advice, mental health

For you who is being relied on by a friend in crisis, at the edge of their life 

Last night, Chester Bennington died by suicide after a lifelong struggle with mental illness and substance dependence. He was 41. I was in shock, and it has sent waves of pain and desperation through the mental health community. 

In a group I’m in, someone asked a question that requires a better answer than what we are often able to provide. And a question that should be asked more often. 

When someone is suicidal or generally struggling with mental illness, we tell them (especially young people) to talk to someone. Reach out. Connect with a person. Tell them how you feel. 

But what if you are the person they choose? 

What do you do? 

How can you help them? 

This was my response, as someone who has lived in the depths and worked to lift others out of them. Offering genuine support that is harm-reductive isn’t something we are generally taught. I hope these words might prove helpful to someone. 

Don’t ask them how you can help. Don’t ask how to fix it. Don’t focus on trying to change how they feel. Don’t ask, “What do you need?”. If they knew, they wouldn’t be considering suicide. 

Ask them, “What hurts?” and LISTEN. Look them in the eyes. Furrow your brow in gentle concern. Nod your head when they talk, and mimic their facial expressions and body language to communicate that you are feeling what they feel; that they are not alone. Say they’re not alone, but more importantly, you need to show it. 

Ask questions about their experience, then reflect back on them. The best thing can say, in my opinion, is “Wow, person. Can I be totally honest? If I were you, if I lived through all that you’ve lived through and suffered the way you’ve suffered, I would be feeling the same way as you. Life hasn’t been fair. You didn’t deserve to be abused by that person. You should have had a shot at being in honor society in 1997. It hurts to be rejected from your dream job. Anyone in your position would feel how you feel. I’m sorry that I didn’t ever ask until now what you’ve been carrying.” 

Just witness them. Spend some time here, in this space where they are fully seen and their emotions are fully and completely validated. Even if you personally and privately think their reasons are “dumb”, keep it to yourself. This isn’t about you. Process this with your therapist or a trusted someone later. Hold space for them completely. 

If things feel lighter (honestly I always say you need to use intuition on this and if you struggle with social intuition…look for body language that seems more calm / less defensive or more confident. Listen for their tone more steady and vibrant) then move onto helping them back up. Now that you’ve sat with them and processed some of the pain, tell them some truly motivating things. 

Not just “It gets better” or something generic like “You are so strong.” Something that might reignite a flame in their core that offers true light. 

Imagine them as a little kid–what’s the thing you can see them running home from school carrying in their hands, thrilled to show their parents & excited for an encouraging reaction? What is their strongest skill, and the place where they carry the most power in this world? Is it art? Is it brilliance dealing with people? Is it handling cars? Think of what you can envision this person slaying the fuck out of life at, and tell them. 

Then weave this into a heartfelt, powerful reminder of who they are. What is their essence? Remind them. Remember the comfort of hearing a story? The safety of a world contained in words with a narrative that crafts meaning from otherwise disjointed events. Offer them this; a moment where you expend the mental energy and objectivity they currently do not have, and thread the events of their life into something coherent, something with purpose and direction. This is active, engaged emotional processing. 

Be specific and be honest, but not pressuring that they live up to an ideal. Communicate to them that you see the depths of their pain but also the heights of their potential. This is, in my opinion & experience, the most healing and intimate way you can connect with people. 

All people want is to be seen, and held. People who suffer this deeply have not been seen or held the way they deserve.

This advice is not exhaustive, and if someone is actively harming themselves or threatening to do so, you should take immediate action by contacting a mental health professional. If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

advice, mental health, personal

Permission to luxuriate; permission to revel 

Well, my mental health month blogging sadly did not pan out as I hoped. And I haven’t written here in 2 months. But I’m here now, sinking into a huge lounge chair and reflecting.

My childhood best friend surprised me (sort of) with a trip to the spa as a 6-month belated birthday & Christmas present. We agreed last year that we’d buy each other massages for our birthdays from now on, but she went Above and Beyond, and got us an entire package. A facial! Pedicure! Inclusive lunch! Wild and wacky. I’m thrilled and calm as shite. 

