Let the conversation begin.
Blog post by Brianna Yates, volunteer mental health advocate in our Hope for Mentally Ill program and Kerry Martin, CEO and Founder, Hope Xchange.
Reason #1: Suicide Is A Serious Public Health Crisis
One life taken prematurely by suicide is tragic. How much more tragic would over one million lives lost be? This is the number of people whose lives are seized around the world. Between the ages of 15 to 29, suicide is the second leading cause of death (World Health Organization, 2017). As important as the most vulnerable age range is for deaths by suicide, we must be aware that suicide does not discriminate. Anyone from anywhere can fall victim to suicide. Every life matters.
Here are a few facts you should know about suicide in the United States:
You can help decrease the number of suicides by taking the time to make yourself aware of the public health epidemic (as you are doing now) and by sharing the information with others. Through your invitation to speak about the issue of suicide, you never know who will be willing to share with you their story of victory or struggle with suicidal thoughts.
Let’s talk about it!
You can also support Hope Xchange by taking part in the #SixtySecondChallenge, a global initiative that helps to raise funds and awareness about suicide prevention while also providing a sounding board for organizations from around the globe to shift the conversation surrounding suicide from mental illness to public health. It kicked off September 10 (World Suicide Prevention Day) and is running through November 18, 2017 (International Survivors of Suicide Day).
The #SixtySecondChallenge encourages everyday people to give those who need an emotional lift a "push-up." It asks participants to record 60 seconds of push-ups in a creative way in the name of suicide awareness, donate much needed suicide-prevention funds, then post the recording to their social media feeds. Additionally, it encourages participants to challenge three friends to also take a minute and save a life by joining them in taking the challenge at sixtysecondchallenge.com.
As our CEO and Founder, Kerry Martin, says in the press release about this initiative:
"As a suicide survivor, suicide is a public health crisis that goes beyond the mental health community. It is up to each and everyone of us to take responsibility and to be there when someone reaches out for help in order to prevent and reduce successful attempts and, ultimately, save lives. Our children, younger and younger, are ending their lives at heartbreaking rates. This initiative is a global rallying cry for those we have lost far too soon, and for those we can together save.”
We are encouraging those who take the challenge on behalf of Hope Xchange to share a statistic at the beginning of their video so we can help raise awareness about suicide while also giving those who are down, a push-up. By way of example, here is a #SixtySecondChallenge video by a mother and daughter in which they shared a statistic on the suicide attempt rate in the bipolar community and did sixty seconds of push-ups in a very endearing and creative way. You can find more statistics about suicide and mental health for our most vulnerable and those at the highest risk of suicide — the bipolar community now thought to account for up to 50% of all suicide — on our About page.
Let’s take a minute. Let's save a life.
Reason #2: Life Stresses Triggers For Many Suicide Attempts
Would The World Be Better Off Without CEO And Founder Of Hope Xchange: 3-Time Suicide Survivor, Gay And Living With Bipolar Disorder?
Blog by Kerry Martin, CEO & Founder, Hope Xchange Nonprofit.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. I believe it should be a year-round initiative and, with that in mind, I'm re-posting an updated 2014 blog and here's why. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the first step to preventing suicide is removing the stigma by starting the conversation. It’s time to re-share my own battle with suicide in hopes of touching even one person who is struggling with either coming out and/or suicidal thoughts.
I Almost Died Coming Out
Here's my story. I'm gay, bipolar, and a three-time suicide survivor.
I commented on a blog post Sunday, requesting clarification about the author's statement that implied being gay is a personal choice. Her response was that was indeed what she meant. "Personal choice my ass," I muttered. I wanted to reach through my screen and strangle this person, and ask them, given all I am today, would you prefer that I had succeeded in taking my life rather than torment your world with my gayness?
Towards the end of my second year at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, I found myself confronting this so-called personal choice: was I going to live the rest of my life as a gay person or was I going to end my life? I choose the latter. Yes, it was a personal choice for me. My own free will to try and take my own life. But, was it really a choice? Would I would have made that same decision independent of societal pressures and judgements? If we lived in a perfect world where everyone was accepted for who they were, would I have chosen death at that moment?
