Tag Archives: advocate

I Advocate for a World Without Suicide

10 Sep

I-Advocate-For

Photo from the Fairfax AFSP National Capital Area Chapter’s Community Walk this past Sunday, September 8th.
 
 

I never believed suicidal thoughts were truly a real thing until I experienced them myself. To me, it was unbelievable for someone to want to take their own life. It seemed so horrid, so severe, so final.

What gives a person the right to take their life in their own hands, anyway? God says how much time we get, not us.

Plus, how could a life feel so worthless that someone would think dying was the solution? I just couldn’t comprehend it.

Until it happened to me.

Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of twenty-seven changed my perspective on the topic of suicide. I slipped into a deep depression and would spend my nights curled up on the couch, tears streaming down my face until I was so exhausted from the hurt that I’d fall asleep. I had lost my will to keep going because I didn’t think there was hope. I was so scared to reach out for help that I hid my painful feelings from everyone.

Everyone except my husband and my parents, thankfully.

They kept fighting for me to get the treatment I needed in order to get well, even when I could no longer fight for myself. I don’t know if I’d be here today without their incredible love and unwavering support back then.

Looking back on that time in my life, it’s apparent that I feared the stigma surrounding mental illness and because of it, I hid my depression and suicidal thoughts from my friends.

I was terrified of what they would say if they knew the thoughts running through my head. I was convinced they’d turn away from me, too afraid of my mental illness to help me out of my darkness. It was stigma that kept me from opening up to my friends about my depression.

I am one of the lucky ones that made it out of the darkness. I survived depression and made the decision to become an advocate for those who are still suffering. Because in my heart I believe everyone is capable of overcoming mental illness and that no one should feel ashamed about living with mental illness.

By educating the medical community and society in general to better recognize the signs and symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses, we can and will save lives.

If a friend seems to be struggling, ask them if they’re okay. Take time to really listen and offer support. Don’t accept “I’m fine.” for an answer if you know they aren’t. Share the National Suicide Prevention Website and Hotline with them: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It’s staffed 24/7 with trained professionals who offer free and confidential emotional support to those in crisis.

Social media can be another avenue for support if someone is in crisis. There are groups and organizations that lead chats on Twitter to help people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts. By searching the hashtags #suicideprevention, #suicidechat and #AFSP, streams of conversations  on how to get help become available and you’re able to join right in the conversation. In 2011, Facebook unveiled a tool for friends and loved ones to be able to report a suicide threat posted online which has been credited for saving lives.

Please don’t be afraid to speak up. Start the conversation. Join the conversation. Keep the conversations flowing.

The only way we’re going to end the stigma that surrounds mental illness is by promoting open dialogue so that people are not afraid to open up and ask for help.

Suicide is preventable. Let’s pull together and join the movement to bring suicide prevention into the light.

Because every life matters. Don’t ever give up hope.

Help is available if you need it. If you are in crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Blogging For Suicide Prevention BadgeBlogging For Suicide Prevention Badge

 

I was invited by the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work to join in their Suicide Awareness Blog Campaign. Please visit their website for information on how you can also participate.
 
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Starting Over

21 Aug

Starting-OverThe show will go on in DC this coming May, 2014. I’m simply taking some time to figure out where to go from here, as my partnership unfortunately did not work out due to our vastly different work styles.

I have an incredible team surrounding me here in Virginia and I know that with all the hard work and passion that is going into this project, it most certainly will be a success. I may have failed at a partnership, but I will not fail at executing my vision for this show.

I envision this show to become a community of people coming together to embrace mental illness so as not to let it define them, but to propel a movement forward. A movement built on the belief that those of us living with mental illnesses are real people who simply need help. By coming together as a supportive society which fights for mental health services and programs, we will

change and save lives.

Please follow along here, and/or via Instagram and Twitter for updates as they become available. For now, if you’re local to the DC metro area, or you’re interested in coming in from out of town to see the show, mark your calendar for the weekend of May 17 & 18, 2014.

Thank you for all your support and I hope to see you at the show!

There is Hope

3 Jun

OvernightCollage

If someone had asked me back in the summer of 2006 whether I ever thought I’d become a mental health advocate, I probably would have responded with tears instead of words. Because crying is what I did the most of that year. It was as if I were trying to cry out my severe depression. Cry all the tears until there were no more left to cry. Smiles, laughter, and happiness hid deep inside of me, dying to emerge, but too suppressed by the pain.

Back then, I couldn’t see hope. I couldn’t see my future because I was blinded by the tears of my sadness over losing my old self to my mental illness. I had a very difficult time accepting the fact that I was sick and needed help and medicine to get me back to well again. Each and every day of that year felt like a lifetime. I flew back to my parent’s house in Florida and spent several weeks with them while they helped me get treatment. The constant anxiety over my future, feeling like things would never get better, the intense darkness inside my heart made 2006 the longest and most challenging year of my life thus far.

The Overnight walk this past weekend was a night I will remember forever. I was honored to be among such an incredible group of nearly 2,000 walkers who each had been impacted by the loss of someone they loved to suicide and/or their own personal struggles with mental illness. The mood was solemn yet so full of inspiration. I met new friends and learned their stories of loss but also heard their dedication to spreading the message of hope and encouragement to those struggling. Hugs flowed freely everywhere you looked.