As I was laying on the massage table this morning, my mind drifted from memory to memory, thought to thought. When the massage therapist got to my legs, I got ticklish. Which meant I got tense. Which made me think Well this was a lot of money to have all her work on my shoulders undone because my legs are too sensitive for human contact.

The negative cognitions started up, ready to take off into a spiral of: You’re wasting your friend’s money, you can’t even get a massage properly you thankless goober, you’re tensing up so much you’re probably going to give yourself a stroke!!! but before it could out of control I said whoa whoa whoa. What’s all this about, brain? Legs? What’s really going on here? 

So I took a deep breath, focused my attention on the spot where she was massaging, and let go. I took a moment to consider the source of the unraveling. I get ticklish and tense for one because I am and always have been hypersensitive (physically, emotionally, all of it), but also because I am afraid to give up control.

So I tried to counteract this. I let go. 

I remembered a time I was seeing a chiropractor who moved my head to the side and said, “Molly, just relax. Are you used to being a helper? You don’t need to move your head when I start to. I can and will do it for you.” And I was sort of taken aback and somehow put off at first. But then I thought about it, and she was really on to something.

I think part of it is that, yeah, I’m used to “being a helper” and putting people’s needs before me. But that always felt too inaccurately martyr-like, or sort of like a delusion of altruism. 

It’s more than that. It’s not pure selflessness, it’s self-preservation. If I dig in deep to my shadowy parts, it’s that:

  1. I don’t trust others to know what I need, or even that they really know how to do what they’re doing in such a way that I won’t have to go back and fix things. 
  2. I don’t believe I am worthy of relaxation or enjoyment.
  3. I don’t believe my environment is safe enough to relax or revel. 

These feelings / beliefs run so deep that they come out in my body. This is wild to me! This must mean they need some extra attention and gentle undoing. 
And the beliefs somatized today, in their own tiny way.  

So I breathed. I told myself I trust the massage therapist. I told myself my environment was safe. I told myself I deserve to relax and revel in quiet, safety, and touch. And somehow, gratefully, I believed it.  

I realized–this is luxuriating. 

Yes, I’m privileged to have and be close with those who have acccumulated enough wealth that we can splurge on spa days. But luxuriating isn’t in and of itself avocado oil slathered on your back as hands of a stranger offer a Swedish massage. 

Luxuriating is something that money makes easier to do, indeed, but it is not just expensive beauty products that smell warm and soothing.

It is sitting with yourself and feeling the bliss of being. Of having a physical form to occupy space with. To connect with others with. 

You have permission to revel. To trust in your environment that this moment and the next will have you safe and steady on this earth just as the last one did. To believe that experiencing pleasure is not making you vulnerable to threat; it is making you open to connection and presence. 

You have permission to luxuriate. To soak in your being here. The safety of bedsheets before sleep. The warmth of water showering across your back. The sound and smell of rain after a week of unrelenting humidity. The softness of skin that belongs to someone who cares for you.

Getting to this place of trusting and loving oneself enough to fully be here is no small task. But today I think I’m closer to its ease than I ever have been as a young adult. 

mental health, personal

Unmasking My Madness – Mental Health Awareness Month

Well my dear ones, it is May and thus, I have learned, it is Mental Health Awareness Month.

I would love to make a series of posts during this month about mental health–personal posts, informational posts, and advice-offering posts. Let’s start the month off right by goal-setting. I’ll stick to small potatoes; May 2017 is a Busy As Hell month for me in all parts of my life. So the goal is: three posts, one in each aforementioned genre. 

A brief foreword

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If you have known me for a moment or a lifetime it is likely not News that I have a deep interest in psychology, and in mental health / illness specifically.

When I was but 10 years old, scouring the internet for brain-stimulating material, I spent many hours reading through the “Psychology” page of Wikipedia. I remember clear as day digesting articles such as “Insomnia,” “Schizophrenia,” “Sleep Paralysis”, and “Depersonalization Disorder” (ironically, I remember this one really, really clearly because it scared the Hell out of me–and yet here we are, folks).