I'm happy to report that my roommate found me curled up on the floor clutching my Yorkshire Terrier, Chapman, just in the nick of time. I recall a disgusted nurse pissed that she had to take the time to pump the stomach of an uncooperative patient, a 48-hour stay in the hospital ICU where I was forced to drink charcoal and go potty in a beige plastic pan crouched on the floor like the pathetic soul that I felt I was. I recall the older man right next to me who the ICU team unsuccessfully tried to bring back to life when here I was trying to end mine. I recall grabbing a doctor's shirt collar, tugging him close to me, and vehemently whispering "get me out of here."
And, there I went to a 72-hour hold at Boston's finest mental health institution. I recall leaning against a cold concrete wall on my assigned bed the first night and the doctor saying to me, "Kerry, you can cooperate and get out of here in 72 hours or we can keep you in here." Didn't he know I was a Harvard graduate student working on my thesis and I simply didn't have time for this madness? I decided there and then that I would put on a happy face, say what I thought they wanted to hear, so I could go home to the same tormented soul.
Am I Strong or Am I Weak?
Hope Xchange CEO Takes #SixtySecondChallenge Giving Those In Need Down A Push-Up And Raising Funds And Awareness For Suicide Prevention
Blog post by Kerry Martin, CEO and Founder, Hope Xchange Nonprofit.
Hope Xchange is honored to be one of 15 featured charities taking part in the #sixtysecondchallenge, a global initiative to raise awareness and funds for suicide prevention. And, as CEO and Founder, I am also incredibly honored to be working with kindred spirits in both the United States and Australia to build collaborative bridges to help drive this effort at such a critical time — every 40 seconds, someone in the world is lost to suicide and every 41 seconds, someone is left wondering why.
I’m also gay, bipolar and a three-time suicide survivor. I founded Hope Xchange because I want no one else to go through what I did alone. Our mission is to prevent suicide and improve mental health outcomes in the bipolar community, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable and high risk, our youth and LGBTQIA. It is estimated that bipolar depression accounts for nearly half of all suicides each year in the U.S., with 50% of those with bipolar disorder attempting suicide and 11% to 20% taking their own lives. We are dedicated to changing this.
How I Tackled My #SixtySecondChallenge: Lifting Up Hand of Someone Depressed
Give LGBTQIA Youth With Bipolar Disorder A Reason To Stay: Support Our Campaign To Build Virtual Safe Space To Stop Suicide
Will You Pick Up the Call to Action?
Have you ever seen or heard such a startling piece of data that your heart drops and you just know that today must be the day you reach out and do something? Have you ever felt driven to take action, but unsure of who to reach out to or what could be done to initiate that action? Are you ready to make a heartfelt impact?
Making a positive change in someone else’s life may seem like just another thing on your to-do list. Perhaps it presents itself as a financial obligation that threatens your daily coffee indulgence or random spending sprees. Maybe you just aren’t closely associated to a specific cause.
Although focusing solely on your own endeavors may seem ideal, it prohibits your ability to see suffering. It’s okay. We have all been there, in a moment where we have chosen not to take action for various personal reasons.
But that was yesterday, and this is today. Today, YOU take action. Your opportunity to make changes on behalf of LGBTQIA youth in the bipolar community awaits. This population is at the highest risk of suicide.
The Numbers Are Not Pretty
On International Overdose Day, we would like to express our gratitude to Kristin Molinaro, Volunteer Program Coordinator for Hope for Mentally Ill, for her guest post sharing a very personal story about her mother’s death from a drug overdose. From the Hope Xchange family, our heartfelt condolences for your loss and we’re sure your mother would be so proud of all that you do to help other families not go through what you did Krissy.
I can recall July 11, 2005 — the day my mother died from a drug overdose — like it was yesterday. Just the day before I had a lovely conversation with her about my upcoming birthday and having lunch with her new granddaughter. The world felt shiny and new. My mom was excited to be a grandmother and loved spending time with her Ava.
