostalgia gets me in trouble because it plays on all the softness in my heart. In those moments when I long for the closeness I once felt for my family, guilt, pain, and anger start appearing. When I remember my happy childhood I often feel sad, because it ended too soon. And when I think of the good times, the times I’ll never get back with the people I’ll never get back…well, then I start questioning. Did it have to end up that way? What did I do wrong?
What. Did. I. Do. Wrong.
That used to be the thing I whispered to myself in nights spent alone. Instead of advice, I repeated that question to myself, gradually chipping away at my self-esteem. The depression that kept coming back to me came back through my memories. It attached itself to my past, sucking away all the happiness I once felt and leaving emptiness, leaving blame. If the present sucked, it was my fault. And everyone knows you can’t repeat history. But I tried, anyway.
I went back again and again to the same relationships, the same friendships, because I loved those people and I missed them. But what I loved and missed more were how they once made me feel…whole. Happy. I had so much trouble letting go, because I was always looking over my shoulder, wanting to make the past a reality again.
But things can’t be undone, can they? A fight will always be remembered; the words said can never be unsaid. The carelessness that someone gave toward your heart will always leave behind a new insecurity, just like a love once felt will always leave behind some pain. Even though I would try my hardest to rekindle laughs, wild nights of summer, unhinged passion, and unblemished trust…I failed. Those friendships would fade again when I wasn’t looking, and those relationships withered away in my hands.
So I tell myself, “Don’t look back.”
It’s true, the past will always be a part of the present; I cannot pretend to be indifferent to the things I once held so dear. But the past doesn’t have to remain my vicious cycle of retracing my steps. I can accept my mistakes; I can let go of the rose-colored glasses peering into my recollections. The past was never perfect, just like the present, and I can’t let myself cherry-pick the good times. Life goes on…One happy memory can always be followed by another, and sometimes you find happiness where you don’t expect it to be.
By welding my own destiny, and following the path of the present I can move on. So when I dwell on the dysfunction of my family, I think of how independent it has made me. When I feel the sting of rejection from old friends who have turned into strangers, I remind myself of the new friendships I have created. And yes, even when my stomach drops in disappointment when recalling the relationships that have gone awry…I manage to hold strong, reminding myself why things ended the way they did. Because I find that the older I get, the more I define my experiences, instead of the other way around. If I’m looking back at my past I won’t get to see what’s coming up next. Life moves forward so I look forward…So I can look forward to life.
It’s been a week since I moved back in with my parents and I still can’t catch my breath. Everyday I’ve been busy, whether it’s avoiding my responsibilities, catching up with old friends, trying to fit all of my stuff in my old room, or searching for a new car. I’ve been feeling better, but it’s the kind of better that has fine print attached—“Feelings of happiness have a high probability of fading within 2-3 weeks. As your schedule clears, side effects may follow that include time to process that your life is still messed up, and that you still have no idea how to fix it. Proceed with caution.”
In the short time I’ve been back home the distractions have been endless. Somehow I’ve managed to round up a couple of dates, some nights out drinking with my old friend Val, and seeing a few movies with Fred. My parents have hardly mentioned getting me into treatment, although my mom is convinced I need to be back on medication ASAP. Rightfully so, might I add. But there’s no doctors appointments booked, or any attempt to find a new part time job on my end. The temptation to avoid the problem is winning out over my fear of not getting better, and other stressors that are less important take up space in my mind. I know I need to confront the source of my depression—not only the chemical imbalance, but all of the insecurities, the social anxiety, and the fear of trusting both myself and others. The time has come for me to grow up and face the demons of my depression.
Getting help is a process, and it’s not as simple as most people make it out to be. Like last time I did outpatient, there was an act of desperation that brought my depression to the attention of others. After that, there were the precautionary steps where I moved back in with my parents and the idea of treatment was tossed around. Now it’s come to the step where I need to put the plan in motion, to go get help.
Treatment can be a scary thing for people who have lived with an untreated disorder for a long time. Even though I’ve been going to therapy for a few months, the idea of walking through those double doors marked “Behavioral Health” for everyone to see is daunting. Depression can be a really secretive disorder, and letting strangers know you struggle with it by the mere act of being in a treatment center leaves a person exposed and vulnerable. Our society is one that praises people for “toughening up” and “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps”; sometimes getting help can feel like failure for someone who’s tried so hard to keep their disorder in the dark. It’s important in these moments not only to be supportive of the person seeking treatment, but to also let them confront these feelings on their own. You can’t force another person to reveal what is going on, as many people in my life have tried with me. You must let them peal off the layers of security slowly, and allow them to dismantle the walls they’ve built on their own. It’s a significant moment when someone with a mental illness accepts help, and it’s one that must be acknowledged, respected, and given patience.
After I completed outpatient the first time I felt better than I had in a long, long time. I was seventeen, and for the first time in five years I believed in myself. I believed I could fight for myself, protect myself, and find happiness. I knew I had something worth living for—I knew I owed it to myself to live a full, happy life. Now I’m back at square one, utterly confused and hopeless, but there’s a difference. I remember that feeling…I remember that once I survived, I pulled myself out of the hell I was living in and I fought back. And I have hope that I can do it again.
