Today I Created a Facebook page…

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So I took the plunge and published a Facebook page, “Surviving the Specter”. I want to reach more people so they know they are not alone in their struggles…that there are others out there going through the same things.

My WP blogs will be pushed out through this page as well as at my Twitter handle – #sts91414. I figured my handle would be easy to remember since it’s the first letter of each of the words in my blog’s title, as well as the date I attempted suicide.

I plan on publishing the story of the night I took my life next month, September, which is Suicide Awareness Month in the U.S. If you haven’t read it may you could stop by and give it a read and leave some thoughts.

Thank you friends, for your support through words, comments, calls, and email subscriptions, and Follows. I appreciate it more than you know.

Chris

My Depression Controls Me

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Unfortunately, I can empathize with you, my friend.

For my depression controls me, too.

It is not a passing state of mind, nor a feeling.

It is something we survive through every day.

Sometimes, on certain days, it’s not as intense.

But it is always there.

A lot of people may never guess because I try to hide it.

I hide it by staying to myself.

And by pretending like I am concentrating and hard at work.

I am introverted…

…because I don’t want to pull other people down with me.

If my friends didn’t invite me to do things with them…

…I would constantly isolate.

A lot of the times I say “no” anyways because I am “busy”.

I know I am not alone, but a lot of the time it feels that way.

It ruins my intimate relationships.

It makes me run away from those who love me.

This depression sucks the happy out of me.

Even on sunny, beautiful days, all I can see is gray.

I sleep – a lot. Because depression numbs me.

I get frustrated with myself all the time because of how things are.

I don’t want it to be this way, but it just is.

This Depression Thing

The whole issue with this depression thing – it has sucked all life out of me like some soul harvester.

This past year has been one of the most relentless struggles I’ve had to endure. It gets worse each day I aimlessly trudge through my daily dosage of hours like a walker. And I don’t see an end in sight.

I feel like I stare at an hourglass in front of me. Glossy-eyed and lost faced, watching each grain of sand tumble through the bottleneck , building up the mountain in the chamber below that represents time passed.

The sand falls in slow motion.

Maybe you can relate?

shades_01I don’t see the sunshine. I’ve had this gray film over my life. It is a sunny, bright, 82º outside my Norfolk, VA apartment. I can’t see it. I don’t feel the warmth in my soul. I keep all the blinds shut. It’s not the kind of depression where you can simply open the blinds and the gray is gone. That doesn’t work. Our friends will suggest it…to open the shades and let the sunshine in. But those who don’t live with it can’t ever understand that just doesn’t work. It’s a fog of war. It stays.It permeates the skin and sinks down to the core. It’s a wave that has to be ridden.

I’ve been riding the crashing part of the barrel for months.

I have no drive. It’s really hard to continue when you feel so hopelessly apathetic. I get so sick of looking at the hourglass and longing for sleep. If I feel inspired to do something I change to something else before I finish what I started. So many things left unfinished. I wander back and forth in my apartment sometimes feeling that I’m going crazy. Most people that don’t live with this affliction would quickly suggest to exercise. All the other articles and advice out there scream that, but how can you bring yourself to that if you can’t even walk across the street to the beach on such an ideal day?

I’m numb and I don’t feel happiness. I don’t feel the happiness that other people feel when it’s sunny out. I should. I want to feel it. I want to feel “normal”. I want the chemicals in my body to react like that. I don’t want to be numb anymore. Catatonic. Zombie-ish. I’m trying to blog it out because journaling is supposed to be the best form of therapy for depression. It hardly is for me. It’s not cathartic. I’ve had an impossible time dragging myself to type this post and hardly feel any form of relief or healing from doing so. Getting a buzz from drinking (exactly the opposite of what I need to be doing, I know) used to give me a tinge of happiness. Now, that doesn’t even work. I’ve lost all interest in all things: writing, drinking, walking on the beach, reading, drawing, sex, photography, being a dad, friendships. I’ve thought a lot about dying. Not being suicidal, but just as a quiet way to end the mind numbing hourglass watching.Quote_gray_001

I fail at relationship. I isolate. I drive people away. I drive myself away from people. I isolate myself from those who love and care about me. It makes me drive those away who love me. 