On that day, I did not hear from my mother which was odd as we had made plans to have lunch the day before. My mom had been battling an addiction to alcohol and prescription painkillers for many years and had moved up to heroin. She was living in a hovel in a fellow addict’s basement when I received the call that forever altered my existence.
I Knew She Was Gone the Instant I Got the Call
Our gratitude to Sameen Mahmood, a volunteer mental health advocate in our Hope for Mentally Ill program, for her guest post this week. As a senior in high school, she inspires our team with her contagious enthusiasm and compassion. Learn more about this amazing young girl and what motivates her to give back here.
If you’re one of the millions of students returning to school this fall, you may be suffering from some “back-to-school anxiety.” Not only is this completely normal — you are NOT alone! — but it also can be combated and overcome so you can make school a place where you can focus on what really matters: your future.
Step 1: Do Not Be Afraid to Ask For Help
This could be academic, mental, or any other kind of help. School staff, including counselors and teachers, are there to help you. They have an important role: to answer your questions, guide, and teach you. If you need help with anything, ASK!
Rather than not asking and knowing, asking questions and getting answers will help relieve some anxiety. If you feel too shy or embarrassed — again, you’re not alone as I was in your same shoes for over 10 years! —, be kind to yourself. Keep in mind that the person you will be asking will probably not remember talking to you within the next 10 minutes. This statement isn’t meant to offend you. Staff are generally very busy people and have other things on their minds, so they can’t help it.
If you thought you were too awkward, it really isn’t a big deal. No one will actively try to remember that moment ever. By the next hour, it’ll have completely slipped their minds. So, ASK! Ask your staff, teachers, and counselors. You deserve to have your questions answered.
Our gratitude to Tiffany Magana, a volunteer mental health advocate in our Hope for Mentally Ill program, for her very moving guest post this week.
This story is beautiful in many respects. Trystan Reese has been with his partner Biff Chaplow for seven years now. Biff is a social worker that used to work with homeless individuals and currently supports individuals with mental health challenges. Trystan is currently working as a social justice professional. Both Trystan and Biff regularly blog on their website, biffandi.com.
They currently have two adopted children, who, prior to the adoption were their niece and nephew. Trystan and Biff adopted the two children after discovering they were living in an abusive environment.
On July 14, they welcomed their first biological child into the world. Throughout the pregnancy, Trystan made video documentation of his experience, adding commentary along the way. Once his documentation was posted to the internet, via major news sources, debate erupted. The issue? Trystan is a transgender man.
One social media outlet, Facebook, has been the platform that has allowed individuals on a worldwide level to respond. What was supposed to be a joyous and exciting moment for this couple turned into something that was not expected.
The video, titled “Man Gives Birth,” received an abundance of hate. Hundreds felt the need to express their opinions, which varied from how “Trystan is wrong”, ”Trystan is a woman,” and that “they need help.” The anticipated public commentary was expected to be congratulatory and joyous, and yet, it was not.
Does Anyone Deserve to Hear This?
Follow up post by Hope Xchange's #130ReasonsWhyNot social media team, Renee Stewart, Lucia Martínez Rojas, Diana Good and Kerry Martin, to our “Enter Our #130ReasonsWhyNot Contest to Win and Prevent Suicide” post announcing our five contest winners, sharing their reasons why not along with the personal story behind why this campaign means so much to the volunteer who was behind it all.
And the Winners Are ...
Five shout outs and our heartfelt gratitude to the winners of our #130ReasonsWhyNot Contest, Pansy Angevine, Shoshana Moed, Helene Portela, Lexey Lutz, and Yvette Balderas. Emails are on the way to your inboxes notifying you of your prizes: Pansy, a beautiful Terrarium, Shoshana, Helene and Lexey, a gift of your choosing from our online Hope Xchange SHOP, and Yvette, a signed copy of best-selling author, Natasha Tracy's book, "Lost Marbles: Insights into my Life with Depression and Bipolar," with a personal note from Natasha made out to you. We would also like to thank all of those who entered our contest. It was no easy task to pick the top 5!