At 11 I made my own website about schizophrenia as part of an independent study–it was titled, appropriate to online speaking conventions of 2004–“schizophrenia o rly”. The website is now defunct, but I can still remember the graphics clear as day. And typing up information about “positive” and “negative” symptoms. Ah, cherished childhood.

And now here I am, a 23 year old version of Me (v.23). I have continued to amass knowledge on mental health / illness, some from reading, some from hearing others speak, and some from experiencing it myself. I continue to write about the subject online–through freelancing jobs, Facebook posts, and this blog–and talk about it at length with dear ones and on my YouTube channel.

Continue reading “Unmasking My Madness – Mental Health Awareness Month”

mental health, witchery

To the Ardent Atheist: In Defense of Astrology & Tarot

I’m a part of a lot of Facebook groups.

They are generally chaos. Especially the political ones.

On one of these political, anti-Trump groups I’m in, a mod(erator) posted to say that bashing astrology is not allowed on the basis that its a valid spiritual belief, and to bash it is just Cruel.

I agree.

So I smash the heart react, scroll down to post “Thank you for this!” and see a slew of comments to the effect of, “Are you fucking serious?” “This is how Trump got elected. Anti-science bullshit.”

Whoa buddy.

me, disheveled cognitively in response to this madness

I and others mention the role that astrology plays in some people’s coping with the chaos that our world is–especially one in which djt is the president of the us.

Someone responds to this assertion, saying that we should instead read some Camus and accept and/or blame the absurdity of the universe for its lack of meaning, and then find actual scientific solutions to real world scientific problems like climate change.

OK–you can practice astrology and spirituality and still endorse science, still be a scientist, still ground your decision-making and voting and politics in science.

Continue reading “To the Ardent Atheist: In Defense of Astrology & Tarot”

mental health, personal, Uncategorized

Healing from Depersonalization and Derealization: A Series

Today, I did something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time, but never quite had the wherewithal to do. Or the privacy. Or the headspace.

I created a YouTube channel where I will post weekly videos about depersonalization & derealization.

You can watch my intro video here:

I’m going to make an outline this weekend of the whole “series”, and sketch out their content. This is so exciting! I hope folks find it useful.

mental health, personal

5 Fears I’m Embracing This Year

My life has been in such flux recently. This flux has affected my external experience (housing, relationships, work), but also my internal experience (thoughts, beliefs, values, motivation).

 

Honestly, it feels like there has been a monumental shift in the core of my being. I’d call it a growth spurt of the soul.

 

And as this shift happens, I’m feeling a huge impetus to expand. To shed. To learn. To engage. To grow. To act. To become.

 

It’s incredible.

 

I imagine the future and I can imagine my own success. I see what would make me feel stable and secure and fulfilled. And beyond that, I can see the actionable steps I need to take now in order to get to that ideal future.

 

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Me getting my first freelancing job and realizing I could really do something with this.

 

But why haven’t I done all this transitional work sooner? 

 

Continue reading “5 Fears I’m Embracing This Year”

advice, mental health

On being “Too Much” (or “not enough”)

Whatever the situation, your emotions towards it are not an “overreaction”. Similarly, your emotions are not an “under”reaction. Whatever you are feeling, it makes sense. Maybe something hits you harder than you’ve seen it hit others. Doesn’t matter. Your nervous system is your nervous system. Some of us are ticklish AF, some of us are not at all. Similarly, some of us feel emotions really strongly, some of us do not. Either way, your emotional response makes sense and you deserve to feel every single ounce of it.

And if someone says you are “too much”, let this only show you that they are not someone whose support you can rely on. It means nothing about your worth, the validity of your feelings, or you as a human being. It is a reflection of what that person is capable of (and if you are that person: it’s also ok to have limitations), and of the way your two needs & personalities mesh. It is not a reflection of you being intrinsically TOO anything.

You do not have to suffer guilt for feeling deeply, or for not feeling much at all.