So I guess this is all to say that if any of you readers are going through treatment or even considering treatment, I’m proud of you. I believe in you. I know that you might feel like you’ve set yourself up for the impossible, but keep trying. No matter how many sessions in therapy, no matter how many pills you’re prescribed, no matter how many treatment centers or desperate phone calls to your loved ones…You can do it. You are worth rescuing. You deserve a happy life. Hope exists, and it’s waiting for you.
“Selfish”. This word gets tossed around a lot when discussing suicide, and most often by the people who have never been suicidal. “That is just so, so selfish.” It doesn’t even hurt when people say that to me, because a.) that would mean I would already have to have some positive feelings about myself and some ego to wound, and b.) after a while, nothing sinks in. Depression becomes your lens to look through, your force-field, your wall shutting the world out of your mind and shutting you out of your world. So it’s not a big deal to me, and yet… I wish people could hear themselves sometimes.
It’s kind of impossible for someone to kick you when you’re already so far down, but people can push you over the edge. And let’s face it, there are a lot worse things a suicidal person can hear (for example, “why don’t you just do it then?” which I thankfully have never heard) than “That’s so selfish!” But, I will state my case regardless…
Common mistakes people make when talking to suicidal people (and what those suicidal people might be thinking in response):
*just a note…I’m not going to sugar coat this. Depressed people are often irritable and cynical, so…you’re warned.
#1. “It’ll get better.”
I have two reactions to this, and they depend on voice inflection. If spoken in a quiet voice with a sad look in their eyes, I think/say, “Yeah, it will,” or “I hope so…” If spoken in a strong, determined voice that you can picture saying “Buck up, soldier!” then it will be more along the lines of: Easy for you to say, you ignorant fuck.
An Explanation: The thing is, if someone’s thinking about committing suicide, then that generally means they don’t think it’s going to get better. Suicide is last resort, people, if someone thought it was all going to turn around tomorrow, they wouldn’t be thinking about this shit.
#2. “You just need to think positive.”
If it’s someone I love…“Yeah…” If it’s not…Gee, if only I would have thought of that before! *mentally flips them off*
An Explanation: Suicidal thoughts are often the product of depression, and depression is an illness like diabetes or high cholesterol, etc. If someone needs a shot of insulin, you don’t tell them to think positive and hope they don’t pass out/have a seizure. If someone needs therapy and medication, you don’t tell them to think positive and hope they don’t off themselves.
#3. “Suicide is not the answer.”
Than what is?? Easy for you to say, because you’re not in this position.
An Explanation: This is just me, but the only thing that really comforts me in a situation where the other person has zero experience in depression or suicidal thoughts/attempts, is when they hug me and say, “I’m here for you, I love you.” Otherwise, we both just sit there knowing there’s nothing they can do.
#5. “Why didn’t you come talk to me?”
I hate this question. Well, if I didn’t know I sucked before, now I’ve hurt another person’s feelings, so…guess that makes it level 83 of hell.
An Explanation: No one wants to have this conversation. No one wants to make their friends and family sad and worried. No one wants to be that needy, suicidal, desperate, fuck. It’s not exactly an easy conversation to have.
#6. “That is so selfish!”
If I love them: I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say that. If I don’t love them: Go. Fuck. Yourself.
An Explanation: I understand being upset and angry. You don’t want your loved one to leave you. But taking it out on them isn’t the answer. Keep calm, but let them know you’re concerned. Be proactive. Ask them what they need from you, look up resources for them and offer suggestions. Don’t yell at the suicidal person. They don’t need another reason to think they are a terrible person.
I’m not trying to criticize here. It’s a tough conversation to have with a loved one, and it’s hard to hear how much pain they’re in. But if you find yourself at a loss for words, don’t say anything…hold them. If you can’t hold them, keep these things in mind. Be gentle with your words. Remember that depression isn’t logical, you can’t reason with it. But you can love the person it effects.
My friend Ashley is the one who told me I was selfish. I’m not mad at her, and I will always love her. But I hope this can be a lesson to people like her, who have good intentions that can be interpreted negatively. You don’t have to understand depression or have experienced it, but nevertheless, tread lightly my friends.
Let me tell a little something about being bisexual. It’s like one day you are just going along, living your life, and the next you realize you like women/men, and then BOOM! you’re suddenly sucked into this whole world of gay people that you never really knew about. Or maybe that’s just my experience here at college. I don’t know…I haven’t been out for that long, and am not completely out to all of my family, but here’s the stuff I’ve picked up on, or really just want people to know about being bisexual:
- Lesbians seem to move really fast in their relationships. One friend described it as, “First date: sex. Second date: move in together. Three date: engaged. Fourth date: bring the turkey baster.” In the gay community here at college, people seem to jump from relationship to relationship in a matter of weeks, sometimes days. My girlfriend’s theory is that none of these people got the opportunity to date much in high school due to closeted-ness, slim pickings, or their own unawareness of their sexuality, so they are doing through the middle school and high school version of dating now, because they never learned how actual relationships happen. I think she’s onto something, although another theory is that women are more in touch with their feelings, and therefore have a better idea of when they have met the right person. Maybe it’s a mixture of both, or maybe this is only occurring in the gay community at my college–who knows!