The winning reasons have been paired with images and warning signs, and will be shared across our social media channels beginning on September 4th, which is the final week of our 130 day campaign, and also the first full week of September Suicide Awareness Month. See below for a sneak peek at Reasons 126 to 130, and please read on to hear from the amazing mother who was the inspiration for our #130ReasonsWhyNot campaign.
Reasons 126 and 127: Fifth Element and Fantastic Fourth
Reasons 128 and 129: Third Charmer and Runner Up
Reason 130: Our Grand Finale
Heartfelt thanks to Megan Banning, an amazing volunteer mental health advocate for Hope Xchange, for sharing her personal story on her life growing up and living with, and accepting, her borderline personality disorder diagnosis. We wish you nothing but sunlight and smiles.
I’ve been borderline for as long as I can remember. In kindergarten, I recall standing under great white oak trees on the playground thinking, there’s something different about me. I don’t belong here. In middle school, I felt a deep depression that none of my friends understood. And, I spent my years in high school living with a burning anger towards the world.
It Felt Like My Life Was Over. This Was It.
Our gratitude to Brandi Douglas, a volunteer LGBTQIA mental health advocate and blogger for Hope Xchange, who also is a member of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, for her guest post this week.
Suicide Among Young Native Americans Nearly Double National Rate
For many individuals, envisioning what the Native American population is up to nowadays seems like a hazy, uneducated discussion. Are they riding along the plains on their horses, war cries being hollered, as characterized in the black and white movies of past? Are they huddled around a fire, passing around a peace pipe and telling creation stories? Or are they relaxing, feet kicked up, reaping the benefits of their tribe’s casino revenue? They simply must be thriving, right?
However romanticized and often skewed the idea around the Native American’s current experience is, there is one that not many Non-Native individuals are talking about: the Native community and suicide. According to Santhanam and Krigger (2015), research by the Center for Disease control indicates a staggering 22.5% of every 100,000 deaths in the Native American community is attributed to suicide, which is practically double the national average. Among those suicides, young men between the ages of 15-24 are the most affected.
As Someone Born Into This Community, I See The Trauma
Our gratitude to Kristin Molinaro, the Volunteer Program Coordinator for our Hope for Mentally Ill mental health advocacy program and proud mum of three beautiful children for her guest post this week.
Summer is coming to a close and my children already have their schedules for the year. Check. I’ve brought them new school supplies. Check. I’ve got them new clothes. Check. I’ve devised a plan to talk to them about bullying and suicide. Check. I've warned them about the Blue Whale Challenge. Have you?
Have You Talked to Your Kids About Suicide And Bullying?
Not so many of us are comfortable broaching the subject of suicide with our children, but as the school year begins, now is the time to sit your kids down and have that conversation. With cyber bullying on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, and the Blue Whale challenge in full effect, our children are at an increased risk of depression and suicide. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death in adolescents and second among college students. Most people think suicide cannot happen in their families, but it can.
Back-to-School Blues Growing Phenomenon
Studies have shown that teens between the ages of 14 to 18 have a greater risk of suicide in the fall months than in summer. School can be difficult as children and teens struggle to find their place in the world, try to obtain perfect grades to get into the college of their dreams, and grapple with peer pressure. It is no secret that heading back to school in September brings on many difficult emotions.
1 in 4 Chance of Being Cyberbullied If Child Owns SmartPhone
My Response to Chester Bennington’s Suicide - Volunteer for Hope Xchange to Prevent Others From Following In His Footsteps
We extend our heartfelt thanks to Brandi Douglas, a new volunteer LGBTQIA Mental Health Advocate & Blogger for Hope Xchange, for sharing her response to the passing of Chester Bennington and how that lead her to join our family.
Chester Bennington Dead. Possible Suicide?
It was a good day. No wait, it had been a wonderful day. I had caught up on my work, was getting a bit ahead for the next week when I clicked on my internet browser’s home screen and saw the news. This couldn’t be real.
Chester Bennington dead. Possible suicide?
