Tag Archive | depression

Laughing to Cope

Image Credit: dailymail.co.uk Huu Hung Truong: 2013 Sony World Photography Awards


A-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

…ahhh

LMAO!


I connected with a wonderfully bubbly woman when I was at one of my lowest lows.  We met quite by chance and immediately clicked like we were life-long friends.  We were in the same boat, she and I, both at extreme low points in our lives, both under the influence of uncontrollable tears, fears and the urge to hurt ourselves and end our lives.

But we laughed.  I didn’t understand it, and I really didn’t care, but oh boy, we laughed.

We laughed at everything, funny things, stupid things, serious things and of course, we laughed at ourselves.

Of everything that I have experienced, laughing with this woman was the most healing during a very dark and difficult time.

Laughing kept me from crying.

Laughing kept me from thinking.

Laughing shook my body and kept me present because I was feeling and experiencing.

Laughing made it easier to cope when I felt that I had nothing left in me for another day.

Laughing relieved some my pain inside, releasing it through positive emotions rather than through tears.

Thankfully, my brain functions normally in releasing feel good endorphins when stimulated by laughter.  I felt good even though I felt like dying.

People looked at us and shook their heads.  They couldn’t understand how we could still laugh, knowing the condition of our mental state.

Did we disturb others with our ruckus?

We probably did, but it helped us to cope, and it helped us to get through.

Laughing Buddha

This holiday season give yourself the gift of laughter.

Wouldn’t it be great to go see a comedy show?  Is there a comedy club near you?

Maybe go see a comedy play or movie.

Have no one to go with?  Don’t let that stop you.  Go anyway.  It might do you good!

It’s always better to get out, but if you can’t, than treat yourself with a movie rental, make some popcorn and enjoy it at home.

Pursue that good hard belly laugh!

Go ahead!  It’ll be good!

Or do it if only to prove me wrong and be sure to let me know about it!

Cheers!

She Is So Worthy Of Saving

Mary sobbed uncontrollably as she looped the flimsy rope over the ceiling beam in her bedroom.  She was a small girl and the rope should be strong enough to hold her, she thought.  Her heart clenched tight with anguish.  Crushing pain racked her little body.   She just had to push away the chair she was standing on, and hopefully the pain will stop.  The pain will stop, it had to!

She just wanted the pain to stop.

She couldn’t handle it anymore, she hurt so much.

She didn’t want to hurt anymore.

She didn’t want to feel alone anymore.

She didn’t want to feel like a failure anymore.   She didn’t want to feel her father’s disappointment in her anymore.   The pressures of being 12 years old were so overwhelming.  She could never live up to what everybody wanted of her.

She just wanted to die.

Good bye Daddy.  Good bye Mommy.  Good bye little brother Jay.  She cried even harder thinking about her family.  They wouldn’t miss her anyway.

“Mary! Dinner!”  Mary heard her mom calling her for dinner.  She collapsed into a bawling heap on the ceramic floor.  Oh my God!  Oh my God!  Please help me!

Mary’s next attempt at suicide was when she was 16 years old.  She left school in the middle of the day, took the bus home and overdosed on a bottle of pills she had been saving, waiting for the right time.  She was hospitalized and discharged after a few weeks.

At 19 years old, Mary went away to University.  She had been so happy the summer before her university days were to begin, and so ready to set out on her own.  Her life as an adult was upon her, she was ecstatic and so very optimistic about her future.  She had a wonderful man in her life who adored her.  Her grades were among the honors, and she was attending one of the top universities in the country.  She was young, and beautiful, bubbling with life and vitality.  Her parents were supporting her through university.  Everything was good and right in her life.

Except it wasn’t.

She had hoped that she had outgrown the angst and pain of her teenage years.  She had thought those days were behind her.

She was wrong.

The pressures of being alone in a foreign city without her loved ones intensified her feelings of being alone.  There were high expectations of her to perform and achieve beyond her successful parents’ accomplishments.  The deep abyss of pain began to gnaw at her insides until she could not hold it in any longer.  She began to cut her arms to relieve some of the pain inside.  Before long, she was suicidal and had to be returned to her parents’ home and then hospitalized.