- Bisexuals and mixed people seem to have a lot in common. It’s the whole, “I’m not white enough to be white, but not black enough to be black,” idea. For bisexuals, if you replace “white” with “gay” and “black” with “straight” it’s pretty much the same idea. People want all or nothing in their cookie-cutter versions of others, and in reality no one is just one label. We all have intersecting identities, it’s just that some of those intersections are more apparent in mixed people and bisexuals. So people get pissed, and try to tell you that you don’t belong in their minority, even though you aren’t the majority. Everyone just wants to divide each other up into subgroups until we all forget that it doesn’t matter who we are or aren’t: we all are human beings. We all call Earth our home, we all have loved and lost, and are just trying to find happiness if we haven’t found it already. But labels make people comfortable, so people who don’t fit into them are often uncomfortable.
- “It’s just a phase”. I hate this idea. I hate that people look at me and say, “You think you’re bisexual now, but this is just a college thing,” (aka a “B.U.G.”, bisexual until graduation). First of all, stop trying to belittle everyone who is bisexual. Second of all, it’s not just a phase. Third of all, even if it was a phase, I’m allowed to explore myself and my sexuality without your ridicule. This is why there is a stigma against bisexuals in the gay community. Everyone thinks we are either using the term to hook up with people of our own sex when we are drunk, or that we are using it to transition from straight to gay. Guess what? Even though some people do that (and shouldn’t….seriously, just tell people you are “questioning” so we can get out of this mess), not all bisexual people do that. Some of us are genuinely attracted to men and women, for life.
- Appearance is everything. Since hardly anyone holds up a sign announcing their sexuality, how you dress, wear your hair/makeup, speak, behave, etc. says everything. Though there are a lot of women who cut their hair super short simply because they want to, there are also a lot of women who do it to look gay. Also, septum piercings are associated with lesbians the way piercing one ear used to be (still is?) associated with gay men. And shaving one side of your head. And about a million other things I was completely oblivious to before I came out. Appearance is such a big thing in the gay community that sometimes people try really try to “out gay each other”, meaning look or act the most gay. While it is a wonderful thing to be proud of your sexuality and feel comfortable presenting it to the world, don’t lose who you are to these signals and competition to be “most gay”. Your sexual and romantic preference speaks for your sexuality, not your wardrobe or knowledge of gay activists.
- People are going to hassle you about coming out to your parents–don’t let them do it. I’ve come out to my mom, but the rest of my family is in the dark about my sexuality (or at least the gay half of it). All my friends know, heck, even strangers know, but not my family. And when people find this out they get this concerned look on their face and immediately say, “Well, when are you going to tell them?” Listen here, mother fucker: I’m going to tell them when I damn well please. It’s my business and I’ll share it when I want, how I want, and with whomever I want. Butt the hell out of this. Okay, so my response to this kind of concern may be a bit harsh, but this is the zero-fucks-given policy you need to take with people. Be in charge of your sexuality, because it’s yours. For some reason everyone gets hung up on the coming-out part of being LGBTQIA+, and really coming out is just your business, and doesn’t have to be super dramatic or heart-breaking like they make it on TV. Come out the way you want to come out, and if you don’t want to come out to certain people then don’t do it. This is your life, and you are the one who has to deal with the possible positive and negative repercussions of coming out, not anyone else.
- Gay people are just like straight people—they aren’t constantly scamming on every guy/girl they see, so stop worrying about it. Honestly, one of the more stupid parts of coming out to my friends were asking my roommate and our friend if they still wanted to live with me next year. It’s ridiculous that I felt the need to ask this, but there are silly people out there who spread this belief that gay people are always checking you out and ogling you. This is such BS. Just because I am attracted to women does NOT mean I am attracted to ALL women. And besides, my own personal philosophy is that if we are friends, you are off limits. I think of most of my friends who are women like they are my sisters, so the idea of being attracted to them is just as weird as it was when I thought I was straight. Anyway, my point is, you can quit worrying about sharing space with someone who is LGBTQIA+, because even if someone who fits into one of those labels is attracted to you, they have self-restraint just like everyone else.
- You will not “save us” by telling us we are going to hell. Really, just stop that. We get it, you and your God don’t like gay people. You don’t have to keep telling us.
So that’s my deal. I wish I could wave this list around and show everyone. Especially my mom. She right away said, “Don’t you think this is just a phase?” Um, no Mom, because if it was I wouldn’t have gone through all the anxiousness of telling you I’m bisexual. And as for my Dad, it’s complicated. I haven’t told him because it will not go well, and he will “probably never understand” (as my mom told me). I’m not particularly close to my dad or my brother, and I’m in no hurry to ruin the shred of a relationship I have with them. Like I told my mom, “I don’t want to be ostracized from my family.”