Instantly, any work I was pondering slipped out of my thoughts and onto the floor. Convinced it was yet another celebrity internet hoax, I began to research. Outlet after outlet. Chester Bennington dies. Linkin Park lead singer dies, suicide. Lead singer of Linkin Park commits suicide on fellow singer and friend Chris Cornell’s birthday. One page after the other, the same news, the same ending. My heart fell into a place I did not know existed.
In that moment I didn’t quite know what to do, so I switched on some live streaming music of Linkin Park. I juggled between that and YouTube videos. YouTube videos and texts to my friends. Texts to friends, texts to my mother (whom I had introduced to Linkin Park) and then, back to my own thoughts. In a moment’s notice, I was frantic over the news and didn’t know quite how to process it.
When a Celebrity’s Suicide Hits Home
Given summer is rapidly drawing to a close - ugh - we thought it would be fun to bring you our top 10 most read blog posts so far this year. Which post impacted you the most and why? Please post in the comment's section below.
Note: posts are separated by category, not popularity.
Advocacy Posts on Behalf of our Community
We extend our heartfelt thanks to Kaitlyn Fischer, a volunteer LGBTQA+ Mental Health Advocate & Blogger for Hope Xchange, for bravely sharing her story about her own mental illnesses and the symptoms she experiences.
As someone who lives with numerous mental illnesses — Anxiety, Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) — for me, the hidden symptoms of my mental illnesses are often worse than the obvious ones. This is because the noticeable symptoms are just that: noticeable.
People compile these symptoms in a list and assign a label to them without a second thought. They are easily identified. But, the symptoms that my mind and body hide are the most dangerous for me because they aren't talked about as often. They are overlooked, dismissed, mislabeled, and not taken seriously. Yet, these symptoms eat away at me, affecting every minute of my day. These symptoms are ones that need to be spoken about and viewed as just as valid as any obvious symptoms are.
Symptom #1: Forgetfulness
Hope Xchange extends its heartfelt gratitude to Rebecca Lombardo, a volunteer mentor in our Hope for Bipolar's program, for sharing her story on how she found her life purpose after her suicide attempt in 2013. Rebecca is also a published author, Huffington Post blogger, contributor for The Mighty, and Voices for Change 2.0 podcast host. You can learn more about Rebecca and her mental health advocacy work on her website at rebeccalombardo.com.
My Suicide Attempt Radically Changes My Perspective
I’ve often struggled with finding my true purpose. It wasn’t until I truly hit rock bottom that I started to become more self aware. In June of 2013, I succumbed to the symptoms of my illness, a bipolar diagnosis I've been battling since 19.
I firmly believed that I was not capable of doing anything worthwhile in this lifetime. I decided that my family and friends would be better off without me around and I attempted suicide.
I will never forget the look on my husband’s face while they worked on me in the ER. Even thinking about it now gets me extremely emotional. I’m incredibly lucky that I wasn’t successful that day as it has allowed me to put my life into the proper perspective.
With a great deal of time to reflect, I came to the realization that I had a voice. With that voice, I would try to change the way people perceive mental illness. I would begin my journey of trying to end the stigma.
My Journey to End Mental Health Stigma Begins
Cultural Stereotypes Impact Mental Health in our Asian-American Community — A Personal Perspective from a Hope Xchange Intern
Hope Xchange extends its heartfelt thanks to Danni Yang, our amazing social media and marketing intern, for sharing her story of growing up in the Asian-American community and her perspective on the interplay between cultural stereotypes, stigma and reaching out for help during minority mental health awareness month.
In the popular Broadway hit “Hamilton,”Lin Manuel champions immigrants with the popular lyric “immigrants, we get the job done.” No one exemplified this notion more in my life than my mother, who came to this country at the age of 35 after living her entire life in China.
She barely spoke the language, needed to re-start her medical training, and had a three-year old baby at home. I would watch her study for her boards after working 8-10 hours a day, yet still manage to send me to school in the mornings. Her story comes to mind every time I am reviewing for a test until 3 AM, when I think about my future life plans, and when I am frustrated at the way my life is going. If she can achieve all of this, then certainly I have no excuse to give up.
What Happens When You Are In Middle School and You Think You’re Not Asian Enough?
