The question is always, Why? Why suicide? The answer is different for each person. The commonality is pain. Imagine, the worst day of your life. Imagine living that day every single day. That’s what depression and anxiety feel like.
It feels like everyone is living in the light, but your switch has turned off. You are all alone in the dark. You are moving in slow motion. You are confused, but you don’t know why. People say to you, ”You seem depressed.” Your answer is always, No I’m fine. The problem is you aren’t fine and you won’t be fine unless you seek help.
I understand this too well. I believe I suffered from depression and anxiety for many years before I finally got professional help. Every time I had a physical problem, I was told by doctors that it was in my head. I was really physically ill with several ailments. I still am.
Doctors said I was just depressed. It had a negative connotation. I insisted I wasn’t. The first time I listened to a doctor, I was given Prozac. I didn’t sleep for a week. I threw them away, called the doctor. He said keep taking them. I told him, I was worse on the medication and didn’t go back to him.
Having any type of mental illness carries a societal stigma that you would rather not deal with. People think you are weak, don’t pray enough and need Jesus (Since I was Buddhist, I need to go back to Jesus) or think you are strange and they avoid you.
Since childhood, I always felt something was unlikeable or unloveable about me. This began with my parents and feeling abandoned by both of them. I felt that no one truly loved or understood me. I felt inadequate, despite all the other successes I was having in life. I never addressed my feelings.
I had been raised by family members and never wanted to upset or seem ungrateful to the people who reared me. I just followed directions and did what was asked of me at home, at school and at work. Admitting I had low self-esteem would just bring unwanted opinions. I would hear how fortunate I was and how other people had it harder. I needed to be stronger. I didn’t see things that way.
I lived through and survived several traumatic experiences, back to back, in a short space of time. I was harmed by the actions and lack of compassion of others. I kept in my feelings, as I always did and never really noticed the sadness was increasing. Nothing brought me joy, but I kept moving through life every day.
I reached a point where I didn’t see the point of going through life feeling the way I did. It was draining physically and emotionally. I stopped attending Buddhist activites. I stopped chanting. I reacted badly to everything and everyone. I was physically ill with a myriad of ailments. Was this all my life was and would be? I was dealing with major depression and anxiety, but I didn’t know that.
After days of not sleeping, I took a handful of sleeping pills, instead of one. I didn’t care if I woke up or not. I woke up angry that I was still here, suffering and unhappy. I ended up admitting myself to a psychiatric ward for a few weeks after someone convinced me to seek help. I couldn’t stop sobbing. I finally relented. I knew I couldn’t continue living this way.
Medication and psychotherapy brought me peace. It didn’t happen overnight. For the first time, I openly discussed my pain with my therapist. I was stronger by speaking up and out. I was finally brave enough to face my life and my demons.
That was almost 10 years ago. I still go to therapy every two weeks. Having someone neutral listening to you is so beneficial. At times, I still feel a bit depressed but I have learned to see the signs. I’m no longer taking medication, but if I ever start to feel the darkness creeping back, I won’t hesitate to take what I need.
I can say that despite all the illnesses I still suffer from, I’m a happier person. I’ve stopped holding everything in. It’s harmful to my health. When I resumed chanting, I became spiritually stronger too. I’ve never stopped.
I say to people all the time that therapy is needed and necessary. In our country, mental health is not taken seriously enough. There are never enough resources for something so critical to the well-being of our citizens. Regularly seeing psychologists, counselors and psychiatrists should be seen as normal. You are not crazy. It is self-help and self-love.
We all have times when life can feel absolutely unbearable. We may never know what led Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain to take their own lives. We may never know if they sought help or had a support system. Just know they were in a level of pain that they couldn’t see the end of. They wanted peace.
The darkness consumes you. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.
The tunnel just seems to go on and on. Don’t brush it off when people say they are sad or depressed. If they deny being depressed, just be available and listen to them. A subtle remark could be their cry for help. Be the lantern for people in the dark. Be kind. Be their friend. You could help save a life.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ‘1-800-273-TALK (8255)’ is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Do not suffer in silence. Seek help.