I’ve lost a foothold in my faith. I used to find peace when I read the Word and prayed early in the morning. That has been sucked away too. I don’t have the same happiness that I see on other believers’ faces, like when I used to go to church. I want that simple happiness of just waking up and being happy. I know they have their own problems, and sometimes that smile is just plastered on, but I just want to feel the Spirit move me to happiness.

*    *     *

How does your depression make you feel?

Maybe all this strikes a cord. If it does, please remember: you certainly are not alone.

 

Here’s my fantasy world map so far…

Some time ago I posted about beginning to write short fantasy stories dealing with depression and made a fantasy map of the world I was envisioning. If you’ve been following along, you’ve read about the hero, Catharsis and my regular followers probably know that this is me and his early dealings are based on my suicide attempt.

Here is what the world map of Jiyan (“Life”) has evolved to so far. It’s still a work in progress!

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Here is the original map I started with…

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And I redrew it here…

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This region is located in the southwest corner of the world map at the top (with all the pencil notations), just so you can see how it will all fit in.

I’ve had a hard time coming up with more ideas for the stories, or turning those stories into chapters, and it would REALLY help me to hear comments and suggestions on what I can do to improve them if you go back to read the Short Stories category.

Thank you friends, I’m excited to hear your suggestions!

Catharsis and the Angels

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Catharsis hung there.

Limp. Swaying from the rafter that supported his mud and straw-thatched roof.

He could hear the cord stretch and groan from his weight as his eyes became heavy.

Back and forth.

Back.

And.

Forth.

His eyes began to close as the cord tightened and choked off his life wind. Choking his hope. His will to live. His resilience.

He hadn’t the will to raise his arms and save himself. He could have he supposed. But he refused. He felt a calming peace blanketing him as his life energy fell through the soles of his feet, leaving his body forever.

Finally.

Finally he would be free of this torment.

Finally he would have peace.

Peace from this Wahrlog of the Darkness.

The Darkness. A darkness so consuming, so debilitating, that each day was a struggle. A struggle to rise each morning. A struggle to tend to his fields. A struggle to continue life. A life coated with apathy.

He had hid it well from his fellow villagers. Masked it behind his toiling in the fields. Masked it behind his inward solitude. Disguised it with the will to be alone. To remain undiscovered and unbranded with the Stigma.

He knew others who had been discovered. Who had been branded on their forehead with the seal of their affliction – their illness. He remembered seeing the searing iron hissing as it sunk into their flesh. Leaving a soft cloud of smoke as it pushed deeper into them.

And their screams.

Their screams.

They were forever labeled in society by those they knew. Those they loved. Those they had children with. Their families. Their neighbors.

Branded.

Shunned.

Stigmatized.

Some, like himself, afflicted with the darkness – the deep, dark, debilitating depression he knew since he was a child.

Others, afflicted with the fear – remnants of some past traumatic stressing life event that had ripped their soul in half, and forced them to relive their past horrors. Manifest in the forms of flashbacks and tortured by the night harpies of terror. He could hear their screams at night.

Alone.

In the darkness.

Others, afflicted with the rage – elevated, hyper levels of anxiousness brought on by some outside trigger. Issuing in a brain pandemonium of paranoia and irritability. Lashing out at those whom they held closest as they wandered through their personal fog of war.

Through his closing vision, Catharsis could faintly make out the Specter emerging from the darkness. Moving closer. Stretching his pale white claws from his cloak, his talons scratching the walls of Catharsis’ mud home. Digging into the hardened clay and leaving deep cuts as chunks of adobe were ripped away. In and out of his slumber, Catharsis thought how they resembled his fields that he had just returned from. Their perfect rows whose cast shadows aligned harmoniously in the setting sun.

This was his last thought of peacefulness as Catharsis’ eyes closed.

And Specter’s grip closed around his throat.