She was finally diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder with Borderline Personality Disorder.  She was treated and discharged with a plan to continue treatment and community support.   She cheerfully wished everyone a hearty farewell, and happily skipped out of the hospital with nary a backward glance.

At 2 in the morning, four days after her discharge from the hospital, Mary called a friend she had recently bonded with from the hospital, sobbing that she couldn’t handle it anymore.  She abruptly hung up and her friend could not get a hold of her after.  After repeated attempts of calling her cellphone, with no response, the friend knew she had to find a way to reach her.  In a panic, the friend called the local directory, and guessed the names of her parents which her home phone number could be listed under.  Luckily, the friend was able to reach Mary’s father and asked him to check on Mary.  They found Mary overdosed and unconscious, but thankfully still alive. 

Mary’s parents, though educated and loved her very much, floundered in their effort to understand and support her in her illness.  They couldn’t understand her depression, because her life was full and advantageous compared to so many others who were less fortunate.  She had everything anyone could want.  Their attempts to raise her spirits and motivate her, only added to her frustration and feelings of loneliness and being misunderstood.

I see so much of my younger self in Mary; Her feelings, her experiences, her attempts, and her struggle to live and die. 

I wish I could tell her that it will get better. 

I wish I could tell her that those awful feelings of despair and wanting to die will go away and never come back.  

I wish I could tell her that there is a magic little pill that makes everything right and happy again.

But the truth is, I can’t say with any kind of conviction that things will get better, not when I am struggling everyday with those same feelings of hopelessness.

I can only tell her that she will learn to cope better with the illness, learn to cope better with the feelings, with the pain, and with the intruding thoughts that make her feel so small and want to die.

I can tell her that there will be extreme lows in her mood, and they may not be preventable every time, but she can learn to recover quicker from those lows, so that this miserable burden becomes easier to bear.

I can her that there will not only be lows, but highs as well, because life can still be enjoyed when she has good days, weeks, months, or even years without any hint of darkness or despair.  It can happen.

Depression is treatable. 

Mary is now only 19 years old, still so young.  There is still so much she can do, still so much of life yet to experience.  Even with this mental illness, and the dismal outlook that inherently comes with it, she can still have a full and complete life.  Yes, there will be dark days, but there is help and support to brace and carry her through those difficult days.  There are people who love her, and care for her, even though she feels unworthy.

I want to tell Mary that it is okay to ask for help, and accept that help when she can no longer cope with the illness.  In fact, it is preferable that she reach out for help, rather than succumb to the darkness in isolation.  I want Mary to hear me tell her that she is so worthy of saving, because she has so much light and love to offer the world.

Stay strong Mary.

You will laugh and enjoy the light again soon.  And there are still many hours of twerking yet to be done!

Post script:

Mary is a real person and her story is true.  I have changed her name and called her “Mary” to give her anonymity and respect her privacy.

“Making Your Way In The World Today Takes Everything You Got”


Making your way in the world today takes everything you got;

Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.

Wouldn’t you like to get away?”

Theme song lyrics from “Cheers”, American Television Sitcom 1982-1993


For some of us, there is no taking a break from all our worries, because the worries are inside us, inside our heads, wreaking havoc inside our minds.

A reader asked me recently if I carry on in the hope that the Depression lifts.

I can only reply that I can only do my best on any given day.

I carry on, not in the hope that the depressions lifts.  I carry on for the exquisite rays of light that occasionally pierces through the darkness, and for the moments of love and happiness that brighten my world now and then.  I have seen the splendour and magnificence of beauty and joy.  That is what keeps me going.

Is that enough?

Who knows what’s on the other side life?  Maybe we take the pain with us if we die while in the grips of despair.   Wouldn’t that be the ultimate irony, committing suicide because of the need to stop the pain, only to writh in that pain into perpetuity?

Everyone has ups and downs.  No one is in perpetual bliss.  Even the brightest flames diminish in the dampening rain.

For people with Depression however, the downs are much deeper and darker than for others.  The rain becomes a torrential hurricane complete with tsunami tidal wave.

