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Author Archives: Debi Smith

It’s About Them, Not You

Yesterday I came across this tweet:

It was Patton’s response to this tweet:

Which let me to retweet it with this:

People still get it wrong. They still equate sadness with depression when they are nothing alike. I know some people use the words as if they are interchangeable but they are not. They can coexist but they are still different. I’ve been sad. I’ve been depressed. I’ve been suicidal. I’ve lost loved ones and friends to suicide. When you take the viewpoint of Andrew Tate, his words in the quoted tweet and all that follow in his thread are words that drive people to hide and not share their pain. They are a harsh judgment that everything experienced is a choice and they have full control over it. So when you break it down, what is really being said is, you have no one to blame but yourself. Looking specifically at “you will always be depressed if your life is depressing” misses the mark by a mile and shows he has no clue what depression really is or that people who seem to have it all struggle with depression. I still remember when Jared Padalecki (Supernatural, Gilmore Girls) publicly announced that he has Depression, someone actually told him he has nothing to be depressed about.

One of my professors described it as a verb, as it’s not an actual state but of getting to that state, that we aren’t depressed, we are depressing. Experiencing it myself and working with clients with Depression, I think it’s a combination of depressing and the state of being depressed and it looks just a little different for everyone. Depression often comes with intense emotional and physical pain that becomes the center of daily living. In some cases, it can be managed with medication and therapy.

But there are barriers. The stigma of mental illness that keeps people from seeking help even if they know they need it. If they know people close to them don’t agree with medication and/or therapy, they will avoid treatment to avoid the judgment from those who should be supporting them. Unhelpful advice that treats depression and other mental illnesses as if they are just feelings, blips on the radar that you can get rid of easily.

The following is an excerpt from The Downward Spiral of things people say to someone who is depressed and potentially suicidal:

Push through it. It’s just stress. Just think positive thoughts and you’ll be better. Have you tried to exercise more? Maybe you need to sleep more. You need to eat more. The pharmaceutical companies and doctors just want your money. Your life could be worse. Maybe you need a real job where you socialize with co-workers every day. Yeah, I get depressed too, then I call my best friend and I’m fine. It’s all in your head. You’re being selfish. (page 22-23)

What they really need is unconditional support from their family and friends. They need to know if they express their pain that they will not be met with judgment, minimizing/gaslighting/manipulation of their situation, and advice. Often the things that are said are things that make the person trying (and failing) to provide comfort feel comfortable. We shouldn’t feel comfortable and we should never make someone else’s situation about ourselves because it isn’t. They are the ones in pain. They are the ones needing help. They are the ones that need comfort.

Here are some more helpful things to say:

  1. Instead of “Push through it,” you can say, I’m here for you.
  2. Instead of “It’s just stress,” you can say, I’m here for you.
  3. Instead of “Just think positive thoughts and you’ll be better,” you can say, I’m here for you.
  4. Instead of “Have you tried to exercise more,” you can say, I’m here for you.
  5. Instead of “Maybe you need to sleep more,” you can say, I’m here for you.
  6. Instead of “The pharmaceutical companies and doctors just want your money,” I’m here for you.
  7. Instead of “Your life could be worse,” I’m here for you.

See where I’m going with this? The primary need is knowing they can count on the people they trust, that they will be supported no matter what. Ask them what they need, they may not know and that’s okay, reiterate that you support them.

Things you can do to help (not a comprehensive list):

  1. Offer to take them to an appointment if they don’t have transportation or if they are signaling that they are hesitant and aren’t sure about going. This relates directly back to unconditional support. If they know you support them and are willing to be with them (you won’t be allowed in the session) will increase the chances of them following through.
  2. If you’ve asked them what they need previously, circle back and ask again at a later date. They might know. And if all they answer with is, a fuzzy blanket to wrap themselves in, that’s okay because that really may be all they need. Sometimes sensory/tactile stimuli can help manage triggers.
  3. Offer to socialize with them one-on-one if they don’t want to socialize in groups or out in public.
  4. If you know they have a crisis plan, ask if they will share it with you so you can help if/when necessary.
  5. Check out what your local/state suicide prevention services are. If there are none or they don’t seem adequate, advocate with your lawmakers to create/improve them. Same with access to mental health services—access here means not only accessible through insurance but within a reasonable distance and appropriate transportation, because not everyone has services available nearby nor the transportation to get there and medical transportation options are sometimes restrictive.
  6. Counter stigma where you come across it, whether it’s something someone else says that they try to pass off as a joke, something said out of ignorance, uses depressed when they mean sad, etc. Staying silent when you have the opportunity to challenge falsehoods only allows stigmas to continue.