*     *     *

At the instant the beast secured his grip to claim his prize, a magnificent burst of white light flooded the room.

Specter shrieked like a hung pig being bled dry and lurched back from the blazon firestorm that enshrouded the hanging body.

Two forms took their place next to the body of Catharsis. On either side, like stark angelic sentries sent to protect him from the Wahrlog. They raised their hands and in a fluid motion brought them down, lances appearing and striking the mud floor.

Specter hissed and the sentries lowered their weapons, tips pointed at its open throat.

A sentry stepped forward a crouched in the dirt, bracing itself with its weapon. Slowly and deliberately it scratched a line across the floor, fire following in a steady trail.

It retracted and regained its position.

“Though shall not pass” the two sentries whispered.

Specter lurched through the flame and in one swift movement was impaled on their spears. Instantaneously, Specter disintegrated into the light, taking with him his shadows and his darkness.

*     *     *

As one sentry held fast the body of Catharsis, the other swiftly swung its lance at the noose, cutting him free.

Lowering him to the ground the sentries whispered, “you are safe child.”

Thought Someone, Right Now, Needed to Hear This.

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“To the world you may be one person.

“But to one person you may be the world.”

I remember when I’ve been in the throws of my Specter, and consumed with such hopelessness and misery I believed no one else endured. That depression demon who is currently being held at bay in his cage of Lexapro and Abilify, but can attack at random times with a sucker punch to the kidney, leaving me without the breath for life. It’s at those times that one person can change your life. They are there. You just have to find them, reach out to them, and hold onto them. They will be there. You mean the world to them.

If you’re wearing the other pair of shoes and know of someone who needs to be reached out to. Use this post as an excuse to do so. You may save someone’s life.

There’s This at Work…

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My daughter helped me design this board at work.

I was prejudiced.

I prejudged.

I didn’t think that an office of  400+ onsite/offsite employees would support this.

I didn’t think a firm of 10,000+ employees worldwide would support this.

No, endorse this. Embrace this with such open arms.

This month of #mentalhealthawareness.

A good friend of mine (who I’m talking into guest blogging in the near future) organized the activities that make up this month’s Mental Health Awareness Campaign at our firm’s local office.

When she first started out, her goal was to raise $400 by having folks donate money towards the senior leader they wanted to “get pied” for charity. The leader with the most votes/money towards their name will get pied, while the leader with the least “votes” will get to do the “pie-ing”.

She surpassed that goal and employees have donated a little more than $600.00. She had to set a higher goal of $1000.00.

I work at a really wonderful firm.

I am fortunate.

I am blessed.

And I am thankful.

wh atma y me an s2 m3

Being mentally ill with depression means that people may not always get me. I’ve come to accept that.

I’ve also come to accept that it’s okay.

A lot of the times I don’t even get myself.

A.

Lot.

I guess “understand” would be a more accurate word.

It’s like trying to explain to somebody what May means to me, except it comes out sounding like this post’s title looks.

They may never understand what it feels like. And I’m happy that they never will. I would wish this on no one.

There’s so many things I’ve never understood about myself for years, and have only begun to within the past 5-10 years of my life.

A list of un-understandables in my life has been:

I don’t understand why I feel sluggish all the time. 

I don’t understand why laughing feels so forced.

I don’t understand why I want to be alone all the time.

I don’t understand why I don’t want to do things.

I don’t understand why I am always so tired.

I don’t understand why I see grey when it’s brightly sunny outside.

I don’t understand why at 42, I can still sleep until 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon.

I don’t understand why I set my alarm for 5:00 am and hit it until 6:00. 

I don’t understand why I think of suicide

I don’t understand why I pray to God to take me home in my sleep.

Over the years I have come to understand why though.

Depression.

A severe, deep-seated depression.

My Specter.

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[SOURCE: https://indisposedandundiagnosed.wordpress.com/2015/06/10/this-is-what-chronic-illness-looks-like/comment-page-1/#comment-1817]

NOTE: This image is the original idea of Cass and her site at the above link. Check it out and give it a Like!


