I really wanted to write a new post on September 10th, but I couldn’t. Not that I didn’t have the chance to; I mentally could not do it.
For those who don’t know, that day is World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s an awareness day that provides worldwide commitment and action to preventing suicide. Since September is also Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, I didn’t want the month to go by without at least addressing suicide prevention and suicide awareness. I have a lot of experience in this world, which I hope to get into on future posts.
Like other mental heath issues, suicidal thoughts don’t have a demographic. It doesn’t matter what your age, sex, gender, race or religion is; suicidal thoughts can happen to anyone. Maybe it’s happened to you; I can tell you for a fact that it’s happened to me – but this post isn’t about me. This post is about you.
I might know you, I might not; that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you know that you are valued. That you’re cared for. That you matter.
Don’t believe me? That’s okay. I’ve learned that there is a stark difference in this world between what the truth is and what I believe to be the truth. You might not think you’re important; you are. You might not think you matter; you do. Because here’s the thing: you aren’t in charge of how people think of you. Yes, you can influence their perception of you, but you don’t get to think for them. If they think you matter then you matter, case closed.
There are so many resources available when it comes to suicide prevention. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a great page made just for this month. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a wonderful resource for so many reasons, and do a great job of working with your demographic if that is something you need. There’s a hashtag on Twitter (#BeThe1To) that offers encouragement and help for those struggling. There is no shortage of help available.
But I know it’s not that easy. I know that sometimes asking for help when it comes to this kind of stuff is extremely difficult. It took me years before I ever felt comfortable talking about my suicidal thoughts. That’s okay. Just know that when you’re ready, there’s a community of mental health warriors who will be there to help you. Who want to help you. Because. You. Matter.
*Note: this post is based on my own experiences and opinions – not facts.
Self-esteem and self-worth are often used interchangeably or synonymously when people are asked how they feel about themselves. I’d like to offer up another point of view, which came after realizing my high level of self-esteem – and my shockingly low level of self-worth.
If I’m being completely honest – and I think I already did that by creating this blog – I’ve never thought that I was particularly important as a person. Whenever I would be complimented for doing something I would think, someone else could have done that. I was naturally inclined to not consider the things I do and say as important, which isn’t a great place for anyone to be…especially if you have mental health issues.
It didn’t matter what I accomplished, I would maintain that mentality. Someone else could have done that or someone else did that or better yet someone else is doing that right now. I knew I was my own person; I just didn’t think that person mattered.
But here was the differece: my self-esteem was never tied to my self-worth. I was able to accomplish a number of things that would have been impossible without some level of self-esteem. I was a varsity athlete and honors student in high school. I traveled abroad throughout college. I moved from one end of the country and back (there will be more on that in a future post – for sure). I’ve done many things in life that I wouldn’t have accomplished without having some level of self-esteem.
For me, self-esteem was tied to my actions; I was confident in my abilities, my skills, my gifts. My self-worth was (and is) belief in me as a person. My skills in sports, academics or anything else didn’t have anything to do with whether or not I believed I mattered in this world.
I lived a long time with the mindset that if I just grew my self-esteem, my self-worth would grow along with it. But that wasn’t the case. I would feel good about my talents and abilities but still feel worthless and not worthy of my place in the world. Now that I have realized that there’s a difference between the two, I can begin to attack that lack of self-worth and see it for what it is, rather than something that’s wrapped up in other feelings and emotions.
I realize my story might be unique; maybe for most people, their self-worth is directly tied to their self-esteem. But if you’re a confident person who doesn’t think they matter in the world, please trust me when I say that you are not alone in feeling that. And you absolutely do matter.
When I decided I wanted to blog about mental health, I did a lot of research. I wanted to see what other people were saying, what they were thinking, what they were feeling. Obviously there is good information to be found on the Internet (have you seen Wikipedia?) but sometimes its difficult to find exactly what you’re looking for. That was the case when I researched anxiety.
There’s definitely no shortage of anxiety; you’d have to be living under a rock not to be the least bit worried about all that’s going on in our world. When I would search for articles and blog posts about anxiety, while I would find people who are definitely valid in their thoughts and fears, and could identify with their feelings of worry and stress, I noticed something: the anxiety typically seemed to be brought on by an external factor.
Let me first say that I am in no way trying to invalidate anyone’s anxiety about what’s going on in the world today – or anything you’re anxious about, for that matter. It’s warranted and totally valid. What I was looking for, though, was for what I could do about anxiety that’s not brought on by anything. What to do when feelings of stress, worry and fear overtake your body and mind out of nowhere, taking your brain to a place you don’t want to be for a reason that you do not know. I was looking for that because that’s what happens to me. I live in that mindset.
I know I’m not alone; anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness in America, affecting more than 40 million adults aged 18 and older. However, only 37 percent of those people seek treatment. Why is that? That’s probably a topic for another post (or posts; we’ll definitely get into that more in the future). But unfortunately, my anxiety means that what I know to be true and what I feel to be true are two different things. I know I’m not alone, and yet I feel alone. I know I shouldn’t worry, but I live in a state of fear and panic.
This might go without saying, but it leads to a lot of issues. Some of these issues I can recognize, while others trap me out of nowhere. What’s taken me years to confront is the fact that though my anxiety might not be real to others, it’s very real to me. Though I haven’t accepted that yet, I know it’s true. It took a very long time, but I think it’s the first step to accepting the fact that my logic is flawed. That some of the things I’ve thought my entire life could be wrong. I know it won’t be easy but, someday, it might make my life a tiny bit better. And that’s a dream worth chasing.
The first time I went to see a therapist, she asked me when all of this started. “All of this” is a very non-descript way to broach the subject of depression, by the way. The answer seemed simple at first. But then I gave it some thought, and what becomes clear is that this is something that I’ve dealt with for much longer than I realize.
At first I believed that my depression and anxiety began in college. My first year of college was very eventful – to say the least – and it took quite a toll on me. When I started my sophomore year and things settled down, that feeling of being emotionally drained persisted. I didn’t enjoy anything – classes, hanging out with friends, anything I was involved with. I would work out constantly because it would take my mind off the depression that seemed to creep in day after day. I began to distract myself as much as possible from the constant state of anxiety I lived in.
The next therapist asked me about my childhood. How were my parents? Did anything traumatic happen to me? Did I undergo any trials or tribulations that – to me, at least – couple help explain my current state? And the answer was…not even a little bit.
Is that something I should complain about? No, not really. It must really suck to have parents who would do anything for you and enough siblings to always have something to do (I’m one of six children – a big old Catholic family. That obviously afforded me plenty of alone time with my thoughts).
I don’t regret anything I did growing up; I loved all of it. But what I think it did was distract me from having to think – really think – about who I am as a person. Maybe that was just because I was a kid, and couldn’t comprehend the fact that at the end of the day, I always felt like I hadn’t accomplished anything. That what I was doing with my life didn’t matter. That everyone else was better than me. As long as I can remember, I never thought I was all that important. I still don’t. But that’s okay. Now I know that this is part of me, I can attack it just like I do everything else. And that makes me feel pretty good.