Saturday, June 13, 2015

Introversion and the Crux of Invisibility

I was at the grocery store, rushing through my list and hoping desperately not to run into anyone that I know- my typical introvert shopping trip. As I rounded the corner into the wine aisle(ahem- my favorite aisle) I felt a pair of eyes on me. I looked to my right and there was a sweet little girl with whom I had worked with during my Fridays volunteering in my youngest daughter’s classroom.

She was alternately hiding behind her big sister’s legs and peeking out to grin at me in hopes that I would notice her. I walked over and said hello, her face opening up into a huge grin before disappearing again. I said my goodbye and continued to walk down the aisle and before turning into the next aisle, peeked behind me. She was still standing there grinning back at me as though the best thing in the whole world was to be remembered and noticed by her friend’s Mama. It lit up my heart.

I felt a deep kinship with this young girl, unsure whether to hide or be seen. As an introvert, much of my life has been focused on the act of invisibility so that I could shrink carefully back into the comfortable confines of my mind. However, there have been many times that the same coveted, comfortable invisibility has become a clawing, gnawing ache in my belly as I drifted into deep loneliness. There were many years of finding my way, vacillating between periods of deep quiet, interrupted by staccato bursts of being desperate to be heard at any cost.

I am now at a place where I can weather social situations and need much less time to recover in the cocoon of my home after. Yet, much of my life was exactly like the picture of the little girl in the grocery store- utterly conflicted between hiding and being seen. 

This is the crux of introversion- a desperate need for invisibility, which conflicts with the very human need to be heard and understood.

I would like to hope that with the recent influx of publications and research on introversion, that young people will find a comfortable ground with their introversion at a younger age than I did.

May we each find peace with exposing ourselves from underneath our precious cloaks of invisibility and find a group of people that will respect our need for privacy, but ease the ache of loneliness that seems pervasive among us. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

An Open Letter to Young People Contemplating Suicide from a Suicide Survivor

hope depression sadness anxietyAn Open Letter to Young People Contemplating Suicide from a Suicide Survivor

Our community, as many are, is struggling with a rash of inconceivable suicides of teens and pre-teens. Every new death is a blow to the already raw hearts of this community. There is blame thrown here and there, everyone looking for a steady target to throw off the pain that we all seem to be drowning under. No one has an answer for saving our children from this extrordinary pain, which seems pervasive, across this nation and across the world.

With every new death there is much conversation- first in shadowed whispers, then growing to a fevered roar. What I keep hearing, over and over again, are parents saying that they don’t understand. They can’t possibly understand someone, especially a young person, being so low that they would take their own life. I would like to nod along and remember my teenage years as carefree and lovely as those around me seem too. But, even a simple nod would be an egregious lie. You see, when I was seventeen years old, I was swimming in the black water of a deep, dark depression- a depression that I could not ever see myself coming out of and in those dark days I tried to blot out my own life several times.  I am so thankful to have not been successful at taking on my own life and I strongly believe that I would have never made any suicide attempts had I known the truth of what was to come in my life.

If you are in the bowels of your own depression and are contemplating taking your own life, I want to say to you what I wish someone had said to me during those very dark days, when I felt terribly alone and was sure that living in this unspeakable pain forever would be my destiny.

You are not alone. As far as we have come in the twenty years since I was a teenager, mental illness is still stigmatized. This means that for every person brave enough to say that they struggle with depression, anxiety, bipolarity- there are likely hundreds more in the wings who are not ready yet to take the stage and come forward about their own struggles. There are people struggling in your town, in your country and all over the world at this very minute. There is not a single pain that you feel that is not being felt by someone else at this very moment, somewhere in the world.

Depression is a liar. It will tell you that you are worthless, that no one cares, that you are better off dead. None of what it tells you has any basis in the truth.  None. Many of the ideas in your head are completely baseless and false. Never take any kind of extreme action without talking with someone else first. You will shake off this beast of depression and will look back someday and be shocked that you listened to the pleas of this raging, ruthless liar. Do not be afraid to talk back when the beast whispers in your ear. You may not feel it right now, but you are so much stronger than your depression.

You need to seek help. This part might seem very hard. Maybe you haven’t told anyone how low you are feeling. Maybe it seems easier to stay quiet. I ask you, fervently, to tell someone you trust. Seek counseling, try medication, find friends that you can be truly honest with, meditate, get outside. There are so many ways of feeling better and no two paths to mental peace are the same. If one counselor or doctor doesn’t help, try another. If your meds don’t help, ask your doctor to adjust the dose or try another. Know that you do not have to do this alone. There are people out there that help people through this everyday and they are waiting to help you, too.

You are not your depression. This is not you. This experience will forever change you and be a part of you, but it is not and will never be the real you.  This is not the way you are going to feel for your entire life. This is a temporary chemical disruption of your brain, nothing more. Experiencing depression is part of the human experience but is not who you are as a whole. Do not let this take over your entire identity.

There is so much good ahead of you. This is the most important thing that I have to tell you. I know you’ve heard the words that every young person hears, “These are the best days of your life.” Well, I cry bullshit. I want you to know that when I was struggling, not even wanting to live another day, my worst fears were that this was true and my life- which was so painful that I was living moment to moment, was only going to be downhill from here. In truth, my life has blossomed beyond belief and I am truly happy. My life now does not in any way resemble those dark days. There are so many good things ahead of you.  SO MANY. It’s okay if you cannot see them now, but please trust that they are there. Please trust that you are, indeed, in the darkest days of your life but that there is light ahead.

Keep moving forward. Some days that is all you can do, even when your depression wills you to crawl into bed permanently. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Trust that there is a brighter future if you keep going, as impossible as that idea might seem in this moment.  I see you there, struggling through each moment, and I want you to know that I have been there and there is a way out. There are so many out there, just like me, that are so grateful to have not been successful in their own suicide attempts and are pulling for you to not choose to blot out your own light. We, the survivors, understand that you are not living day to day, but moment by painful moment. We are holding space for you to reach that moment that is easier, the moment that is not full of pain. I know you will get there, if you simply keep moving forward. I am so very glad that I did.

If you are in the US,  you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255).