I have learned to ride the emotional coaster better, by being aware of the pattern of ups and downs.  It helps to have an arsenal of coping tools in my self-management toolbox to help me get through the lowest times; everything from spiritual healing to comedy relief and everything in between.  I have also learned that it’s O.K. reach out and ask for help.

I used to question what it was all for, the constant struggle that is life.

Survival?

But why?

Procreation?

I have procreated.  Does that mean I am done?

What’s the point?

According to Oprah Winfrey;


“The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be.”


For me, for now, I am the person that I am; faulty, flawed and imperfect, trying to embrace with gratitude every small moment of joy I am given, before I am drawn under again by the next wave of darkness that hits.

I don’t make excuses for the way that I am anymore, and I don’t apologize either, for the sudden tears, or the occasional need for a small retreat from the world.  I don’t make excuses for needing to take medications to stabilize my mental health.  I don’t make excuses for needing support to get me through sinkholes in the road.

Do I want to evolve into the “complete person” I was intended to be? photo 3 (7)

What does that even mean?

Or maybe I have evolved, and this is the complete person I am intended to be this go round.  Imperfectly perfect.

I can accept that, or, I can continue searching, discontent in mind, body and spirit, straining and craving to change into some intangible “complete” entity I am told I should aspire to.

There is only one answer that makes sense right now.

“… grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time…”

~Reinhold Niebuhr

“I Could have Been A Better Friend” ~ The Mantra of Survivor Guilt

Survivor guilt; a visceral animal that silently gnaws at a survivor after a loved one has committed suicide.

After the fact, the survivor looks back and agonizes over what they could have done to help;

jan-jun 2012 496

Photo Credit: Sandi Yee

“I could’ve been a better friend,

I could’ve been a better sister (brother, mother, father…)

I could’ve done more to show that I cared,

I could’ve done more to help if I had known.”

As someone who has attempted suicide, who has been immersed in darkness and doom, there is really nothing that anyone can do once the decision has been made.

Suicide prevention and intervention are at best temporary measures to stall a tidal wave.  It’s a strip of bandage on a gushing wound.

There is really nothing that can be done to prevent a determined suicide short of putting the person under suicide watch.

When the Depression comes, it is all consuming.   There is no logic, no love, no light, no sense of right or wrong, and no sense of up or down, there is only abysmal pain and despair.  Nothing anyone does is going to make any difference to that mental state of mind.  All those promises and contracts made in therapy not to hurt yourself, or to call someone when you feel that you will hurt yourself, those are the farthest things from the mind in the grips of mental anguish.

My attempts to commit suicide were not successful (else I would be dead and not writing this article), not because of what someone else did to stop me or to help me.  They were feeble and ineffectual attempts because I was young and ignorant.  I didn’t know any better.  I didn’t know how to kill myself properly, and I bungled it.  How totally inadequate of me.

The next time will be the last time, because now I know what to do.  Now I am older and wiser.  I know my plan is fail-proof.  It is lethal.  I am not young nor am I ignorant anymore.  Suicide is no longer my cry for help, it is because I want to die.  My plan can be executed regardless of external intervention or prevention.  It’s just a matter of when.  My husband knows this, he knows my plan.

So when I see all the awareness on Suicide Prevention the powers that be are propagating,

I am not convinced.

I applaud the good intentions, the efforts, commitment and desire to help.

But I see reality a little differently.

Image Credit: afsp.org

Honestly, do you really think that removing potential poisons, ropes and sharp objects are going be effective in preventing anything, if the person has made their decision to commit suicide?

Delusion!

I see this as merely a coping tool for friends and family to feel less helpless, to have something they can do, anything they can do, to help.

wrist cut lines

Photo Credit: Sandi Yee

A dear friend of mine was completely ignorant that her beloved teenage daughter was hiding a razor blade in her room.

For a $1.50 at Walmart, anyone can buy a blade knife, complete with small plastic handle so no need to worry it will become too slippery to handle when drenched in blood.

This tormented teenager cut herself for months, and no one had any idea that she had been doing it.

To this day, the parents do not know.

I am the only one she trusted enough to tell.