But it’s not just my family that I’d like to read this list, it’s everyone, especially most straight girls. I remember in middle school one of my friends coming out as bisexual to me and another friend. Later, when it was just me and the straight friend, she confessed how weird and uncomfortable she felt with our friend’s bisexuality. “Is she going to check out us? What if she already has?” were questions floating around in this friend’s mind, and I’m sure a lot of other straight women. On the one hand, I understand that most of us were not taught how to act around LGBTIA+ people as children, and that most of our families skirted around those kinds of conversations, leaving us unsure of how to handle situations like the one I was in. But on the other, I wonder why this is such a dilemma for straight women. After all, you don’t find every guy you see attractive, right? So why would it be any different for a LGBTQIA+ person?
Well, those are the thoughts of the day about being bi. Feel free to comment, ask questions, or share with anyone who you feel might need to read this!
It’s complicated to be a veteran of a mental illness. God, I sound like such a pompous asshole when I say that, but hear me out.
Where do you draw the line between thinking you’re full of shit and thinking, “Hey, I know more than the average person about this particular topic!” Right after I got out of the outpatient program at the local hospital I thought to myself, “I may not know everyone’s depression, but I have experience. I want to help others.” And then I fully recovered. And then a year passed. And soon it will be two years since the anniversary of the “lowest of the low”, a.k.a. whenever I hit rock bottom. I feel so far away from that person I was in the hospital, that person crying in her car, begging God to forgive her for being the shittiest person alive. I feel free, I feel happy. So what’s the problem?
The problem is, that once everyone knows you have depression, or chronic depression, or used to have depression (hence the “veteran” status), they ask you about other people with depression. Take my roommate Caitlin. Her sister is going through a really rough time right now, and she’s been venting to me about it. It’s great because I know she trusts me, but it sucks because I don’t know what to say. Which is a normal reaction, except that because I’ve had experience with depression, I now feel all of this pressure to give some sage advice. Not that Caitlin makes me feel that way or anything, but it’s like if you’ve been hit by a truck and you see other people in the hospital who have been in car accidents. You want to help them, because you’ve sort of been there, but at the same time you can’t think of shit to say to someone who was in an 18 car pile-up whenever you got hit by a truck driver singing Cher with his eyes closed.
I know people don’t expect me to solve their problems or have any real answers, because the bottom line is that when someone is going through serious depression, all you can do is get them to see a professional and be supportive: meaning, there isn’t shit you can do except watch them either get better or worse. But I still feel guilty for not being able to share some sort of words of wisdom. When I think back to my own experience, all I wanted to know was two things: that life was going to get better, and that someone really loved me and would keep loving me. Both of those things look different for every person, so I have no idea how I’m supposed to translate that into a way to make others feel useful when helping their depressed loved ones.
If you really want to know the truth, the scariest part of my depression, and I’m guessing for other people with long-term chronic depression, is that there is no real reason why it happens. One day it is triggered, and suddenly the build-up starts happening, the moments of loneliness that were never there before, pushing your loved ones away because now you feel lonely around them, guilt for pushing them away even though they love you, the isolation, the self hatred, I could go on and on about how I knew it was there, but I couldn’t give you one damn reason why it started. Maybe it’s a chemical imbalance, maybe it’s a neurotic personality, maybe it’s “crazy”. I don’t know why depression follows me around, but I know what’s it’s like to feel mad at the world because other people get to be happy and carefree, and you must struggle to get out of bed or not constantly harm yourself.
Maybe I’ll never help anyone. That’s the part that scares me about becoming a psychologist. Maybe I’ll never get my shit together, maybe I’ll fail. But the possibility that I might help someone, that I might pull someone out of that hole that you think you’ll die in…well, that is what’s worth the risk.
Life is a constant struggle between being yourself and wanting to be your ideal “you”. We love to prove to ourselves that we can be smarter, beautiful, successful, accomplished, talented, in amazing shape, likable, and anything else that we desire. We want to have quality relationships, we want to have financial stability and flexibility, we want to rise through the ranks in our professions. We want it all, but we are also plagued by mediocrity. And as much as you can resent yourself for not being a superhero, it’s just not productive. So we must balance reality and expectations. Not a simple task.
I used to be that driven kid. In middle school I was on student council, art club, the school newspaper, choir, National Junior Honor Society, and I was also an aspiring writer, guitar player, and artist. All of that was in addition to a schedule stuffed with advanced classes, and a new stack of books I read for fun each week. And all of that was to impress colleges who didn’t even know I existed.
