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New year, new me: Align.

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I recently shared a brag post on Facebook about having a 4.0 in my doctorate program. I am extremely proud that I have managed good grades while juggling the different aspects of my life (3 jobs, husband, son, house chores, budgeting, meal planning, volunteering, key spouse duties, community initiatives, etc *this list could go on and on*) so I shared the post without hesitation. A friend of the family commented something along the lines of how amazed she was at how I juggled so many things. And just like that WHAM- I realized how pretty my life looks from the outside looking in. From the outside I am truly the woman I always hoped to be- the one who can do it all. She is a go-getter. She is doting towards her family. She can seamlessly handle and master the various roles she has placed herself into.

But this isn’t always accurate. 

When you’re outside looking in everything can look polished. Perfect. Amazing.

But when you’re inside things are not always pretty. They can be messy.

Especially when the woman who can do it all has suffered with depression and anxiety throughout her lifetime.

This year, 2018, I made it my resolution to say yes to life.

And I did.

I was sick and tired of sitting on the sidelines and being too afraid to say yes to life.

So I went for it.

2018 brought several new, wonderful things into my life.

However, saying yes to life proved to be a bit overwhelming.

You should see my day planner.

It’s exhausting.

Saying yes to life made my life look pretty looking outside in.

But it made things difficult.

Feeling overwhelmed is never a happy place to be.

I somehow took in this mindset that I needed to be busy every single day to be successful. To be worthy. To be happy.

For 2019, I want to say yes to life but also say no.

I want to say I can’t.

I want to say this is not healthy for me.

I want to say I am barely hanging on.

I want to be vulnerable.

I want to say I know this is confusing but some nights I cry myself to sleep. Some nights I feel like I can’t do this anymore. I can’t do everything anymore. I need help.

I want to say that if you’re outside looking in and you feel amazed at how well I juggle things please know that this is not always accurate.

Picture perfect.

Status perfect.

Brag post perfect.

These are not accurate.

For 2019 I want to rest.

I want to recover.

I want to reflect.

So, new year, new me: say yes to life but also say no.

I want to “destroy the idea that you have to be constantly working or grinding in order to be successful”.

I want to “embrace the concept that rest, recovery, and reflection are essential parts of the progress towards a successful and ultimately happy life.”- anonymous

HUSTLE 

ALIGN

 

 

 

We are survivors and we will survive.

Today is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.

I have the great honor of sharing my testimony at a candlelight vigil today at 2 PM.

But I wanted to take it step further so that I could reach more people with my testimony…

So here I am, posting my story on my blog- in hopes that someone who is hurting and feels all alone can know that I am standing with them. We are survivors and we will survive.

So here it goes:

Anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide, knows that it forever changes your life. It rocks your world in a way that no other death can. It can leave you feeling helpless, hopeless, and completely lost. The emotions can be overwhelming and the “whys” and “what if’s” can consume you. You can become overcome with anger as you question how the person you loved could have left you here. Grief after a suicide is complicated.

It has been 15 years since my father died by suicide. I was 15 years old when he hooked up a hose to the exhaust of his truck and connected the hose to his bedroom window. His truck ran all night as he fell asleep in a bedroom filled with carbon monoxide. I was a young, naive teenager when I became a suicide survivor. Losing a father to suicide quickly began to define who I was. I was filled with turmoil and unanswered questions  and I quickly began turning to the wrong comforts. I dabbled with alcohol and drug use for a few years of my early 20’s while living with the heavy weight of depression. I seemed to have forgotten the man my father was during my childhood and defined him by his suicide. I was quick to call him selfish. A coward. A disappointing father. I was hurt and not coping well. I think this pattern of self-hatred, guilt, and shame is easy to get wrapped up in when you’re a survivor of suicide.

For suicide survivors, after the initial shock of learning of the death, the “whys” begin- terrible, unending “whys” that we play over and over in our head. The first being “why did he do it?” followed by “why did I not see this coming”. They can spiral from there to “What if’s”- “What if I had called him” … “What if I had seen the signs?”

I currently work as a grief counselor and recently worked with a young girl whose father died by suicide. When the topic of “whys” came up she had a particularly brilliant answer. She said “you know, all we have is our best guess, and our best guess might be wrong”. Our best guess might be wrong- yet; we spend such a great deal of time pondering over these questions. If only we could approach it like this 9-year-old girl.

I spent about a year in counseling working through the shame and guilt I had taken on. I had to work through an abundance of negative self-talk including things like “no one will love me- not even my Dad did” and “I’ll never be good enough- my Dad didn’t think I was worth living for”. I worked through the “What if’s”. Like the self-blame I internalized for not calling him the night he killed himself. The night my Dad killed himself I had picked up the phone with the intention of telling him about me ordering my class ring that day. However, when I picked up the phone my boyfriend was there. The phone didn’t ring. Just coincidence. Remember how that could happen with landlines? I forgot to call my Dad back and the next day I found out he was dead.

I never imagined that I would be standing here- telling my story 15 years later. At some points of my life I wasn’t sure that I would even exist 15 years later.

Now, I can stand proudly and share my story of being a suicide survivor. For I no longer feel ashamed that I am the daughter of a man who killed himself. I now have a new understanding of suicidal ideation and mental illness. I have my master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and have worked as a grief counselor for the last few years. I now know that those who die by suicide are not selfish, nor a coward. They are amazing, wonderfully loved people who see no other way. They are sick and hopeless. When I explain suicide to a young child I may tell them that suicide happens because of a brain attack- much like a heart attack. It’s very physical. The brain is very, very sick and can not see any other way to survive.

