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“I’m ready to die.” “No, I’m not. “

I don’t think any amount of medication can stop these intrusive thoughts entirely. I can be in a great mood, and have a great day, and still, I can’t count the number of times a quiet voice in my mind says “I’m ready to die.”

What the medication does do is help keep my mood elevated enough so that I don’t allow the intrusive thoughts to manifest into emotions or actions. 

It adds to the feelings of hopelessness to know that I will likely deal with this for the rest of my life. For PTSD, it seems there is no cure, only treatment and management of symptoms. 

I find that both frustrating and interesting because PTSD is a symptom itself. It’s a symptom of traumatic experience(s). I may not be able to beat it, but I won’t let it beat me. My kids need me. I want to see them grow up and there are so many wonders in the world which I have yet to see and experience. 

For people suffering from PTSD, every day we wake up, we are winning. 

Suicide awareness and prevention

The fallacy of “spreading suicide awareness” on anti-social media 

Suicide is not a light topic to discuss. Having lost loved ones to suicide, and dealing with my daily struggles of suicidal ideation, I have  a pretty solid understanding of its effects on both sides.

Although people mean well, when they share posts about suicide awareness, I get angry. I don’t get angry with the people specifically, but with society as a whole–for several reasons. 

Generally speaking, we have become disconnected due to social media. I see people on dates or having coffee together, and their faces are staring at screens. We rarely talk face to face with people, and generally choose to text instead of call. Surely this doesn’t apply to everyone, but even if it doesn’t apply to you, I’m sure you have witnessed it.

Suicide has been glamorized as an attention-getter to teens and young adults. When  a person is tragically lost to suicide, there is a tendency for people to flood their facebook pages with posts of grief. People who are closest to them naturally get messages and posts with words of condolences and love. Next, we start to see people who went to school with that person, but never actually talked to them, post about spreading suicide awareness, and getting their satisfactory amount of “likes” and attention. Which leads to cases like this. 

Suicide prevention is a serious issue that deserves attention, as it is quite literally a matter of life or death. The approach to spreading awareness, however, is ineffective and shallow. The people who mean well by sharing suicide hotline numbers and thinking they’ve done their part in suicide prevention are quite unaware of the topic for which they are trying to advocate.

Just weeks ago, when I was at what seemed to be a dark point of no return, I tried calling a suicide hotline. The answer was automated. I HUNG UP. If my husband didn’t answer the phone,  (I was just going to leave him a voicemail) I wouldn’t be here writing this today. 

Despite seeing countless posts from “friends” saying to call them or a suicide hotline in their efforts to prevent suicide, I didn’t think to call them. I didn’t feel comfortable enough to. How can anyone feel comfortable calling a stranger (even disconnected friends can feel like strangers) in their most vulnerable state? 

I still see posts mourning people who have been lost to suicide, and my heart shatters for them, whether I know them or not, I grieve heavily for them. One of them was a mother of three, and that shook me to the core.

My children could have been enduring the pain her children are in. 

My husband once asked me why it affects me so much when I hear about people whom I’ve never met committing suicide. The best way I could think to explain it to him was to compare it to the experience of a cancer survivor. They’ve survived cancer, yet they still lose people to it, and there is that looming fear of it coming back to get them. They understand the pain the person endured before passing, and the thoughts and feelings they possibly experienced as well. They see the pain the loss causes the families, and worry about possibly causing their families the same. 

Cancer is a disease, and suicide is a choice.”

Touché.

This brings me to my next point about the lack of understanding. Suicide is a fatal symptom of a disorder more than it is a choice. There is an umbrella of mental illnesses that each come with their own stigmas. 

People with depression are labeled as hating the world and wanting to kill themselves and everyone around them. People with PTSD are most likely back from combat and are ticking time bombs waiting to explode. People with bipolar disorder are unpredictable and unstable. Get the picture? Society labels people who suffer from mental illness as generally dangerous. In that same breath, they try to prevent suicide by saying to open up and talk about it. 

So we can be labeled more? No, thank you.

The only way to truly prevent suicide is to break the disconnection among humanity. Reach out and actually talk to people. Get to know one another. BE PRESENT. 

Furthermore, we need to end the stigmatization of mental illness. Just because it isn’t visible doesn’t mean it isn’t painful. Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean you have to fear it. Mentally ill does not equate to criminally insane or unfit to be a parent or other contribution to society. 

To truly prevent suicide, we need to spread compassion and efforts to understanding. 

It may not be the most popular approach, but I believe with every fiber of my being, that it would be the most effective in saving lives.

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Disordered Eating

I eat when I’m hungry. 

For years, this has been my explanation for why I would only eat one meal a day. I have 3 kids, two dogs, and a full-time school workload. To me, it seemed perfectly normal to forget to eat every once in a while (although this happens daily). 