One last thing you need to understand if you’ve never personally dealt with depression and suicide is that no matter how much unconditional support you give, no matter how much you help, your loved one may still choose to end their own life and it has nothing to do with what you did or didn’t do.

It has everything to do with their pain and suffering.

Depression & Suicide Resources

Giving you resources up front to use for yourself or to help a loved one.

 

 

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Posted by on September 10, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The Weight of Depression

Depression & Suicide Resources

Giving you resources up front to use for yourself or to help a loved one.

Suicide, along with depression, is still greatly misunderstood, particularly by those who have never experienced the pain of depression and the thoughts of suicide that sometimes accompanies it. Everyone has their own story. Everyone experiences it in different ways. It doesn’t know color or socioeconomic status. It can happen to anyone at any time. My last book is about this. About showing how the stigma of mental illness affects those diagnosed and those around them. About how deep the pain runs and the internal struggles wear you down just so you can appear normal and not make others feel uncomfortable around you.

This isn’t just about the news of Chester Bennington’s suicide yesterday. It’s about my history and the loss of my friend and fellow author, Sonya Craig, two weeks ago.

Much of my teenage years and young adulthood was clouded by depression. I destroyed journals that weren’t even filled after going back to read them and hating how dark and full of anguish they were. I didn’t want to remember that. So, I’d start a new one only to destroy that one too. After a while, I stopped journaling altogether before graduating high school. The only writings to survive those years are poetry and prose. None of them detailing the one day I sat in my room, crushed by the weight the prison of my mind created. The walls were closing in around me and I only saw one escape – I was ready for it. However, when I moved to take action I couldn’t move. It was like a giant hand came down and held me immobile. I cried for a good long time.

I call it divine intervention. You can call it what you want. But that moment was the moment I knew I could survive. That at some point there would be an end to the internal torment.

For many, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. They are mired in a dark void.

So it is for those who attempt and/or complete suicide.

To those of us left behind with no understanding of what they were going through, it seems grossly unfair, selfish. Why don’t they think about everything they have to live for?

Because in the moment, all we see that we have to live for is an unending and unbearable pain. There is nothing good that we can see to make us change our mind and to put down the knife, or the pills, or the gun, or the rope.

Depression and suicide are first and foremost about the person living with it and it is unfair of everyone else to expect them to act selflessly when so many refuse to try to understand what depression is like.

There are days where just getting out of bed is an enormous feat. Once we do that, we spend the rest of the day pretending we’re okay. Putting on fake smiles and acting interested in the conversation someone roped us into. It’s exhausting. But we do it because we don’t want to hear the shitty things people say. You have all the money in the world, you don’t have a reason to be depressed. Just pray and give it to God. You’re on medication? It’s all a scam by Big Pharma to make more money.

This is why many remain quiet about their innermost thoughts. Had I even attempted suicide, everyone would’ve been shocked. I didn’t present with any of the behaviors you’re told to look for. I didn’t even think to write a note. Again, my focus was on ending the pain.

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Sonya took a picture of mine and sketched it. She was a talented illustrator.

Sonya never presented with any of the behaviors either. She never spoke to me about wanting to hurt herself but she never hid the fact that depression was clouding her life either. I had just talked to her the day before and not even a hint. It is a much different experience from my cousin’s suicide almost 5 years ago in which there were prior attempts and he and I did have conversations about his depression and how to access services he couldn’t afford because he didn’t have insurance. Looking back at my last interaction with Sonya, I’m glad I let her know how much I loved her and how much I valued her in my life.

For the first time in 13 years, I stuffed my grief and busied myself with other things. I normally allow myself time to grieve and feel those feelings. I think the shock took me by surprise and I just didn’t want to deal with it. You see, Sonya was a bright spot for all of us. That’s the one recurring trait that we keep saying about her. She was always seeking ways to brighten someone else’s day and making sure to check in with anyone she knew was having a difficult time. The first time I met her on Twitter, she sent me a rather enthusiastic tweet that she was following me because a mutual friend said so. I was rather flattered by her enthusiasm because she was a stranger to me and strangers never approach me with that much enthusiasm. It wasn’t long after that that we were joking around and she was introducing me to other authors who all became part of my tribe. I once credited the mutual friend for having the tribe but in reality, it was Sonya. She had a way of bringing us all together.