The Mental Health Community is Failing the Black Community - We Simply Must Do More To Save Black Lives
Our gratitude to our guest writers, Patricia Hanson, en route to a PhD in School Psychology, and Nia Jones, en route to an MA in Counseling Psychology and the New Programs and Volunteer Manager for Hope Xchange, for today’s article on why those in the black community who are struggling with mental health issues are not reaching out for help and what can be done. Yesterday’s post is one account of why and today’s is another, a deeply-moving perspective from those living within in the community.
Let Us Start With Historical Community Values
Since the beginning of time, blacks have had to be strong and resilient. Stigma exists within the community because throughout history blacks have taken pride in overcoming any and everything thrown our way.
Slaves did not have therapists or SSRIs. During slavery, we could not show our weakness in any way. We had to hold onto strength in the face of adversity. We could not afford to stick out like a sore thumb. Civil rights activists were not able to go seek counseling when faced with anxiety about their next protest, and blacks today are almost never referred to as mentally ill in the media.
Today, Nothing Has Changed. When Someone in Our Community is Shot, We Are Expected to Maintain Our Cool.
Heartfelt gratitude to our guest writer this week, Mark Jones, the proud father of Nia Jones, our New Programs and Volunteer Manager, for reminiscing on a painful time in his past and sharing his story during Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Mark shares his personal experiences and reflective insight on growing up as an African-American, struggling with depression, homelessness, and discrimination and how he overcame the many challenges far too many confront due to prejudice, stereotyping and stigma (read ignorance).
I Have Faced Pain, Pressure, and Stigma Because of the Color of My Skin
As an ordained minister, I’ve been dealing with community and societal issues for over 30 years. I have occupied the role of Father, Husband, Ordained Preacher/Pastor, Single Dad, Public School Teacher, and High School Track Coach.
In all of these roles, I’ve faced pain, pressure, and stigma because of the color of my skin.
Some Say the World Was a Different Place When I Was Born. 63 Years Later, Nothing Has Changed.
Blog post by Hope Xchange's #130ReasonsWhyNot social media team, Renee Stewart, Lucia Martínez Rojas, Diana Good and Kerry Martin.
In response to the Netflix series "13 Reasons Why," a fictional drama about a 17-year-old who leaves behind audio recordings explaining why she committed suicide, we launched a daily social media campaign, #130ReasonsWhyNot, to share 130 reasons why not to take your own life.
The driving force was our concern for the teens across the country struggling after watching it and the real potential for copy-cat suicides (which unfortunately did occur). The show also touched close to home, triggering some we mentor in a very negative way and detrimentally impacting our Hope Xchange family.
We are now almost midway through our campaign, with 70 reasons to go. And, while we have hundreds of more reasons we could share, we wanted to ask YOU for your reason!
By entering our contest you can win a fun prize if your reason is chosen to be one of our last five. As an added benefit, you can lift someone up who may be struggling and perhaps even save a life.
How to Enter Our Contest and Win!
1. Check out our previous reasons for the #130ReasonsWhyNot Campaign below as repeated reasons will NOT be selected. Also be sure to follow and like us on Instagram, Twitter and/or Facebook to make sure you're up to date on our latest reasons!
Heartfelt gratitude to our guest writer this week, Erin Macauley, Chief Operations Officer of Suicide Shatters Families, an Australian-based nonprofit raising awareness for mental health and suicide prevention and providing support to suicide survivors. Erin and her organization are also actively involved in Australia's inspiring Challenge 4 Change, a collaborative effort to take action to support mental wellbeing at challenge4change.com.au.
First, a disclaimer: I am 36 years old and I don’t date. Ever. Everyone I know is getting married or pregnant. Meanwhile, all I am doing is buying extra iCloud storage so I can take more photos of my dog.
Mental Illness Consumes My Life and My Brain
As Field of Psychiatry Grapples with Diagnosing Early-Onset Bipolar Disorder, Our Children and Their Parents Pay the Price
Post by Kerry Martin, CEO and Founder, Hope Xchange Nonprofit.