Then in high school I changed. I started out on the same track: choir, National Honor Society, drama club, speech club, renaissance club, and more advanced classes. But then I traded hobbies for friends, got a job at 16, and after a terrible semester in junior year I snapped. I couldn’t do it all, I wasn’t perfect like I wanted to be, and it was exhausting trying to look pretty every day after a nights of furiously trying to finish homework on break at work. Most of the classes I took that year were for college credit, and trying to balance being a student, an employee, and a soon-to-be girlfriend in my first relationship wasn’t working. So I snapped. I admitted to being depressed and began medication, I quit my job, and school took a backseat to happiness. My new philosophy was “Fuck it!” and I blocked out everything that challenged me.
Now, after a year (almost a year and a half!) of college, my philosophy has changed again. I focus on what makes me happy, but I’ve also started to push myself from time to time to be that ideal version of myself. The ideal “me” runs everyday, completes all of her assignments days before they are due, volunteers, is an active part of the university feminist group, eats healthy, hangs out with her friends a lot, writes her aspiring novel, draws and reads in her spare time, and maintains a wonderful relationship with her boyfriend and friends back home. But I’m not this girl. I run sporadically, complete my assignments, is trying to volunteer a bit, hardly attends the feminist meetings anymore, “tries” to eat healthy, hangs out with her friends at school and back home, reads sometimes but not enough, hardly draws or writes, and maintains the healthy relationship with my boyfriend. I’m not doing terribly, but I’m not super close to the ideal “me”. And sometimes that bothers me, and sometimes it doesn’t.
We all want to be in control of our lives, to control our destiny and be the best, but life isn’t a to-do list you can make. Sometimes things get in the way, sometimes our ambition is second-priority to our emotions. So how do we not get stuck in our laziness for fear of stress (but also not get burnt out on trying too hard)? The balance. Trying to balance your life is always the goal that comes back to haunt you, because nine times out of ten your conflicts derive from a lack of balance (i.e. not spending enough time with loved ones because of work, getting behind at school because of your social life, one partner in a relationship picking up too much slack because the other partner is not doing their share, etc.). But balancing our lives is much easier said than done. So how do you do it?
I’m no expert, but so far this semester I’ve had success with balancing ideal “me” expectations, and realistic probability of achieving those tasks. Here’s what I did:
- Stop beating yourself up. You’re never going to accomplish anything if you are too busy telling yourself that you suck. You can’t do everything, but you can do more than nothing. Believe that you can do this, and remember all of the times you accomplished something and was proud of yourself. Start of by treating yourself to something nice that you normally don’t do, maybe buy yourself that dress you’ve been eyeing for weeks, or that new album from your favorite band. Show yourself you can accomplish something if you want it.
- Now make a realistic list of stuff you want to do. Keep it small, maybe the top five things you want to accomplish in the next month/four months. Don’t go thinking about the whole year, because you’ll forget about your goals or put it off if you have too much time. Now set some sort of timeline for your goals. Try to do one thing at a time, so you aren’t taking on too much.
- Do the first thing. Don’t feel discouraged if it takes longer than you thought or you feel like an amateur while doing it. As long as you are CONSISTENTLY trying, you are being successful! Promise yourself you’ll do something fun after you accomplish it!
- Don’t feel like a terrible person if you give up for a while. Sometimes we aren’t ready to do something because you have four exams that week, or you are going through a fight with your friend. Life happens, it’s okay, but vow to try again as soon as things calm down.
- Recognize when you do something good. After you complete a task, even if it is as simple as taking out the trash, remember you have one less thing to do! If you forgot something to do that day, think of all the things you remembered to do. It’s important to be positive throughout the process of productiveness. Just try your best, and remember you are only human! Also, try not to compare yourself to other people, because everyone has their own life and their own unique set of problems.
- Always make time for happiness and relaxation. You are not a machine, and it is vital to release stress in order to keep on track. Just remember to put a time limit on your Netflixing or naps. For every episode write another paragraph of your paper due on Friday, or plan to be productive after dinner, then do it! Keep your promises to yourself, because the more you break them, the harder it will be to convince yourself to get to work. Remember that these goals are in your best interest and why you want to achieve them.
I hope that helps, to whoever is interested in finding their balance between their ideal self and where they are at now. Before you go into making these goals, though, I think it is important to appreciate who you are now, and how far you’ve come. We all want to be better, but in order to do that we must find our strengths and count our blessings. (You could always be worse off!) Anyway, feel free to let me know how you’re doing with your goals or if you have a suggestion for others about what helps you get stuff done! 🙂 Good job to all who are trying, and good luck to all who want to try sometime soon!
Well, just as I didn’t plan, I have a new post for you all that I am writing during my valuable study time. Unfortunately, yesterday was awful, so here I am, sharing it with you all. Just what you wanted I bet.
It all started okay. I woke up, was lazy, went to breakfast, packed more, used up the remainder of my meal points, and then decided to go to the rec. And while I was working out, I was bored, so I decided to text back my ex boyfriend. The night before I sent him a “You there?” type of text because I was sobbing and miserable about our breakup. I never would have contacted him if he hadn’t been my best friend for the year we were together, and one of the few people who can put the brakes on my tears. He responded to my text the next morning while I was asleep, so rather than leave him hanging, I texted him back not to worry about it. And then he texted back, “Are you sure?”. And then I exploded.