Just this week, more memories of her have hit me hard. I was cleaning out my inbox and found an email from her, just a few months old, of a post she asked me to look over for her before she put it up on her blog. It was about how she was feeling about the state of our country and how the bigotry and hatred were making her sad because she felt we were better than that. She never posted it and I wish she had because it was a peek into her beautiful soul.

It was after reading David Draiman’s Facebook post on Chester Bennington yesterday that the dam broke open for me. It allowed me to break out of the numbness and start feeling again.

 

Sideways nutsack

Sonya drew this for me when we were having a back and forth on who loved the other most.

I miss her so much. I miss the animal videos she shared in hopes they would bring a smile to someone’s face who really needed it. I miss her big heart. I miss her sideways nutsacks <3. I miss the epic virtual hugs we’d have and I’m sad that I’ll never get to give her one in person. I won’t get to talk about the new Star Trek show with her when it starts. I won’t get an autographed copy of her book when it’s released.

Sonya, if you’re reading this, “I don’t wike it” but I get it. I’ve been there. I hope you have the relief you sought and that you are dancing to Beyonce. Don’t worry about me. “I’m okay!”

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Birthday For One

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When we embarked on the road trip I decided I needed to be at the beach on my birthday, it’s a grounding place for me. A reminder of the circle of life as I almost drowned as a kid when a wave washed me off a rock and I got caught in the undercurrent. You would think that after an experience like that that I would be fearful of the ocean but for some reason, that trauma never manifested into a lifetime of fear. Instead, it’s a place of peace and contentment.

I wasn’t looking forward to that first birthday without Auntie Boogie to celebrate with through our traditional phone call and song. It’s painful to know you will never share your birthday again with someone you shared it with your whole life and that first one looms large like storm clouds. You know the storm is coming but no amount of shelter can protect you from the fierce gale about to blow through and the accompanying golf ball-sized hail pelting everything in its way.

And so, on the morning of October 24th, we drove to Moonlight Beach, discovering upon arrival that they were having a festival. It was like they knew I needed a party. We got there early enough to get parking in the parking lot and to find a spot under one of the umbrellas.

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Singing the song of his people

I buried my feet in the sand, just enjoying the tiny grains enrobing and cooling my skin while Chaz wandered down to the water to take pictures and enjoy the sand and surf…and multitude of seagulls – I always forget how many seagulls inhabit Encinitas until I’m there. When I was ready, I walked down to do the same. There was ample time for us to people watch from under the thatched umbrella. Before we left to meet a high school friend for lunch, we strolled along the circuit of tents, surveying the variety of merchandise and services on display. My favorite was the skateboard art – I’ve always been fascinated with skateboard and surfboard art.

skateboard-art

SK8 Art http://www.encinitasparksandrec.com for SK8 Art workshops.

Later on, we met some of my band friends for dinner and to see Dead Man’s Party (the Oingo Boingo tribute band) for their Halloween show. If you aren’t from SoCal or don’t know the history here, Oingo Boingo was a huge part of the culture through the latter half of the 70s, the 80s, and the first half of the 90s and they did shows on Halloween. I was never able to see a Halloween show or see them live at all which is why I jumped at this chance. Dead Man’s Party might not be the real deal but they come damn close in sound and energy.

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Total Distortion – the Social Distortion tribute band opened for Dead Man’s Party and I was not disappointed there either.

While I had fun at the beach, being with friends, and seeing a live show, it was a day filled with sadness. Each time I found myself enjoying the moment I’d tear up feeling like I shouldn’t be, then choking those tears down because Auntie Boogie would’ve wanted me to celebrate. I had to acknowledge the feelings of loss and emptiness before I could enjoy myself again and then repeat when they surfaced again.

 

That day was a mixed bag, but getting through it using all the tools I have to manage grief made last year’s birthday a bit easier.There is still a gaping hole within me because she was a force in my life. Time doesn’t heal all wounds but it can change the shape and feeling of the pain as it passes and we grow.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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