In a whirlwind, the month of May is almost over. Last week I did a few things out of the ordinary.
I attended The Spring Reception at the Adult Learning Center where I tutor. It’s a celebration of the achievements of the students for the year which began last July. I was asked to give the welcome address to the attendees. I happily accepted. I gave a summary of the program, discussed how tutoring has inspired me and how encouraged I am by the students determination to enrich their lives.
Several of my students have had improved test scores, perfect attendance and two of them received an award from a sponsor, that will help them build their own home library. I am so proud of their accomplishments. One of my students pieces was published in a book made of student writings from all the Adult Learning Centers in the program.
Selected students read some of their writings to us. Knowing where some of them started, made that so very special. It was an amazing evening. The tutors we’re thanked, applauded and given tokens of appreciation. We then had a lovely catered dinner and mingled with one another. It was a fun and fulfilling evening.
The next day, I took some time for myself and attended an exhibition at The Brooklyn Museum, David Bowie Is. David Bowie Is runs through July 15th. These archives have traveled for the last 5 years, beginning in London, with Brooklyn Museum being the final stop. It contains lyric sheets, personal items, contracts, costumes, records, interviews and much more. No photography is allowed of the exhibits. At the end, there is some fan art of Bowie which we were allowed to photograph.
What made this different from any exhibit I’ve seen before, was that you are given headphones upon entering. Wherever you are standing, Bowie’s music plays in the headphones and it continually changes, depending on where you are in the exhibit. There is music and videos covering 50 year’s of his career. It takes about an hour and a half to see and hear it all. There were videos and costumes present from every stage of his illustrious career. He drew, he wrote songs, he acted in films and on Broadway. He was filled with ideas that didn’t all come to fruition but all these efforts were on display. I really enjoyed it. Catch it if you can.
One other exciting thing is on the way for me. I am being interviewed by fellow creative, Stephanie Johnson who is better known on Facebook as MELANINQUEENPENFAN. She is starting a new interview series called InnerView 3-5. I am honored to be her first guest. Her guests are people that wow and inspire her. The interview will be posted to her FB page on June 3rd. Please give her some love, likes and support. You can find all of her other writing on her page – MELANINQUEENPENFAN
I don’t know what June holds in store for me yet. I’m hoping for more fun places to go and even more fulfilling things to do.
I’ve been teaching my adult students about The Civil War. They learned about the Lincoln Memorial and saw a play about Cathay Williams. Cathay, was the first African American female Buffalo Soldier. Cathay was a freed slave who first worked as a cook and laundress for just pennies for the Union Army. After some time, to earn more money, she disguised herself as a man in the all African American unit the Native Americans called Buffalo Soldiers. They marched for 2 years throughout the South doing mostly clean up and guard duty and other jobs the white soldiers wouldn’t do. They never saw a battle. Williams became ill many times with cholera and smallpox. She was hospitalized but she was never discovered to be a woman. She finally revealed herself and got an honorable discharge from the army. She died young and her family never received the pension she worked for. We all learned so much from the actress who played every part in the 45 minute show.
Now we are studying the causes of the Civil War. We are beginning our study of slavery. The students are reading about the Middle Passage and its aftermath. Since I love history, I’ve been able to supplement the book that we are using with my own knowledge of the subject. What I tried to explain to them is that although the war ended in 1865 and slavery was abolished, that it really hasn’t been that long since Black Americans have had all the same rights as White Americans.
Using myself as an example, I said that many of the civil rights we gained occurred only one year before I was born.
“The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, is considered one of the crowning legislative achievements of the civil rights movement.”
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 happened the year I was born. The students were really surprised to know that women couldn’t vote until 1920. More history lessons about that are forthcoming.
I brought current events into the discussion. I often do this so they can relate the past with the present.
They easily understood and agreed that all the recent happenings of the police being called by white people on black people, for no good reason were examples of white supremacy which began over 400 years ago.