So for me, the new significance of May is about raising awareness of mental health. And in my case, severe depression and suicide. It’s about taking a chance, stepping out on a scary ledge, and talking about my mental condition to others.

Lessons Learned: Some Things I’ve Learned from My Depression

I would hope that you would take these things and hold them in your heart. Don’t forget them. Remind yourself of them. And learn from your mental condition.

A list of understandables in my life is:

  1. I have a condition, not an illness. I am not sub-human. I am not sick. I am an extraordinarily strong person because I survive through things other people can’t imagine having to deal with. I live my life a little differently than others because I live with affliction.
  2. I am perfectly imperfect, and that’s perfectly okay. I’ve learned to forgive myself and accept myself. I have a hard time believing the phrase, “I don’t let my mental condition define who I am.” I know what people mean, but I think in the end, depression has set some life parameters that I have to (or choose to) live by. If I don’t abide by those…rules, I start to hear Specter’s rusty cage hinges creak and I feel him scratching on the walls of my soul.
  3. What I feel is valid. I am not crazy. I may be a little broken. You may be a little bruised. But don’t you dare let anyone tell you you’re crazy. Don’t you dare let them make you feel that way. You. Are. Not. Crazy. Real talk.
  4. Only I will take care of myself. I must take my meds. Daily. I must eat healthy. I must exercise. Meh. I’m working on the last two. Have
  5. Strive to be empathetic and kind. You know why. You have struggles other people don’t know about. So do others. I remember a time my Lexapro had run out and I couldn’t afford a refill. I had been off it for about four days and I could feel the dizziness set in from withdrawals. Then the bottom fell out. Specter’s claws were dug so deep into my shoulders I could feel them carving at the bones. Someone put their hand on my shoulder and sat with me. I was in tears. I was choking my words out in a dark chair in a dim corner. He made a call to get me my medicine. That’s why.
  6. Be a servant when you can. Help others when they’re down. People have helped me when I’ve not deserved it. Free of charge. Pay it forward.
  7. Exude grace. Strive to give others the benefit of the doubt.
  8. Have grace on yourself. Learn to accept grace yourself. Be gentle on yourself. We beat ourselves up so much each day. Allow yourself forgiveness. See #2.
  9. People do understand – surround yourself with those people. There may not be too many. But you know what? That’s just about the right number anyways. Find your devout warrior supporters and cling to them. Share yourself with them. Open yourself up to them. It is empowering. It is healing.
  10. My God loves me. Me and God. Ahh, yes. For such a lifetime I’ve bashed myself for not measuring up. Engorging bucket fulls of self criticism, guilt, and shame for never feeling like I measured up. Never earning my dad’s approval, or my Father’s. All. Those. Years. And I got it wrong. His scars are enough to cover my soul. His Grace is the way to my healing. His forgiveness is the magnetic north to my moral compass. SOso many times I fail. Flat on my face. He’s always there to pick me up and hug me with a gentle, warm smile.

Now…Let’s take back our lives and make this our new fight song! This one’s for you Niki.

“Cry Thunder”

Time after time as we march side by side
Through the valleys of evil and the torturing souls,
Night after night, for the glory we fight,
In the kingdom of madness and the tales from the old

Death by our hands, for the higher command,
As the darkness surrounds us hear the cries as they fall
Fire burning steel and the tyrants will kneel
Hearts burning stronger with the power of the sword

Set sail for the glory,
Pray for the master of war (pray for the master of war)
Sunlight will fall by the wastelands,
Endless rise for the heroes before

Cry thunder!
Sword in his hand,
Titans of justice, fearless we stand
Cry thunder!
Strong in command
Blessed by the union, freedom of man

Reckoning day, for the demons we slay,
With the force of a dragon we will conquer them all!
Chaos still reigns devastation and flames
For the ultimate glory when the legacy calls

March on
Through the hellfire
Blazing for the darkness beyond (blazing for the darkness beyond)
Nightmare return of the thousands
Giving rise to the heroes once more

Cry thunder!
Sword in his hand,
Titans of justice, fearless we stand
Cry thunder!
Strong in command
Blessed by the union, freedom of man