Anger, extreme sadness, regret, jealousy, internal hate, you name it, I had the negative emotion. I right off the bat asked him if he had slept with anyone else, hoping he had so I could find a reason to hate him. And you know what he did? He started listing his faults in our relationship to make me see it wasn’t such a loss! I swear, he is such a good guy…it almost makes me sick with how much I feel I threw it away. Like it was nothing. But it was everything. And no matter what, we can’t be together because the distance and pressure is too much to handle.
Anyway, after that horrible chat I was back in my dorm, just listening to Eminem and staring at nothing. And then I saw my stupid scissors lying on the desk. So guess what my post is about today, folks? Relapses and cutting! Yay, everyone’s favorite subject!
As much of a shitty position as this puts me in, to talk about my awful habit of self-mutilation, I do it to support those who also struggle with it and make them feel not only understood, but that it’s ok to reach for help. Also, to educate those who have loved ones who self-harm on how to be there for them as best they can. But as noble as my causes are, I know as soon as readers who know me in real life read this, I’ll start getting all of these concerned texts or calls or whatever (or maybe not, because there is nothing left to say). I’ve even had my blog reported before to counseling services, who then contacted my parents and got them all pissy at me for being all screwed up. (How about giving me better genes next time, Mom and Dad??) So, just for clarification, I HAVE ACCESS TO PSYCHOLOGICAL RESOURCES AND UNDER THE CARE OF MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS. Meaning, I’VE GOT THIS SHIT UNDER CONTROL. Now, onto the noble causes.
As a cutter, I hate being labeled “cutter”. Because when most people hear that, they think of middle school girls slitting their wrists the wrong way to get attention. Now, first of all, those girls should be taken seriously because self-mutilation should not replace glittery, flashy makeup that middle school girls used to use for attention. It’s sad to know that people feel like the only way to get noticed is to do something this drastic, and I wish I could help every single one of them. But in reality, most people who cut have a major underlining problem that needs professional help. So that’s why I personally hate the term, “cutter”. Everyone who self-harms, even if it’s not in the form of cutting, deserves to be taken seriously.
Now, this being said, most people who self-harm DON’T want to be found out. I know I don’t. I take drastic measures to make sure no one notices the cuts, and rarely admit to it, even if someone flat-out asks me. A lot of people have the wrong assumptions about cutting (see above paragraph) and rather than pour out my whole life story and explain what is truly going on, I prefer to just brush them off and walk away. These people usually have good intentions, but obviously people who self-harm are pretty sensitive about certain things.
So, if you’re a person on the other side of things and are worried about a friend or family member, here’s what you should do:
- Act like you normally would around them, and don’t treat them in any sort of special way. They don’t want to be treated like a patient, a child, or a wounded creature. They deserve respect and acceptance just like anyone else.
- If you want to show them you’re there for them, be kind! Let your actions show them you love them. Ask them about their day, their soccer team, their holiday plans, their favorite music–show interest in their lives! If talking is hard for you, offer to do something with them! Go see a movie, support them at their next soccer game, go bowling, help them in the kitchen…whatever! Big or small, it shows that you value their company.
- Now, if you really really really feel the need to DIRECTLY say something about their problem, don’t do it with everyone listening. Public places aren’t really the best place for a private conversation, but you don’t have to pull them off to the side in some dramatic way, either. Next time you’re driving in the car together, or if you both go outside to get some air at the next family function, ask them how they’ve been feeling. If they brush you off at first with a “fine”, ask again. After the second time, if they still brush you off, then stop asking. Sometimes people need to be asked twice, but you never want someone to feel like you are just asking to be nosy or invasive. If they do brush you off twice, just tell them you just wanted to make sure because you care about what is going on in their life, and you care about them. If you feel the need to hug at this point, go for it. But then, unless the person you are concerned about continues the conversation, it’s over. Like I said, if you make this a big, dramatic conversation it will make them uncomfortable, so just ask them those questions and let them know you care, then move on with a topic or activity.
- If this person opens up to you about their problem, then first of all, know that they trusted you enough to do so. Thank them for it, and for christ’s sake don’t screw up that trust, because they need you now more than ever. But this sort of topic is difficult to not only say, but to hear, so I’ve got some lame-o tips for you. First, listen, and listen well. Nodding and verifying what they are saying by repeating it back to them are great steps. And whatever you do, DON’T INTERRUPT unless you see a meteor right behind them about to blow up the earth. Also, I know what they say might be upsetting to you. It might hurt to think of how they could have called you or relied on you in those tough times. But please remain calm and supportive, and don’t guilt-trip them about how they didn’t do that. The last thing this person needs is to feel worse about their situation. Now, after they are done talking, feel free to ask a few questions. Questions show that you are interested in what they have to say, but beware: They might not want to answer them, and that’s okay. So if you ask, “Why did blahblahblah upset you?” try to add, “You don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to.” And my last tip: DON’T offer solutions to their problems unless they ask “What should I do?” All they need is a listener, and sometimes when you try to “fix” things it makes them feel stupid or like their problems are minor and not a big deal. It’s all about verifying what they are saying right now, and letting them know that you care about them. After the conversation is over, remember not to treat them any differently, and you should be fine.