My mom had an eating disorder, so surely I know the signs of that.  I know I don’t need to lose weight, and I don’t think I’m fat, so surely that isn’t the case with me…or is it?

Many are under the impression that eating disorders happen because people want to lose weight. While at the surface, this is true, the underlying cause is usually control. When we feel as though everything around us is out of control, the one thing we  can control is if we eat. 

There have been times where I felt empowered by not eating. I’d be hungry and hurting inside, but not eating would give me a sense of control. I haven’t ever admitted this to anyone, including myself, before. 

I never put much thought into my eating, or lack thereof, until my therapist asked about my eating habits. I told her about how I just don’t feel hungry, and forget to eat until I do. I found it interesting that she referred to my eating habits as “disordered eating”, which is a component of PTSD. I hadn’t heard of that before, and it made me wonder if I did have an eating disorder that turned into disordered eating, or maybe it’s a bit of both. 

I’m never happy with my body. It upsets me when people say I’m too skinny, but then I also get disgusted with myself when I gain weight. It isn’t at the forefront of my mind that often, so I brush it off. Perhaps this is something I need to look into further and fix somehow.

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Trapped

From the cradle to the grave,

All I’ve known is pain.

Happiness always coming with a price,

Every smiling face with a hidden dagger.

So many walls up,

that now they’re caving in.

Living in this claustrophobic hell,

Trapped in my own mind.

Existing without ever living,

Loving without ever feeling

love’s safe embrace.

Damaged beyond repair,

Hopeless with no one to care.

Everyone for themselves,

I am a dying breed of human.

Compassion is killing me,

Love is a dagger in my own heart.

Every breath, I breathe for others.

I’m lost in the abyss. 

Trapped in the loneliness.

Angry and torn,

Cursing the day I was born.

I’m trapped. 

Trapped. 

Walls still closing in, 

Squeezing just enough life

to keep me lingering.

Praying for the day to come,

where I can be set free.

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First Day Jitters

Today is my first day of therapy. I drove 30 minutes with the music turned all the way up to drown out my thoughts. I was having a good day, and then my husband came home “joking” about shooting our puppy for making a mess. I told him it wasn’t funny, and he kept saying that he was only joking. 

I said that jokes are supposed to be funny, not painful. He said that it’s funny to him, and I told him that I guess that’s all that matters then. I was then told to just stop.

My therapy appointment went well. I told her a little bit about everything that’s weighing on me, and she gave me a chapter to read on coping with distress. She asked me if I have a “safety plan” for when I get to the dark place again. I told her I will go straight to the emergency room.

She wants the hospital to be my last resort, but with a lack of a safety net, it’s my only resort. The hardest part about discussing my painful experiences goes beyond their trauma. It’s a reminder of the fact that nobody was held accountable for their actions, as well as how alone I truly am. 

Sure, I have a husband and kids, but  I am still alone in my battles. Maybe learning new coping strategies will finally help heal the wounds and allow me to truly move forward in life. 

Only time will tell.

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Why it’s good for my kids to see me “undone”

My husband had to work overnight, and when he’s not here, my hypervigilence goes into overdrive. I lose track of time and can’t sleep. By the time I had realized I needed to take my medication, it was too late or else I’d risk not being awakened by the alarm. 

Needless to say, I look like complete shit this morning. My hair is frazzled, and I feel like my complexion tells on me when I don’t get enough sleep. 

When it comes to my beauty regimen, I am an extremist: I either look like shit, or I don’t. When I don’t look like shit, my hair is fixed, and my makeup is done. If I’m going to spend time and energy on doing my makeup, then I don’t cut any corners. I moisturize, prime, contour, highlight, blush, outline, and…well you get the picture.

Today, like many others, my kids see me looking like shit. I look like shit because I feel like shit, and am using what little energy I have to ensure that their needs are met. [It’s called parenting for us non-celeb types]

If they were to constantly see me all fixed up, I would be doing my daughters and future daughter-in-law great disservice. I would be passing on the pressure to reach and expect impossible standards of parenting perfection imposed by society today.

They are too young to make that connection now, but when the right time comes, hopefully they will remember my “undone” days, and be kind to themselves. 

If you are someone with the energy and drive to regularly maintain your appearance and home, do arts and crafts, make all meals from scratch using all organic ingredients, then you have my deepest admiration. Please, don’t get defensive.

I hope you don’t take this post as an attack, but rather a way of telling you that it is more than okay to be human. I hope that throughout your hard work, you are taking time for yourself. We all need that, and it seems like with all of the social media facades out there, we need to hear that as well. 

Whether you’re all fixed up, or completely undone, I raise my cup of overpriced caffienated delicousness to all of you parents out there. Cheers.