On Tuesday, June 27, Kristian Keefer-McNeil, mother of two children with special needs and mental health advocate, shared the details of her fight to obtain mental health care for her daughter on a guest blog on our site, Why Does My Suicidal 11-Year Old’s Mental Illness Matter Less Than Another Child's Physical Illness?
In our post, Julie A. Fast and I asked kindred spirits to open their hearts and wallets and join us in donating to Kristian's GoFundMe campaign to raise the needed $400 to cover out-of-pocket costs for a needed psychological evaluation denied by Medicaid. Thanks to generous donations, we were able to do so and Kristian has now shut down the campaign so we can help raise funds for another family in need. Kristian, Julie and I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to those who donated.
Because of the outpouring of support, Kristian and I would like to bring you an update on her daughter. What is happening with her now, just a few days after our post, further frustrates and baffles us both in regards to the state of the mental health care system particularly in more rural areas, and how our children with mental illnesses and their parents are suffering as a result.
A Note from Kristian On Her Daughter’s CRNP Mental Health Appointment The Day After Our Post: "Diagnosis Du Jour"
Heartfelt thanks to our guest author, Patricia Hanson, for sharing with us her truly inspiring story about coming out as a lesbian after 20 years of battling against the “straight agenda.” She now is out, living her life with pride and we couldn’t be more proud.
The Hardest Part - Coming Out to Yourself
The first person you come out to is yourself. This is the hardest part. It’s so hard that some people don’t do it until they’re married to a person of the wrong gender for years, with kids. Most people don’t understand how hard it really is. Others cannot truly accept you until you accept yourself. For me, it took twenty years. Twenty years for me to utter the phrase “I’m a lesbian” without wanting to burst into tears. Twenty years where I was not my true authentic self.
Some people say being gay is a choice. I never wanted to be a lesbian, but the day I finally came to terms with it was the most freeing day of my life. I tried so hard for so long to fit into what society expected of me and it was beyond tiring. I was afraid of not being normal, but since coming out, this is the first time that I have actually felt normal.
Why Does My Suicidal 11-Year Old’s Mental Illness Matter Less Than Another Child's Physical Illness?
Guest post by Kristian Keefer-McNeil, mother of two children with special needs and mental health advocate at specialneedskids101.com with a personal request from Kerry Martin, CEO and Founder of Hope Xchange, and Julie A. Fast, fellow mental health advocate, bestselling author, speaker and coach.
There are extensive awareness campaigns for many childhood illnesses. There are hospitals that will not turn sick children away even if a family cannot pay. And yet my eleven-year old daughter has an illness for which there is not nearly as much support, awareness or help.
She has bipolar disorder and several severe anxiety disorders.
When my friend’s six-year old boy was diagnosed with leukemia, I wept. When my neighbor found out her son had childhood diabetes, I prayed. When my former classmate prematurely gave birth to her daughter, I donated a few dollars even though I couldn't afford it.
Why Does Society View Mental Illness So Differently?
When confiding in my friends about my daughter, they say little or nothing at all. I try to explain to well-meaning friends what a day can be like for my daughter and those of us who love her and are trying so desperately to help her. I try to explain how difficult it is for her younger brother — who is on the autism spectrum — to understand that when his sister says hurtful words or does things that worry him, it is the disease speaking.
A few try to relate by saying things like “oh my kids did not get along either when they were little” or “all kids do that sometimes” or “it's just a phase.”
Would they say the same thing to our neighbor whose son has cancer? Would they say to her “I know how you feel because my daughter had a bad case of the flu last week?” Would they tell her that her child will "outgrow his cancer because it's just a phase.”
I certainly hope they would not say these things. But it still leaves me asking myself: why is it different for mental illness?
Like Physical Illness, Mental Illness Wreaks Havoc On Both the Individual and Caregivers
Heartfelt gratitude to Daisy Mox, one of Hope Xchange's amazing youth bipolar mentors, for daring greatly and sharing her personal battle with depression and bipolar disorder, which started at the age of eight, and her words of encouragement for others who may be struggling.