- This is pretty obvious, but even so, don’t spread around their problems. Getting unnecessary people involved is completely counter-productive. Not to mention a compromise of trust.
- Now, if this person is in some serious issues that require professional help, you need to be extremely careful about how you broach that idea to them. In fact, do some research, find a psychological professional, and feel free to ask them how to introduce the topic in a respectful and non-pushy way.
Remember, I’m not a geisha or Yoda. But I do hope these tips help you or at least give you some perspective about those who self-harm. Also, feel free to shoot me a message if you have a question about a particular situation or leave a comment below. I always appreciate (constructive) feedback!
One thing I just want to put out there… When I do it, I run through this list of people I can call instead of cutting. And I don’t call them, obviously. Why? I know they would listen, that they love me, but sometimes that doesn’t cut it (pardon the pun). Sometimes there is nothing you can say. The thing is, people who self-harm are choosing to feel their pain, their way. It’s the control that makes me feel good. Because I can’t do anything about how I feel, nor can those that I love, but I can control how I feel it. And I know it’s wrong while I do it. And I feel ashamed after it happens. But, in the end that is what will motivate me to stop–Me. Only I can make myself stop, and only I can seek help if I want/need to figure out an alternative way to calm down when I’m that upset. So try not to be offended if you have a friend who only tells you after the fact. They just might be in similar shoes.
Life is hard all around. Whether it’s because you are struggling to find food to eat, have just been dumped by a boyfriend/girlfriend, or lost your job (or someplace in between that broad spectrum), we all feel pain from time to time and we all need the love and care of others to support us through it. In a really screwed up way, we all feel alone together.
Yesterday I logged on to ye ol’ blog for the first time in ages, ready to write how exactly how I was feeling. I don’t know how long I stared at that screen (or the wall, or out the window), but finally I just shut my laptop and went out for a run. And it helped a lot, but this morning I woke up with that same pit in my stomach that was there yesterday. (I guess if this keeps going on I’ll reach my get-into-shape goal a lot faster than I thought.) My appetite has gone to shit, too. I’m not finishing breakfast, not eating lunch, scrapping through dinner. And I love food! But whenever I eat food falls into the pit and it begins to seem bigger than before. See the thing is, I’ve talked to so many people about this dilemma and it only shrinks the pit for a few hours, never more. It’s just not going away; I go to sleep sure of myself, I’ll wake up and feel different.
So, what the hell is going on? Sorry, but I can’t say. Not now, anyway. Since I’m still processing this all in my head, I want the final decision to come out of my mouth first, and not words on a screen. All you need to know is that I’m making a big decision that will hurt but be better in the long run. Don’t you hate those kinds of decisions? I try to live for the moment and all, but careers and people and finances ask for planning. So here I am, changing the plan.
Have you ever done something to prevent yourself from doing something else, and have it completely backfire? Say you’re on a diet. You tell yourself, “Shit! SoAndSo brought home an entire chocolate cake, and I’m going to have to try to resist that thing all week! Maybe I should have a tiny sliver of a piece now, that way I can tell myself I’ve ate it and not have to be thinking about how good it must taste….” So you do. And what happens? By Thursday there’s on one slice of that cake left, and you are so happy and mad at yourself you don’t know what the hell to do. Because either way, you broke your diet, so you’ve either got to just go with it, or tell yourself it never happened even though it did and it’s all you can think about.
Well, that’s the situation I’m in, just without the cake and diet.
The worst part is, Saturday is my birthday, and all I’ve been thinking this week is, “what the hell am I doing with my life?” and feeling that stupid pit in my stomach. Before this week I had a safe routine, a safe stability in my life. And then Monday came.
It all goes back to that first decision to just go ahead, taste the cake and get it over with so I don’t have to feel like I am missing out on anything too special. And then I tasted that cake and it was fucking amazing and I hate it. I hate that I’m not being strong like I should.
But on the other hand, you’re only young once in your life. And once you get older, if you eat cake it is worse for your health and harder to work off. So the time is now, isn’t it? The world is beginning to look like a fucking bakery and I’m standing here trying to be on the diet that will be right for me later in life.
If you’re not getting this whole cake analogy, I’m sorry you’re just sitting here, probably craving chocolate cake all of a sudden.
Decisions, decisions…. I guess either way I decide, I’m going to hell for gluttony, anyway.
Being young, sometimes life moves in slow motion. The first time you see someone smile can take what feels like five minutes instead of five seconds, as you watch and feel your inhibition melt off of you like wax on a candle. A song can last forever, drawing out memories faster than actual musical notes. But at the same time, life moves at hyper speed. Hours of talking/touching slip from your fingers, as quickly as a breeze. Relationships turn over like waves on the shore, each washing something new onto shore. And those are just examples about our love lives… Yet, according to everyone past their younger years (namely, old people), we are supposed to build our entire lives out of these moments that play fast and slow with our hearts.