In the last few weeks , we’ve seen black people, just living and also being seen as threatening .
We can’t go to The Waffle House for food without either being senselessly murdered by a racist or the cops are called for minor infringements (questioning or disagreeing with staff). Three officers assaulted a woman on the floor, exposing her breasts.
We can’t depart an AirBnB, packing luggage into our car to leave. The Mrs. Kravitz of the neighborhood waved and smiled at them through the window. The young women didn’t acknowledge her. So, of course, she called the police who detained them when they were on their way to do a show. That department is being sued by the young women.
One of my students asked me, Why do they treat us like this? I didn’t even speak for a few seconds because, I didn’t have a reasonable answer. I still don’t have a reasonable answer. However, I said white slave owners felt that we were less than human. We were property. We were not their equals. We were beneath them just because of our melanin. Today, some people still hold those mindsets.
We should not have to continue suffering the humiliation and pain that racism brings. Yet, somehow we still do. I feel there are people who would love to see us back in shackles without any rights.
We need to stay out of Waffle House. We need to frequent food and coffee establishments owned and operated by people of color. Let’s hit them in the wallet. Let them lose business and dollars. That’s what they understand. Black people boycotted buses in 1955. They walked and car pooled for over a year. The bus company went bankrupt. We have the ability for that to happen to all types of establishments. We have to be unified for this to happen. Our ancestors did it, why can’t we?
So, as my students and I drift deeper into the Civil War discussion I’m sure I won’t have all the answers. I’m hoping these current events will calm down. With #45 and his ilk in office and being supported by the Fox News loving fan base, it will be some time before we feel and experience the change.
Old behaviors are new again. But did they ever really leave?
It’s the final day of the 30 Day Writing Challenge and today’s topic is more than appropriate.
Topic: Your highs and lows for the month
The highs have been incredible. I’ve been so elated by everyone’s encouragement. I have spent a great deal of time in my life keeping my emotions in. I never revealed too much about myself. Now, I am able to not just write about my thoughts and feelings, but I actually publish them on this blog. People read and tell me that they enjoy my writing.
I’m so very grateful that people kept up with me throughout this month. It takes 30 days to develop a habit. This month, I started two habits: drinking one cup of decaffeinated coffee and writing every day.
This month I’ve written so much. I was excited to see the topic of the day. The blog gained a few new followers. I’ve been so inspired to keep going.
I felt challenged like my adult students do. They have to write every time we meet for class. Some days they have a hard time their writing short paragraphs. With my help, they expand and edit their work. I may start using some of their writing prompts on days I don’t know what to write. I don’t want to lose this newly found momentum
The lows were the days I couldn’t write due to a migraine and days where I fought through body pain to just get anything done. I have to see so many doctors in a week it can be a bit daunting and discouraging. I realize that this is my fight in life. How I react to all of it is what counts. I surrender on the days, I realize I won’t win a battle. But, in this war I am fighting with chronic illness, I will be victorious. It may take some time, but I’m sure I will win. My Buddhist faith helps me every day to gain courage, wisdom, and strength.
SGI President Daisaku Ikeda writes, “Life is best lived by being bold and daring. People tend to grow fearful when they taste failure, face a daunting challenge or fall ill. Yet that is precisely the time to become even bolder. Those who are victors at heart are the greatest of all champions.”
This month has made me very reflective and introspective. It has been an overall positive experience. I learned a few things about myself.
I’m so happy I was able to share this month with all of you. I’m determined to share more of my thoughts and musings. I suggest trying this challenge, you may learn a few things about yourself. I know I did.
I can’t believe this 30 Day Challenge is almost over. The days really flew by.
Today’s topic- What are your goals for the next 30 days?
This challenge has shown me, I can be more consistent with my writing. I know I can write off the cuff and within an hour if I have to. Writing more often is one of my goals. I will post as often as I can. Thanks to everyone who has offered encouragement and began following the blog during this month.
