December 9, 2016 I got my semi-colon tattoo.
I shared it with the world with a post that read” This is one of my most meaningful tattoos. Life has put me back in an insanely dark place, and it seemed appropriate that I remember I have been given not one, not two, but THREE chances to live my life. I cannot allow things to break me down, affect my happiness, or prevent me from pushing forward. No matter how badly I want to crawl into a hole and avoid the world, that is not the answer. I am stronger than the bullshit. I am not defined by these bumps and bruises. My story isn’t over.”
Little did I know, this would not be my last run-in with suicidal thoughts. It’s never really a “woe is me” or a “the world would be better without me” kind of thing, it’s always a “this is too much”, “I am so tired of fighting”, “I used to be able to handle this”. So many people look at suicide as something “selfish” or “stupid”…and while most of those people are people who have been hurt by someone who did just that- it’s boils down to one thing… to the suicidal, suicide seems like it is the only answer.
My tendencies come from my inability to manage my stress paired with fibromyalgia. (Yes, I’m medicated. Yes, I see a therapist every other week, and have seen one since 2012. Yes, I see a psychiatrist once a month, and have since 2012.) My issue however, isn’t something like depression or anxiety… I have a trauma caused chemical imbalance. That imbalance does crazy things to my brain that result in stuff like sleeplessness, sleepiness, mood swings, and of course-my inability to handle high amounts of stress. The ONE thing that I worked best under. The ONE thing that fueled my success. I loved stress. I thrived in stress. After my last deployment to Afghanistan, my ability to manage my stress spiraled downward and than was met with a diagnosis of Chemical issues AND Fibromyalgia all within weeks of each other.
I decided December 9, 2016 that I was no longer going to fight silently or allow others to fight silently. I was going to speak out, stand up, and tell my story to help others realize that there is more to mental health than what we think. There is more to things like suicidal tendencies and depression and anxiety than what people picture when they hear those words. I am a Mom, a Fur Mom, I work full time, I do freelance web design and marketing, I run a non-profit for Veterans and I work for a non-profit for Female Marines. I have multiple degrees. I blog. I read. I sit under the stars. I sleep in. I drink coffee. I live a very normal and successful life. At times though, my brain decides “this one week I’m going haywire” and it does. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does- it’s life threatening. I ALWAYS reach out. I ALWAYS apply what I learned in my years of therapy. I ALWAYS ensure someone knows I’m not doing well and in my opinion, most importantly, I speak out- normally on social media or via my blog. I let others know “Hey, I look normal and happy but right now… I’m not doing so hot. I am human and struggle just like you”.
I don’t do it for attention. I don’t do it because I’m weak. I don’t even do it because I am
depressed. It is a medical thing, and something people need to be aware of that happens and can happen to anyone. I get in a weird mood and it kind of spirals down from there. I can normally tell on onset and head it off long before it gets bad- and I see my therapist a little more until things are back to “normal”…but sometimes, it just happens. I end up sobbing in the shower realizing how tired I am of not being normal, not being the old me, how I miss being as versatile and resilient as I was. How I hate the pain. How I want my life back. All of those feelings triggered by feeling “off” which is triggered by a chemical drop in my brain paired with my fibromyalgia, and I just break.
The stigma around talking about mental health issues is just mind blowing to me. It’s the stuff no one wants to admit or talk about and when someone does, it’s like the whole world comes to one of those rusty halts that makes noise and stuff falls off of. Everyone starts to whisper and shake their head. They start “feeling sorry” in the way of pity, not worry. It turns into alienation, distrust, and a barrier between those who don’t understand. Not put up by the sufferer, but by those who don’t grasp what is happening instead of asking, talking, sitting down and trying to figure it out. People whisper behind your back and treat you like a ticking time bomb. The only way to stop the stigma is to stop feeding the stigma. Stop making it not okay to be open about issues. Stop making people feel like they are wrong for voicing their experience, emotions, or struggles. There is NOTHING wrong with being open about any of that. Sometimes, just saying the words or typing the words is an outlet. Don’t deny someone the outlet they need or deserve. Don’t deny someone who may need to see someone else’s words to understand their own struggle better, or to motivate them to get the help they need. I have THREE years worth of once every 2 weeks therapy under my belt. I learned that “manning” up to my emotions, not bottling them up, SEEING in writing what I am dealing with, and than breaking it down and realizing what happened is my best medicine. To be told by anyone, ever that that is unacceptable, frowned upon, or “weird” is aiding in the stigma. Stop. Feeding. The. Stigma.
Since I have started speaking out about my struggles, the outpour of messages I receive here, on social media, and via email about the difference I have made in someones life, or how much I have helped them is so overwhelming. PLEASE reach out. PLEASE speak up. I now dedicate my life to coaching/mentoring Veterans who want to find holistic alternatives and learn skills to improve their quality of life in hopes of reducing the number of Veteran Suicides.
This post is in response to The Daily Post’s Discover Challenge