Monday, 10 September 2012

"Survival 101"

I could take all my meds at once. I could step off the curb in front of a car. Or, I could just veer into oncoming traffic on the highway. And it would all be over. Done. Gone.

Yes, I thought all of these things on more than one occasion. I have never admitted this in so many words to anyone, not to my family, my best friend, and not to my health care providers. While in the deepest, darkest weeks of my depression I just wanted some peace.

Instinctively, I am quite sure, my parents knew this. And I knew that I should not, could not, be alone. So, one day, my parents drove to my apartment, packed me up, and took me to their home for what turned out to be a few months.

Today is the 10th Annual World Suicide Awareness Day. Did you know that? Did you know that there have been nine World Suicide Awareness Days before this one? No, neither did I. There is still a lot of work to do to raise awareness and eliminate stigma, obviously. Here are a few facts from Statistics Canada:

- In 2009 100,000 years of potential life were lost to Canadians under the age of 75.
- 3, 890 lives were lost as a result of suicide in 2009; however, this reflects only a small percentage of suicide attempts. For every completed suicide there are 20 attempts.
- Mental illness is the #1 factor in 90% of suicides.
- Canadian men are more likely to die as a result of suicide but women are three to four times more likely to attempt it.

One of the biggest misconceptions about suicide is that people who commit suicide are selfish and just want to die. Wrong. They want relief from what feels like never ending horror. No, I didn't actually want to die. I simply wanted the extreme pain to end, to leave me for good. I craved relief.

So what stopped me from being a statistic? It was a combination of things: the support and love of my family and dear friends and the faith that I was strong enough to weather the storm. I was one of the lucky ones. When I read my journals from that chapter in my life and I reflect on how far I have come, I am so thankful. I was at the edge but I took a step back. That step turned out to actually be a step forward, toward healing and a stronger me.

I bet you have a first aid kit at home. It probably has some band aids, maybe some aspirin, and a few other things for when you hurt yourself. How about a tool kit? It likely contains a few tools for when you need to fix something around home. But what about a mental health kit? It's time to stop ignoring your mental wellness. Here are some of my favourite items from my tool kit:

Science: Arming yourself with knowledge is one of the best things that you can do for your mental health. Yes, I have years of experience with depression so I learnt a lot through the school of hard knocks. But understanding the science of my illness has helped me understand why I have been ill and it has helped me learn how to manage it better.

My three favourite books about depression and wellness are:
- Change Your Brain Change Your Life by Daniel G. Amen M.D.
- Well Being. The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter
- Your Depression Map by Randy J. Paterson Ph.D.

Shared Experience: Possibly the thing that has provided me with the greatest comfort over the years is the understanding that I am not alone. I have read many autobiographies by people who have walked a similar path. People who suffer from depression often feel very alone. While in a depressive episode I would look at the world around me and think that everyone must be happy and I was the only one alone and in pain. I now know that is never the case and sharing your experience with others can bring comfort, especially when they say, "me too" (which often happens).

Some great books that I have read on the subject are:
- Changing My Mind by Margaret Trudeau
- Darkness Visible by William Styron
- Out of the Blue by Jan Wong

A Comforting Environment: This is huge for me. When I say environment I mean pretty much everything that I surround myself with. My friends are positive people who feed my soul - there is no more room for people who are going to steal my energy and leave me feeling depleted.

My home is decorated in soothing greens and blues and I always have music in the background. Most often it is spa music but I also pay attention to my mood. If my energy is low I might need to break out some Spice Girls, who never fail to make me smile and get me going! Or I might need some classic Eagles or Rod Stewart who always remind me of happy times with my mom. Listen to your moods and medicate with music accordingly!

I also use scents to positively impact my moods. Coconut candles remind me of vacationing by the ocean and listening to the waves lap against the beach. Lavender calms me and I often use a lavendar face & body spray at night before bed. Here are some of my favourites:

- Unwind Rejuvenating Body Mist by Arbonne
- Saje Natural Wellness essentail oils (diffuser blends): Liquid Sunshine and Gratitude and Peppermint Halo for headaches
- Bath and Bodyworks has a huge selection of scents for your home and body

Social Media: Twitter has been a really great source of comfort to me. I have found wonderful resources and like minded souls. I know that many people are unsure about social media, even a bit scared of it. But, like anything in life, it's what you make. Through Twitter I found Partners For Mental Health and Sara Goguen's blog where she writess about her experiences with mental illness: www.saratonin.co

Suicide is 100% preventable. But until we break down the walls of stigma surrounding mental illness, we will never win the war. Please join me in my fight. You can help by questioning your own beliefs, extending kindness and understanding to those who suffer, asking for help if you are the one who needs it, and by sharing this blog.

I have shared my story, tips, and tricks but I would like to hear yours. So, let's start a dialogue - talk to me...

KB xo

6 comments:

  1. Yes, I knew, beautiful daughter. That's why I wanted you in our "embrace" for a while at our(your) home. Mom's seem to instinctively know many things about their children. xoxoxoxoxo Mom

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  2. I too have been on the edge. I was standing at a street corner and was thinking that if I walked in from of the semi coming it would end the pain, end the constant never-ending anxiety, end the horrible life I felt like I was leading. thankfully the next thought for me was that this would kill my mother and mess up the truck driver so I didn't do it. The saddest part is that I kept on walking to work, which was so much a cause, and pretended that nothing was wrong. If only I had had the strength at that time to turn the other way at that street corner and walk to the ER. I probably would have received some much needed help.

    what helps me now? Medication was a HUGE first step in helping out of the vicious circle of depression. Lots of counselling has helped me deal with so many things that I had never dealt with. Some was minor, some was major, like being gay.

    Really committing to my mental health has been a big step. This involves asking for what I need, sleeping enough, eating well, exercise and has also involved working part-time. Basically it means doing what I need to do to stay healthy and putting that first.

    I also attend a group therapy where we talk about stuff like sadness, anger, depression etc... being around people who are also choosing to talk about the hard things is great.

    Ok, this is a long comment, but I really care about this stuff. I truly believe we need to talk to help people feel less alone. I too write a blog about my experience. I hope that it helps get information out there. Thanks for your contribution to the conversation.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Danielle!
      Thank you so very much for sharing your experiences. I can't tell you how much it means to me that you took the time to write about your pain. We need more of us to stand united in this fight. My mantra is "one foot in front of the other" and it sounds like you think similarly. Would you mind sharing your blog? If not publicly then please email me: klbower@shaw.ca
      Kristin xo

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    Replies
    1. think I have the blog problem solved. Thanks for your patience..Dave

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    2. Thanks for the comments that you emailed to me, Dave! So glad that you are talking about your illness(cognitive behavioural therapy was a BIG part of my recovery). Wishing you all the best!
      Kristin

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