That razor could have easily sliced through vital blood vessels if she was so inclined.  She would have had privacy to do so, because in our society, we give our teenagers the right to close their bedroom door and shut out the world.

Robin Williams hung himself, while his wife was in the house.  It takes at least 5 to 15 minutes of asphyxiation to die by hanging, unless the neck is broken immediately.  He had not been on suicide watch.  He was found dead.

The suicidal mind just wants the pain and suffering to end.  No one would know unless they had cried out for help, unless the warning signs were so obvious that they could not be ignored (for instance; stumbling out of their bedroom and announcing to a house full of family and friends that they have taken a bottle of pills; this actually happened with a family member).

Even then, everyone has their own lives to live, their own burdens to bear.  They cannot be expected to sit on suicide watch for their mentally unstable sister, daughter, friend…

My doctor told me to go to the hospital if I feel like I am going to kill myself.

I just have to shake my head at that.

I have lived with this condition long enough to know that feeling like I want to kill myself is part of my daily life.

If I am going to kill myself, I probably will.  And it’s not going to be with sharp objects, or poisonous substances, or the ghastly rope.

Would my friends and family have survivor guilt?

Probably.

Would they regret that they didn’t do more to prevent it?

Probably.

Could they have done anything to prevent it?

Probably not.

And no.  I am not going to kill myself today.

Depression In The Workplace

DSC_1065The most difficult thing with having depression as an adult is that you are still expected to behave as an adult, with all the duties, responsibilities and obligations of being an adult.

There are people depending on you, your boss, your kids, your spouse, and your pets. Even in your darkness, with uncontrollable tears ready to spill over at the smallest bump in the road, work still needs to be completed, deadlines still have to be met, bills still need to be paid, and the bacon still needs to be brought home.

No matter how much you just want to hide away in some dark corner, curl up within yourself and bawl your heart out, you still have a job to do.

Your attendance and productivity are non-negotiable expectations of you at work.

You need the money? You need your job?

Hell, yeah!

Rare it is for those of us who don’t need these essentials of modern living.

Your boss has their responsibilities too. The company does not owe you anything more than your paycheck, and you do not owe them more than what they pay you for. Your job is a financial transaction, between you and the company.

You, the employee, are paid monies in exchange for your time, and what you produce for your employer.

Keep this in mind and do not make the mistake of thinking that they care about your mental health, because they really do not care other than how it would affect their bottom line.

Even the best managers, or even if your manager is your best friend, they still have a business to run, clients to service, revenue to generate, deadlines to meet, and a boss that they themselves must report to as well.

Everyone has a boss that they have to ultimately report to.

At the end of the day, your boss gets to go home, to their families and their own life. They may be as empathetic as can be, but they must do what is best for their own livelihood, for their own job security, and that is to look out for the company’s interest. This may seem cold and cynical, but it is the truth. There is no room in an organization for an employee who does not produce, does not fit in, or is a drain on company resources.

A wonderful colleague at work once told me, referring to our manager;

“Betty does what’s best for Betty, you, Sandy have to do what is best for Sandy”.

You must do what is in the best interest of you, because you are your best and biggest advocate.

Stay professional. Maintain your professional reputation, and take the time you need to regroup. The last thing you need at this point is to have a meltdown at work. Your mental health is paramount to everything else.

You work to live, not the other way around.

If you do not resolve your situation first, then the situation may be resolved for you (by you being relieved of your position), and that will bring you down even further.

Here are some tips that may help you to regroup.

1. Get help

If you are feeling so overwhelmed that you cannot cope by yourself, it’s time to ask for help from a professional source. Speak with your doctor or medical professional for a diagnosis, and explore your treatment options. There could be answers to address your physical symptoms as well as your emotional and psychological well-being. You may need therapy, counselling, prescriptions or a combination of approaches to help you heal.

There may also be help and resources readily available through your human resources department. The main thing is to ask for help. If you don’t get help the first time, keep asking.  Help is available.