Well great. Why is it that when you’re young and busy you have all of this huge pressure on your shoulders to do all this majestic crap? Why can’t we figure out what to do with the rest of our lives in our thirties when we are most likely married or parents or at least holding a stable job? You know, when we’ve got some stuff taken care of so we actually have time to figure out this shit instead of all at once?
But don’t listen to my whining; what do I know? I’m an 18 year old college freshman about to move out on my own in a whole new city/area, starting to plan my financial future and career, and am about to leave behind everyone I know–and I do mean everyone. Where I’m going I won’t have any family, friends, or even acquaintances around from these past 18 years of life. What do I know about life’s pressures?
Look, I know when you are older you are wiser, and blah blah blah, but why are young people not taken as seriously as the older generations? After all, we are the people who will be running the world when you are getting your third hip replacement and the highlight of your week is the grocery trip to Save A Lot. Why is it that instead of guidance, young adults are left to suffer the consequences of every single choice we make on our own? And by guidance I don’t mean lectures. Believe me, we’ve had lectures. I’m talking about discussion, actual problem-solving and intellectual debating over issues going on right in front of our noses. Why is it that college students (or even older high school students) do not get involved anymore in our communities and retreat into our worlds of social media and commercial persuasion? Because in the real issues we are not taken seriously. And now, in this controversial time in US government and politics, when the “real” adults are bickering over bills in congress like toddlers do with toys, the younger generation is called up to the plate to take a swing at settling the arguments. But we don’t, because the truth is, our society has changed so rapidly in the past few decades that our elders don’t know what it’s like to be our age. The need for them to understand us and our issues as we try to understand them and theirs is more pressing than ever, and we need that courtesy and respect before we even begin to cooperate with each other to get anything resolved.
So, I’m calling on all “real” adults out there–next time you are talking with a rookie hear them out. Don’t dismiss them for how much time they spend on Facebook or text. Don’t compare their education to yours (because after all, I think it is blatantly obvious that education, of all things, has changed over the years). And don’t be stuck in your own opinions to the point where you can’t be open-minded. After all, things change.
I know I’ve done a lot of ranting in this post…most of it subjective…but that does not make the facts any less true, which are that I am a young person desperate to be heard, acknowledged by the adult world as having legitimate responsibility, and over all taken seriously. I’m reaching out, however minor it may be; someone please reach back.
1. Doughnuts are really the best food ever. Hands down. I love chicken, I adore pancakes, but something in doughnuts just makes your soul happy. Besides all the sugar and fat (which I like to pretend isn’t there to begin with).
2. Family is an eternal love/hate relationship. No family is perfect, even if they try hard to be.
3. You always want what you can’t have. So while you may dream of perfect, shiny straight hair, you know that if you did get rid of your poofy curls you would miss them. Well, until your hair decides to revolt against neatness for the millionth time.
4. Friends are friends, family is family. Your family can’t really be your friends, and your friends can’t be your family. They will do what they want, and you cannot stop them the way a crazy relative would. As for family, they can get away with so much more, just because they share some DNA.
5. Small children may be cute for a few minutes, but spending a whole bunch of time with them is like volunteering for a lobotomy.
6. Sometimes there are moments in life where you need to stop thinking, start living, and thank your lucky stars you have the life you do.
7. If this world were perfect, everyone would be kind. As it turns out, though, there are a lot of assholes out there, so remember that the smallest act of kindness goes farther than you can imagine.
8. The ignorance of the male gender will always surpass your expectations. Always.
9. Somethings are out of your control and you cannot change them. So if you end up dying while wearing a clown suit on your forty-third birthday because of a malfunctioning escalator at the mall, just try to be positive and know that Mother Theresa and Bob Hope are laughing their asses off in heaven.
10. The most important trust you can bestow in someone is trust within yourself.
11. We are all human beings. Translation: You will fuck up, fail at fixing it, make it worse, mope about it for two months, and then laugh about it (maybe) six months later. It is the never-ending cycle of life burning you with “yo momma” jokes.
12. Fear is what determines what you find important. If you are going to be afraid of something, make it count.
13. Only worry about what is necessary. Health, food, shelter, and happiness are some examples. In the scheme of things, worrying about what others think of you & your actions, doesn’t matter. If nothing, it hinders you.
14. Try at something. Try again. Effort is not wasted if you put your heart into something, it gives you purpose and courage to pursue your dreams.
15. When it comes to laundry, don’t procrastinate. Do not be that person going commando on the day it rains and you left your car windows down. You will regret it!
16. It’s okay to miss the past, as long as you are excited about the future.
17. Love is not eternal. It is lost and found again and again throughout life. No form of love is perfect; the truest love is the kind that is able to sustain itself through imperfections.
18. Most of the important lessons you learn in life were in kindergarten. You have to admit, to someone out there “Don’t eat the paste” was a real life-changer.