We talked as we walked, about the friends we had lost, about our own struggles, and about our hopes for the future: that we can help to break down the stigma that surrounds mental illness so that people won’t be afraid of reaching out for help when they need it most. Tons of photos we took during the night, posted to social media for the world to see, tell the story of our journey. I will treasure these images because they remind me how important it is that I’m sharing my story.

I walked with my friends Cristi @MotherUnadorned, Kiran @kferrandino, Jenni @zrecsmom, and Angel @mediamatson from dusk to dawn. We passed many of the gorgeous monuments and they lit the way for us as we made our way through our nation’s capital, passing the White House before making it to the dinner stop at 1:20am. At Farragut Square, we sat and ate for twenty minutes before heading out to finish the trek. We crossed the finish line at 4:15am and entered the finishing area where over 2,000 luminaries lined the walkway, each glowing with a loved one’s image and words of love and hope. It brought us back to the reason we were all there. To pay tribute to those we had lost and to strengthen our commitment to the cause of preventing suicide.

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Without the help and support of my husband, my parents, my in-laws, my brother and sisters-in-law, and countless other family members and friends, I may not be where I am today. Because when things became so hopeless for me, when I wanted to give up my fight to get well, they kept fighting for me. They stood by me, and fought hard. I’m so grateful that they did.

They gave me hope to keep going. To keep fighting. To keep trying to fly again.

I’m proud to say that today I am flying. And the only reason I’m looking back is to help others. To show them there is hope. That they can get well with help and hard work.

This luminary caught my eye on the steps of the stage waiting for the closing ceremony. It sums up perfectly what the Overnight is all about:

Hope&Help

Don’t ever give up hope. Help is available if you need it. If you are in crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

PS. Thank you to all those who supported me on this walk. Collectively, the walk raised $2.6 million dollars – which is SO AWESOME! Donations are still being accepted though, for all the important work they do at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. If you’d like to donate, my walker page is available here.

On Staying Up All Night

30 May

LifeIsTooShort

Over the course of the past three months, I’ve made the transformation from Mental Health Consumer to Mental Health Consumer/Advocate, and from anonymous blogger to someone who finally realized she was entitled to call herself a writer. A writer who was no longer afraid to write her truth.

And I’m only just getting started.

Here’s a quick re-cap of the intertwining events of the past few months which led up to what is taking place this weekend.

Back in March, I attended the Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat as a newly self-proclaimed writer. It was on the Friday the retreat began when I read the email that I had received my first offer to join a major parenting website as a contributing blogger. A paid contributing blogger. They were going to pay me to write for them.

I was at the top of the highest high possible without actually being manic. It was blissfully refreshing.

This was my first post: My Love/Hate Relationship with Sleep. It was featured on the AOL Homepage on April 11th, and although it wasn’t the post I had hoped would be my “coming out” piece to the world, I was still very appreciative for the exposure and was in complete awe of the avalanche of love and support that followed from my family, friends, and readers I had never met before.

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The following day I posted what I would have chosen as my reveal post, had I been given the choice. My Time to Stand Up to Stigma was my big announcement to whoever was willing to listen. I stood at the top of the platform that is my blog and said {well, wrote, actually}: “I have bipolar disorder, and I’m no longer ashamed about it. I’m ready to finally show my true colors and talk about that piece of my life because I believe it’s important for me to do so.”

After having met an incredible person and fellow writer, Natalie, who happened to be my roommate at Wild Mountain, I had purpose to make my next leap. Natalie had overcome a suicide attempt last year, and her story inspired me to sign up to walk the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Overnight Walk {this weekend!} in Washington, DC. I had heard the commercials on the radio prior to meeting Nat, but it was only after listening to her tell me the harrowing narrative of what she went through that I actually logged onto AFSP’s site to register to walk.

I’ve raised $2,025 for the walk thus far, and will be meeting up with several blogging friends (and meeting new ones!) over the weekend who have also made the same commitment to the cause. We believe in the importance of speaking out, of telling our stories, of starting the conversations about mental illness so that we can help others. I am so proud to be a part of this amazing event. {Follow me on Twitter (@BipolarMomLife) as I live-Tweet during the event.}

I’m a part of a movement that is changing the world. One word at a time. One day (& night) at a time. One reader at a time. If I were never diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I might not be writing right now. I consider my mental illness a blessing in disguise because at first diagnosis I became a prisoner of my condition. But over the years I’ve learned that condition doesn’t have to take over my life. In fact, it enriches my life.

Over the past few months, I’ve chosen to stop wasting time being scared of being vulnerable because life is too damn short. I’ve realized that it’s my life to live and I control the end of my story. Staying up all night – for ONE night* – this Saturday into Sunday is only the beginning.

*I have put several precautions in place for this weekend, including asking my parents to be here so that the kids will be taken care of while I nap before and catch up on sleep after the walk. Staying healthy for myself and my family is my number one priority. 

My latest post for WhatToExpect.com’s Word of Mom blog is live! Please stop by & check it out if you have a few minutes. It’s got an important message. 10 Reasons I’m Thankful I’m a Mom Fighting a Mental Illness Thanks so much!

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