Tuesday, September 1, 2015

WE

Today a local news station shared a story about a new mental health facility that is being built. The neighborhood it is proposed to be built in, is jokingly referred to as "Snobsdale" due to higher priced homes and the reputation some who reside there embody. Picture designer clothes, luxury cars and lots of bling. Apparently, neighbors are not too fond of the thought of having a mental health facility "in their backyard".

These people who are so upset, clearly don't know that mental health does not discriminate. It affects all ages, races, sexual orientations, religions, countries, and even, dare I say, social classes. Sorry to burst your bubble.

If you live in Arizona and suffer, like I do, from any one of the many form of a mental health illness, you would know that there are very limited resources. Especially when it comes to the kind of intensive care that this 78,000 square foot facility would provide. The lives that it can potentially save, the very significant likelihood that it will help decrease petty crimes due to drug usage due to untreated mental health issues. Those who go seek treatment in an Emergency Room are soon shuffled out the door like any other patient that fills the halls each day. Left to somehow make it through another day. These people who are left untreated, can have devastating results.

Let me put my own personal story in here to help give you a better understanding of what I have encountered here in Arizona's struggling mental health system. I have suffered from anxiety since I was 11, after being sexually abused daily for over a year by my best friend and neighbors father. Then in 2011 I found my own father after he shot himself. I now battle severe depression and PTSD as a result of the traumas. For the first few years after his suicide, I was in a state of total denial. I refused to really understand or even come to terms with how bad I was suffering. I didn't sleep, I barely ate, and I was always, always sad. There was this cloud that loomed over me. No matter how great my current life was, I couldn't seem to fight the constant grief. Sudden loud noises would send me into instant shock. My entire body would shake and I would suddenly start to get short of breath. I would have horrific and all too real nightmares of the scene I came upon when I found him. I would wake soaked in sweat and crying uncontrollably. I pushed away friends and family, unable to understand my own anger. I was paralyzed by suffering. I finally got to a point where I felt there was no hope, where I would only ever be a burden to my loved ones. I very regretfully attempted to end my own life. What's worse, is how difficult it was to obtain proper care afterward.

The morning after, my Husband, friends and Mother feverishly called hospital after hospital. Hours upon hours of searching before we were told to come to the Emergency room to attempt to expedite the admission process. While I was quickly taken to the back and placed on suicide watch, I waited over 36 hours in a hallway while they waited for a bed to open up at the next available mental health facility. When I was finally taken by ambulance to the facility, I then waited for over 8 hours in a waiting room alone. I'm a pretty strong and independent woman, but that time spent alone was the roughest and most emotional hours of my life. All I wanted was a hand to hold or a loved one near. I even had to give them my phone.

I can promise you that anyone who suffers, if given the choice, would love the ability to seek proper care. To obtain a sense of normalcy. We don't wake up in the morning hoping we can feel dead inside. It is not in our human character to want to suffer. But when you do suffer, it is almost certain that we feel the need to fight it. This fight is not possible without help. Licensed, therapeutic help by a professional from the mental health field. When the ability to even try is taken from us, and we are left fend for ourselves, our disease can become fatal.

I say we proudly. We are a family. We are not alone. We are Mothers, Fathers, Wives, Husbands, Daughters, Sons, Grandparents. We are your community, your Teachers, your First Responders. We are people! Just like anyone else. We suffer and we fight, and just like anyone else who needs medical assistance, we need voices.

So I ask you, each of you who may someday face having a mental health facility "in your backyard", to think about all of us. We need you. We need your support, we need easily accessible care. We need you to understand that by building this facility, you aren't destroying your neighborhood, but enriching it. By supporting those who seek treatment, you are slowly breaking down the walls and stigma surrounding mental health. By building this facility, you are saving so many lives, in so many ways.

Shares are greatly appreciated! We need your help to get our voice heard!



Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Mental Health Awareness Month

It has been 5 months since I tried to end my life. That is hard to even type, let alone openly blog for anyone to see. But, the most important thing I have learned in my journey, is to be open and honest. If only to help erase some of the stigma attached to suicide and mental health.

Things have changed so much since my hospitalization. I simply cannot explain how free I feel. How at peace I have become. I am often shocked to find that I rarely actually think about the day my Daddy took his own life anymore. Grief no longer holds a tenacious grip on my everyday life. A beautiful release came the day I chose to live, and to seek out treatment.

This doesn't mean that my depression, anxiety or PTSD have suddenly dissipated completely. I am just finally able to cope and deal with my disease. Yes, DISEASE. I suffer from a mental health disease. One that without treatment, almost killed me. Without the proper medication, therapy and coping skills, my disease can and will destroy my ability to handle everyday life. This took me 4 years to admit to. I was so ashamed of my own feelings, thoughts and actions.