Even Eight-Year Old Me Had a Rough Time
I don’t remember when I noticed it for the first time, but I know I was young. Some of my first memories consist of my wishing I was more excited about recess or birthday parties or, well, anything, really. Even eight year-old me had a rough time getting out of bed in the morning. Maybe, I thought, I’m just lazy.
They told me to talk episodically, but, neither do I like to think about it like that, nor do I think it’s the best way to address my situation. “Episode” sounds as though my actions aren’t my own. The term causes me to forget that when I’m high, when I’m low, or in any state, I’m still me. I will not credit the mood swings to some higher power or an inner demon. This is me. This is my brain chemistry. This is my body. This is me.
Because It Is Easier, I Allow Them To Believe It Is My Mother's Death that Causes My Existential Sadness
I think I’d like to go about this in a more general manner. Too many events in this life have brought me to my position today, and I’ve only got 800 words, my friends.
My dominating battle is currently depression. At 14, I watched my mother deteriorate in the bony hands of Melanoma, which is the world’s assumption as to the origin of this existential sadness. And, because it’s easier as humans to have a reason, I allow them to believe it.
But, as aforementioned, I’ve lived in this state for as long as I can remember.
The Sadness Physically Eats Me Up From the Inside Out
Heartfelt thanks to Hope Xchange's mentor, Kevin Goldman, for guest blogging this week and sharing with us his definition of happiness and what makes his life meaningful.
In general, I am not a happy person.
What exactly does that mean? I know varying factors. Personally, I am diagnosed clinically depressed with mild PTSD, over anxious and “crème de la crème”, socially anxious. I tell people about my depression and they suggest “I’m unhappy,” “it’s a phase,” “you’ll get over it” and “it’s all in your head.”
I’ll address one now. Just because “it’s in my head," doesn’t make it not REAL. It is, in fact, very, very real.
I’m a programmer and developer by trade, so I know ones and zeros. It’s called binary. Depression is not binary nor black and white. I’m never truly happy or unhappy. I have felt varying degrees of the concepts of happiness: joy, bliss, ecstasy.
Happy implies a permanent state of being. For example, I’ve completed A, B, C and now D. I’M HAPPY!!! Like, when playing Mario Brothers and we beat Bowser, we feel as if we’ve made it. We’re superb. We’re the best. It makes us a, single serving, whole.
I remember my brother going on a journey to “find himself”. It thoroughly confused me. WHY do you need to wander (physically or metaphysically) to “find” yourself? As if it’s “the journey” they all suggest we’re taking.
Why not MAKE a life and BE the person by executing continual trial and error? By ACTUALLY LIVING?
YES, we need an endpoint, but it doesn’t have to be stationary. There doesn’t HAVE to be an end to the journey. So travel on. With the idea that you’re not searching. You’re adventuring. You’re experimenting. You’re dog damn LIVING!
Before his journey, I gave him a small piece of paper that simply ready, “YOU, are MICHAEL GOLDMAN“. I, perhaps, found him before he did.
Yes, I know it’s all a seemingly large, vast space to explore and we need milestones.
Remember when we “knew” the limitations of our galaxy? We knew that there was this bounded (albeit boundless) concept of a space. Does it matter if a planet is a planet? Scientifically, mathematically, systematically and historically, YES… it does. However, Pluto was. Now she’s not. Then she was again and then, again, perhaps not.
Black and white, my loves. It’s the very definition of the words. I’m okay. Sometimes I’m not. This is all, however, about the definition of happy. It's slowly becoming a filler word. In the meantime, it’s a very static word to describe a very complicated array of emotions.
Take, for example, asking someone if they are happy or not. There is a delicate web encapsulating those words. You may as well ask if happiness exists or not. It makes no difference, the subject. The answer will, nearly, ALWAYS be different. However, most people will suggest “I’m ‘okay’ “ before, “yes, I am happy”.
Maybe, just maybe, I am constructed a little obscurely.
I might be in pain and “unhappy” all the bloody time.
Maybe everyone else is feeling pure ecstasy. Or maybe they’re full of shit.
WHAT, TRULY, DOES IT MATTER? I – AM – NOT – HAPPY. Nor will I ever pretend to be.