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Rocky

While visiting the in-laws last summer, a sweet dog came wandering into the yard. He was a white pit bull mix, and we bonded immediately. He not only followed me everywhere I went outside, but he walked beside me, and liked to nudge my hand with his head. He was vibrant, playful, and affectionate–the perfect dog. 

Despite his affectionate nature, it was obvious that he had been neglected and most likely dumped out on the dirt road. He was covered in ticks, and had scrapes on his belly and legs. 

I gave him a bath and picked off every tick-I stopped counting after 30-and he didn’t once try to bite or attack me even though he was in pain. I cleaned the blood from his ears after removing all of the ticks, and he rested on the porch in the sunlight, relieved. 

I decided to name him Rocky, after the movie character, because like Rocky Balboa, this amazing dog was beaten and abandoned, yet he had a strong will and still managed to love relentlessly.

In the country, it is customary to kill dogs when they wander on the property, become sick, or kill an animal without the intention of eating it. At least, this is customary for my husband’s family. His dad didn’t want Rocky around. He said that if he didn’t leave, he would shoot him. 

I drove as far as I thought I could, with Rocky chasing me, down the dirt road. I felt like I was torturing him by making him run in the summer heat. Tongue hanging out of his mouth, and exhausted, he kept on running after me. In hopes that he would wander to a good home and rest, I sped up and turned the corner, hoping he would lose my trail. This was my heartbreaking attempt to give him a chance at a life he deserved. 

Several hours later, Rocky came back. He was so happy to see me, and I was happy to see that he was still alive. My husband’s brother said that he would take care of Rocky so that their dad wouldn’t kill him. I was hopeful, but knew deep down inside that he wouldn’t keep his word. 

One day, my husband and I were getting ready to take our son to a museum,and his mom was going to take our daughter to check out some yard sales. As I was in the bathroom getting ready, I heard my husband and his brother talking quietly. I didn’t have to hear what they said to know what they were talking about.

I came out of the bathroom and said,”He’s going to shoot him today, isn’t he?” Apparently it was rude of me to be eavesdropping…but yes, that was indeed their plan. His brother was going to help his dad kill Rocky while we were all out, and I felt helpless, angry, betrayed, and devastated. 

To this day, I still have the picture in my mind of the night before. I was sitting outside looking at the stars and Rocky had his head in my lap, occasionally putting his paw on my hand when I’d stop petting him. 

My husband and I argued the whole way to the museum. I was crying and he said the reason they didn’t want me to know was because they didn’t want me to make a scene. People who know me, including them, know that I’m not the scene-making  type. 

I made peace within myself knowing that even if it was brief, Rocky knew he was loved. My husband’s dad has the blood of a precious and innocent dog on his hands. I was angry knowing he got away with what he did to me (details on my site under “My Stories”) and he had the nerve to execute an animal whose only offense was being on his property. 

My husband tried to console me by letting me know that Rocky was shot between the eyes, and that he didn’t suffer. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that the same kind of person to sexually assault their son’s wife would have the capability to look a harmless animal in the eyes and shoot him. 

Still, I see Rocky in my thoughts. I think about him every day, and I am stricken with a whirlwind of emotions and guilt. If my husband would have allowed me to take him home with us [if I had tried harder to convince him and put my foot down] Rocky would be here today. 

I was told that it was my fault he died because I paid attention to him, and that kept him coming around. An entire family worked together to try to hide Rocky’s premeditated murder from me, yet, it was my fault. 

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What NOT to Say to Someone with PTSD…

Many of you are fortunate to have never experienced trauma, and when you are approached with someone opening up to you about their traumatic experience, you may find yourself at a loss for words. Hopefully this list will be helpful in what to avoid saying:

  1. You shouldn’t have put yourself in that position. We tell ourselves this more often than we’d like to admit, and quite often during our flashbacks, we beat ourselves up over what should have or could have done differently. The fact of the matter is, we did  everything we could have done.
  2. Don’t dwell on it. It happened a long time ago. It doesn’t matter if it happened twenty years ago. When one’s mind keeps playing things over and over, it’s like it happens every day. If we could stop that from happening, we would.
  3. Just get over it. Again, if we could, we would. PTSD is a mental result from a traumatic experience. It isn’t something as easy to “get over” as a stubbed toe.
  4. I understand how you feel. Unless you suffer from PTSD,then no, you don’t understand. This doesn’t mean you can’t try to understand and show compassion, though. Perhaps instead of saying you understand, try telling the person that although you may not understand, you still support and are there for them.
  5. It could have been/could be worse. We are well aware of this. Things could always be worse, but telling someone this minimizes their experience and enhances their feelings of guilt and worthlessness.

 This is a short list, but these are the most common and damaging things I’ve heard. Please DO be supportive by listening. We don’t expect anyone to fix us, but just letting us know we aren’t as alone as we feel can make a huge difference.