I hated myself. I hated the thoughts of doubt that consistently filled my days. I hated my own reflection staring back at me in the mirror. I had convinced myself I was worthless, and unable to love. I hated that this disease was killing all the things I once loved about myself. I hated that I couldn't make it through a single day without seeing flashbacks of my Daddy in our kiddie pool filled with blood. I hated waking up, simply because I knew it meant it was another day I had to suffer.

I had completely convinced myself that this world was better without me. So much so that the only thing I wanted, was to die. I daydreamed about my own death. Hoping some freak accident or heart attack would finally put a stop to the never ending agony. That my death would bring peace to those I loved or even those I have wronged. I was totally obsessed with finding a way out. Until the thoughts turned to action.

5 months ago, I sat on my bed, feverishly swallowing hundreds of pills. I desperately prayed that I wouldn't wake up. That my pain would be forever erased from existence. What I never expected, was to wake up the next morning with a will to live I've never felt before.

That will to live is still thriving inside me. It keeps me motivated, confident and sure of my path. I now know that my story needs to be shared. That there are so many others out there suffering that need a voice to speak for them when they cannot. I have always said that I was going to use my misery to help ease someone else's struggle. While at times it has been hard to share my deepest and darkest moments, I know that removing shame and stigma is the ONLY way we are going to make mental health a priority.

Life is hard enough. If you are struggling with your own mental health, I urge you to seek treatment. If nothing else, take advantage of the National Suicide Prevention Line 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Use this month of awareness to get your mental health back on track. YOU MATTER!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What if?

I made it.

4 years have now passed since the day I found my Daddy after he ended his life. I used to utterly dread the month on January, which happens to also be my birth month. As new years would creep up, I would slowly start to spiral into the depths of depression. The days would pass as I began to isolate myself, sobbing into my pillow hoping the agony would disappear. Like clockwork, the days and weeks prior to the anniversary filled my head up with intense grief. Too many horrific memories flooded my brain with poisonous thoughts. It sucks. It's overwhelming, and just plain exhausting. I wouldn't wish this feeling on my worst of enemies.

It was all so surreal. The gruesome reality of it all still seems like a brutal nightmare. 4 years later and I can recount the whole day in its entirety, down to the most appalling images. Even writing this, my hands quiver and my eyes begin to swell with emotion.

January 19th will forever be horrifically etched into my memory bank. The minuscule details that are still so prevalent and easy to access. "Do you need anything?" The last words I spoke to him. "Do NOT go outside!, call the police, I'm sorry" The last handwritten words he left me. The blue kiddie pool, where he laid lifeless. Falling to my knees as the paramedics rushed to the backyard. It just cannot be real. Sadly, it is.

I know now that these memories and the emotions that accompany them, will never go away. They are a part of me now. This can be a blessing or a curse though, and until recently, I only saw the negative affects. I only felt the grief. I only experienced the gut wrenching pain. While swept away in the negative whirlwind of emotions, I tried to push through the pain. Never allowing myself to really grieve. To really let the bad stuff to work its way to the surface. I began to become my own worst enemy. Setting unrealistic goals, trying to convince myself I was okay. Putting on a happy face when everything inside of me was dying. This is where I made my biggest mistake. Fearing what others would think if I really lived my truth.

It has been anything but easy. But I feel like I am finally getting back to the person I was prior to January 19, 2011. I owe so much of this to my recent hospitalization, and for that I am very grateful for being given a second chance. I can't believe how close I came to ending my own life. The stigma that surrounds suicide attempts is overwhelming. The shame and ignorance spread throughout the internet is astounding. I now truly understand how important mental health is. More than that, I understand how incredibly important it is to keep sharing my story. To never allowing the stigma to win. I will not stay quiet, and I will never give up.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that someone in the United States dies by suicide every 12.9 minutes. To put that into perspective, I have been writing this entry for over an hour. That means that while trying to spread my message, almost 5 people took their own lives. These terrifying statistics are rarely the topic of conversation. This is very disheartening considering nearly 90% of suicides involve a mental health illness that is un-diagnosed or not being properly treated. In 2012, the National Institute for Mental Health reported that 43.7 million adults suffered from some sort of mental illness. Each of whom who are at a greater risk of suicide. This also means that if you yourself don't or haven't encountered some sort of run in with a mental illness, that you either will or may know a loved one that will.

What if you could save just one of these lives? What if you could help bring mental health into the forefront of household discussions? What if???

I refuse to allow another second to pass without opening my heart and brain to those who are suffering. We need you! Each and everyone of you! To be our voice when we are too broken to speak up, to be an advocate for those too ill to fight, to be a shoulder for those who cannot stop crying. Help me let them know that they are not alone in this battle. That we as a nation care and want to better the lives of those who are trying so desperately to just get through each day. You might just be the reason someone holds on. You might just save a life!