DSC_2404

2. Take care of yourself. 

Taking care of yourself is more than indulging in a soothing bath or spoiling yourself with a mani-pedi (I am not saying those aren’t awesome, love them myself). Taking care of yourself is giving yourself everything that your mind, body and spirit needs and deserves in order to be well and to thrive.

If you need to see the doctor (or medical professional), then take the time to see your doctor, therapist or counsellor.

If you need to take a period of time away from work, then ask for that time.  Recent studies published by the University of Melbourne found that employees who continued to work even as they experienced depression symptoms, realized positive health benefits towards their recovery.  That being said, your doctor can help you determine if you need time away from work.

Your well-being is paramount to all else in your life. Your work will always be there. That urgent matter on your desk is not a life or death situation (unless it literally is because you are a life-saving surgeon or some such, even then, there is an on-call to take it on). Money can always be made, another job can always be found, but your health is your life. Your mental-health is the internal world in which you exist. It must stand head and shoulders above all else. Otherwise you could begin to feel that your world is not worth the effort, and that feeling can lead to the ultimate darkness, suicide.

3. Act

Once you have established a plan of action with your medical professional, stay the course. It may be difficult to remember or keep your medical appointments, therapy sessions, take your medications and adhere to your treatment plan, but you must. Treatment will get you better.

4. Make a list checklist  checklist

Focus and concentration will be a challenge. This is a common symptom of depression. Making lists of your to do’s are essential in keeping you on the move. Having a check mark to show for completed tasks, no matter how small the task, will help you to keep move forward. Making lists also helps to break down all your tasks, and show you what you need to do. It can help you to feel less overwhelmed by all that you need to do. It gives you a place to start and prevent you from feeling paralyzed. Even if everything on the list doesn’t get done, you will have still made progress.

5. Take breaks

Take your breaks, to stretch your legs and increase your circulation, to nourish your body and eat your lunch, to walk away from your work station and just allow yourself to rest. This will help in preventing your mind from fatigue at this point in your healing. Give your brain a quick break. Studies have shown that taking breaks can decrease stress hormones, and raise dopamine levels. This will help you to be more productive and manage your stress.

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6. Find support

Find support, if you are not comfortable speaking with a colleague about your situation, make sure you have support in friends or family. The feelings that you are experiencing have to go somewhere, it is best that they have a safe place to be released. If you are unable to find a safe place to release your pain, there are crisis hotlines set up exactly for this purpose. Find out the nearest hotline available in your location, and keep it readily accessible. You never know when you will need it. Suffering in silence will not help you get better.

There are no quick fixes for depression. Medications take at least two weeks to take effect. Counselling and therapies may take months or years for you to feel the effects of healing.

Be patient. Be kind to yourself and never give up. You are worthy.

May the light always shine for you.

Namaste.

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Photo credits: Sandi Yee

How do I love me? Let me count the ways…

Love-yourself1

Image Courtesy: alisina.org

How is it that it is so hard to love ourselves?

Our hearts are limitless in our capacity to love others.  We can add on countless children, siblings, pets, friends, lovers, and still we would have room for more.

But what of ourselves?

How do we love ourselves?  How do we know that we love ourselves?

Is it the respect we give to ourselves, that we stand up for ourselves and not allow ourselves to be taken advantage of?

Is it the little things that we do to spoil ourselves, little indulgences of Godiva chocolates, ice cream sundaes, spa days, diamond earrings just because?

We know how it is to love someone; spouse, children, parents, friends.  We feel warmth and joy in our heart, we smile with tenderness, we touch with affection.

Yeah… No.

None of these feelings apply when we look to ourselves.  Our hearts do not fill with tenderness and joy when we look in the mirror.  More likely it is quite another strong emotion we’re feeling all together.

What does it mean to love ourselves?

Perhaps it is in the kindness that we allow ourselves.

Perhaps we can show ourselves love by being kind to our heart, by being kind to our sensitivities.  We can be less harsh in our self-criticism.  We can forgive our flaws, forgive our mistakes, and accept them, because that is what we would do with people whom we love.

In the pursuit of happiness, there are countless advice and daily “happy” quotes to inspire us to love ourselves, to prompt us to focus on what we love about ourselves, rather than focus on the negative.