Since spring has decided to show up and stay around, I’ve gone back to tutoring adults twice a week. It’s fulfilling and gets me out the house for four hours every week. I really like my students and want to help them reach their personal goals of getting their high school equivalency diplomas, getting better jobs or just being able to read to their kids. I’ll do my best to assist them. Juggling multiple health conditions can be a challenge but my goal is to tutor everyday that I’m scheduled to be there.
I recently re- joined Weight Watchers to keep my weight under control. I’ve eaten healthy but I gained back some pounds I lost last year. I’m not happy about it. Taking medications with side effects of weight gain and not moving enough has been an issue. Tracking what I eat allows me to see when I’m about to overindulge. I can also see when I can give myself a treat. Over the next 30 days, I plan to adhere to the program.
Winter was rough on my body and I didn’t physically feel good or pain free enough to exercise. Yesterday, I got myself back in the gym and rode on the incumbent bike for awhile. I’m taking it slowly. I hope to get there twice a week over the next 30 days. I also walk 9 city blocks each way when I tutor. That’s a bit more exercise. I rest half way there, drink water and then start again.
Another goal is to meet up with a few people and catch up. It’s been awhile. I have also lined up a few “out of my box “ adventures that I’ll do by myself. I’m trying to have some fun, with little expense.
I joined a women’s study group in SGI-USA where we will be studying the history of our lay Buddhist organization as written by our mentor and SGI President Daisaku Ikeda. There so much to learn and so much guidance on how to handle situations and life in general. I’ve been part of this group before and it’s always rewarding at the end to see how in-depth study can change your perspective and understanding. We meet once a month, in addition to the other monthly activities that we have in the SGI-USA.
My practice of Buddhism has helped me learn and understand how to make myself better and how to help others. President Ikeda writes, “Altruism is the most effective means of self-realization and self-perfection. Doing good for others is the best way to develop one’s own character and find greater happiness for oneself.”
With this in mind I’ll do by best this month to attain my own goals and do good for others at the same time.
Tomorrow is the end of the 30 Day Challenge, the start of new goals and the continuation of challenging myself everyday.
This is a follow up topic from yesterday’s which was write about an area in your life you would like to improve on.
Today’s topic is – Conversely write about something that is kicking ass right now.
So, what am I doing great in my life, right now? I’m living knowing who I am and understanding my worth.
I have never placed enough value on myself. I now honor myself, even when others don’t understand my thoughts and actions.
I truly believe that you become enlightened to different parts of yourself as you mature and grow. Your twenties are for discovery and learning what you like. By your fifties, you know what you like. You definitely know what you dislike. You are sure that you want to live true to yourself. You realize what makes you happy and what behaviors you will not tolerate from others.
I’m more confident to say no to things, no to people and yes to me and my feelings. Therapy has helped me become more respectful of my feelings.
Oprah always says, what do you know for sure? I know for sure that I’m much better at judging people and realizing who should be in my space.
There have been many times when I would compromise my feelings when I felt uncomfortable, hurt or disrespected.
I never wanted to upset anyone. I didn’t complain. I would accept my discomfort. That left me filled with self doubt and confusion. I would rationalize why people acted or treated me a certain way. I won’t do that to myself anymore. It’s not psychologically healthy.
My fifth decade has allowed me to finally free my mind, like that En Vogue song. At 52, I’m putting myself and my needs first. My happiness and comfort are important.
It took me a long time to come to these realizations. This may sound selfish to some. However, I’m no longer forcing relationships, situations or keeping what doesn’t give me joy in my life anymore.
I’ve won and I’ve lost. I’ve learned some things the hardest way possible. I’ve released people and negativity. I let go of unhappiness. I’m now turning the compassion I’ve extended to others, inward and loving me the way I deserve to be loved. Better days are ahead.
At one time, these are the things I sought to improve upon. I have learned many lessons. I know more will follow until the end of my days.
I feel that I am kicking ass, being true to myself. This is me. I’m living with confidence and I’m not second guessing myself anymore. I am happy with who I am and who I continue to grow into.