My father had a brain attack. He was a warm, funny man who was an amazing Dad. His name was Buddy and he was only 35 years young when he died by suicide. I’ve had time to reflect on the amazing father he was since healing through my grief journey. We would sing karaoke together in my brother’s bedroom. We played hide and go seek and shot a bb gun in the woods behind our house. He scratched my back when I was sick and held my hand when I was scared. He was quick-witted and made me laugh until I cried. He was very intelligent and worked as an electrical engineer. He had a wonderful set of parents and a brother and a sister who loved him dearly. He didn’t live a charmed life by any means. He was divorced three times and suffered from chronic pain for most of his adult life. I don’t remember him being depressed. I was shocked by the suicide and still am to this day. There were no signs we could have seen. There was nothing I could have done.

Unless you have lost someone to suicide, you have no idea what survivors are going through. The degree of hurt, abandonment, betrayal, and confusion we are left with is indescribable. For me, going to counseling and talking about my feelings and hurts and disappointments helped me heal.

Another way I have found healing through my grief journey is by turning my pain into a purpose. I use my struggles to help others however I can. I can’t go back in time and save my Daddy but I can do everything in my power to let other people know that it is okay to ask for help. This outreach ranges from me posting bits of my personal journey on social networking sites to presenting at conferences to help other counselors know how to best work with suicide survivors. I find that my personal experiences have fueled my passion for suicide prevention and awareness and will continue forward with my efforts for as long as I’m able. I encourage you to find a way to turn your pain into a purpose. I’ve known people who do this through blogging, through checking in on friends, or just sharing a suicide hotline on their social media sites. You can do this by smiling at strangers or giving a meal to homeless person. The ways you can utilize your struggles is endless. I also encourage you to tell your story. Memorialize the person that is no longer with us today. Tell stories about them. Don’t let the shame, guilt, and unanswered questions stop you from remembering what you loved about the person. I believe we suicide survivors are strong.

If you are listening to me talk today and wondering how it is possible that I am all better after losing my Dad- let me clear things up. I’m not cured. I am better. But I will always grieve. Grief is not an event in time. Grief is like love. It is a life-long, ever-changing experience. It evolves. It expands. It changes in depth. Volume. Intensity. But it never fades. It changes us. My grief will always be a part of me. Because grief is love. Someone I love died and my life will always be different because of it. But my grief looks different now. My grief encourages me to help others. I have decided to allow my grief to encourage me. What will you do with your grief? It’s up to you.

“Bad things happen. How I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have: life itself”

-Walter Anderson

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I let my racing thoughts at 1 AM consume me.

Recently I shared a meme on Facebook.

It got a few likes, a share, a couple of comments. It was lighthearted. It made me laugh when I saw it. I shared it with no second thoughts.

Except last night, late at night, they crept in.

“You have no friends.”

“No one texts you.”

“No one asks how your day is.”

“No one likes you.”

These terrible, awful things I said to myself hurt.

I let my racing thoughts at 1 AM consume me. 

All because of this meme:

friends

I’ve never had many friends.

Growing up, I always felt like an outsider. I kept myself locked up because I was afraid of being rejected. Afraid of being made fun of. Afraid of people finding out what life was like at my house. The fighting. The screaming. The violence.

When I moved away from my old life- to another city- another school. I had the chance to be the real me. The me people would love.

But they didn’t. I was still so guarded. And my guard put up a really good front.

A “I don’t need you” front.

A “I’m better than you” front.

And this kind of continued into my adulthood.

I can not even count how many people have told me, “I thought you were stuck up when I met you.”

Well, I’m not.

How could I possibly be stuck up when half of the time I’m not certain if I even like myself? When I’m down, I’m

D

O

W

N.

I’m just guarded. Afraid. Terrified of being rejected. Petrified of being vulnerable.

This is something I have worked HARD on the past 4-5 years. Trying to show the real me. The genuine me. The me who cares and loves so deeply. The me who has hid for far too long. The me who has made mistakes. And has tried to right them.

The me who could be an amazing friend if you gave me the chance.

However, change doesn’t happen overnight. It also doesn’t always happen in 4-5 years… no matter how hard we try.

I am still guarded.

My walls around myself are so high that they may not be worth climbing.

But that doesn’t mean I need to take the negative self-talk. The terrible, ugly things I say to myself late at night. The LIES my mind tells me. The lies that leave me in tears.

“You have no friends.”

“No one texts you.”

“No one asks how your day is.”

“No one likes you.”

These are not truths. 

I do have friends. Not many- not many that I talk to on a regular basis- but they exist.

People do text me. My husband and I text each and every day. And he ALWAYS asks how my day is going.

I’m sure someone likes me? My husband loves me. My mom thinks I’m cool. Doesn’t that count?

I’m done talking so ugly to myself. Why do we do this to ourselves? We feed ourselves inaccurate information that we absolutely accept as truth without challenging it.

I want to challenge you: combat the negative self-talk you may say to yourself. Ask yourself- “Is this actually true?” instead of accepting it as fact.

And never give up on goals you set for yourself. This blog is the gateway to a more transparent me. A less guarded me. A vulnerable me. A me that is hopeful for the future. And worthy of being loved.