Thus, in an effort to establish how to love myself, this poem is an exercise in learning to do just that.

How do I love me? Let me count the ways…

How do I love me? Let me count the ways…
I love me with compassion and empathy,
To allow myself to be flawed, to be free
Of lingering doubt
That I deserve, that I am worthy. 

Image Courtesy:  Sandi Yee

Image Courtesy: Sandi Yee

I love me for my heart,  
For my art,
That I create,
That I relate,
To those in a state
Of despair and self-hate.

I love me enough to kind,
When I speak in my mind
To myself.
I love me for my truth,
For my authenticity,
I wear for everyone to see.

I love me for the strength
I have gained, at the length
I have traveled,
To have finally come through the dark,
To make my mark
And let the world know I am here.

Written by Sandi Yee – September 30, 2014

A bit egotistical?  A little.
Do I feel better?  Teeheeheehee…Yes, I think I do. 😀

Poem concept and title credit to Miss Elizabeth Barrett Browning 1806-1861

My Guardian Angels Wear Fur Coats

The first time my dogs saved my life, I knew I would forever need one in my life.

Suicide is always in my mind, a way out should my world gets too overwhelming, and my reasons to live just don’t make sense anymore.

Panda and Cubby

Panda and Cubby

On this one particular day, I was driving with both my dogs in the car; Cubby, a silver/gray poodle cross, and Panda, a lab collie cross. We were on our way home from somewhere, I don’t remember much from that day, the trigger, the reasons, or the people. The only things that stand out in my mind from that day were the intense feelings of despair and pain coursing through my body. They were so powerful, so fierce, I could barely drive, or see through my tears. I just wanted to stop the pain.

I knew there was a bridge ahead.  The urge to drive right off the bridge into the strong currents of the river raged strong. To sink into oblivion and leave everything behind, the fears, the pain, the hopelessness.

I imagined the scene; the car filling with water, my acceptance of taking water into my mouth, my nose, my lungs, and the peace I would have with my body sinking into depths of the murky river. The End.

I felt my puppy’s tongue lick at my teary cheek.  Then the image of my dogs flashed through my mind, of taking them into the water with me, drowning with me. Except they weren’t calm like me. They were terrified, struggling, pawing at anything they could get at to keep their little heads above the water.  Whining.  Yelping.  Their trusting eyes full of fear, begging me to help them, to get them out, to save them.  They didn’t want to die.

Oh My God!  What was I doing? These dogs were my beloved pets, adopted into my life, and loved as if they were my own children!

I pulled off the road and sat in the car, stunned at what had just happened in my head. It was real, the thoughts, the feelings, the impromptu scheme of drowning myself as I got closer to the bridge. It wasn’t the thought of dying that shook me. What shook me to my core was that I would kill my dogs. That I would inflict fear and death on them, as the last thing they would experience from me. How horrible to do so. I could never kill them. They deserved their life. They trusted me. They followed me. I am their mom, their alpha, they would go anywhere with me.

I could not lead them into suicide with me. I had to take them home.

“I am not drowning myself today. I am not killing my puppies. I love them too much to take them with me.” I said to myself over and over again.

I sat in the car for a long time, sobbing out my relief at what I didn’t do, what didn’t happen. They didn’t know why I was crying, or why I held them so tightly. They were content to just let me.

I took them home and we lived another day.

Thinking back to that day still brings chills up my spine. Even though it never actually occurred, the images of my dogs struggling for their lives as the car filled up with water are still vivid in my mind. I didn’t take my own life that day because I didn’t want to take their lives as collateral damage. They saved me that day, just as surely as if they had dragged me by the neck and doggy paddled me safely to shore.

HPIM8209

Panda 1995-2012

The two dogs from that day have since passed, and still I miss their presence by my side. But I am grateful for the time I had with them. They kept me present, gave their unconditional love and devotion in times when I felt like life was unbearable.  They stayed by my side when I was buried deep in the dark hole that is my bane in this life.  They kept me grounded by giving me their bodies to hold onto when I felt myself drowning.  Without intention or plan, they came into my life and became my therapy dogs.

Thank you, my girls, thank you.