[Solos]

Unholy darkness,
In the eyes of broken dreams,
Outside of the wasted and torn,
A land of tears still remains
Soldiers of destiny calling,
And the fallen will rise up again,
Conquer the forces of evil and fight to the end

Cry thunder!
Sword in his hand,
Titans of justice, fearless we stand
Cry thunder!
Strong in command,
Saviour of nations, freedom of man

Cry thunder!
Sword in his hand,
Warriors defending,
One final stand
Cry thunder!
Strong in command,
Blessed by the union, freedom of man

Blessed by the union of man
Cry thunder!
Yeah yeah

I Want to See What You See | Poetry

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Camera lens of happiness, to take away the grey

Cuz sunshine’s there, I see it, it’s just a million miles away.

Camera lens of hopefulness, to take away despair

The never ending fog of war, the loss of will to care.

Camera lens of energy, to take away the apathy

The never ending lethargy, the sits inside of me.

Camera lens of healing, to take away the pain

Cuz sunshine’s there, I know it, even through the rain

About This Map

20160421_104910.jpgMany of you know I survive through clinical depression. And though I am 42 (as of this writing) I’ve struggled with this Specter since middle school. Many of you know all too well, the impact it has had on my life and those around me.

I feel pushed by the Lord everyday, to be as open as I can about it – feeling alone is the worst feeling in the world.

I don’t want anyone to feel like that. No one should.

I feel pushed to face the darkness, and encourage those who deal with the same demons. To talk about my experiences with those who have lost loved ones to this affliction, and may be themselves, pressing on through the awful quagmire of hopelessness.

So about this map…Having blogged for almost two years, I am thinking of creating a series of short stories about several heroes and their struggles with mental illness.

I wanted to share the beginning of their world with you.

I wrote a short story on stonewalling in relationships, which inspired me to begin to branch out with my writing.

Specter | [POETRY]

This is a repost of a four part poem I wrote on Specter, the personification of my depression. With it I hope that others suffering from the torment of depression and thoughts of suicide know they are not alone. Remember this is Suicide Prevention/Awareness month. Let’s help breathe hope to those who may be in a valley.

Thank you to my readers and followers for all your support. You are special to me.

X Chris

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Specter, Pt. 1

Michael please save me,

deliver my soul.

Specter is slashing,

and tearing a hole.

It bites and It gnashes,

and tears open my wounds.

I don’t have the will,

it’ll be over soon…

Specter, Pt. 2

…And as I looked up,

my defender looked down.

Descended and thrust,

crushed Specter to the ground

His lance tip pointed,

at the devil’s crown.

Specter’s incisors and daggers

extended and grown…

Specter, Pt. 3

…Specter shrieked like a pig bled, hanging on slaughter.

Its lips ripped back over its chipped fangs,

the skin grew taughter.

He ripped and he tore,

at my back and my flesh.

He knew that his time

was limited at best.

Because the archangel had come,

and bore down on his evil.

As I rode the waves up and down,

in this life, so surreal.

Specter, Pt. 4

The Final Chapter

…And Michael roared,

at Specter under his heel,

“Thou shall not harm, leave,

you are cast out.

“From this place you torment,

I will cut you down.”

Sword raised in death thrust

The Protector bore down.

And severed the devil’s head

Throwing it to the ground.

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Who is Specter?

In lieu of September being Suicide Prevention/Awareness Month, I am reposting some of my older posts that deal with my depression, my suicide attempt, and verses/quotations of hope and strength. Please feel free to pass these on to others who feel alone – it is one of the worst feelings in the world to go through this by yourself. Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts, my friend.

X Chris


specter

When I first began thinking of writing about clinical depression, I stopped thinking. I put it to rest. Why would I consider doing what I was considering? What would I do in the face of my family and friends when they found out? I felt so shameful. So inadequate. So inferior. And I felt so alone. Especially as a male. Men aren’t supposed to talk about our feelings. We’re not supposed to cry. Not show weakness. Not show emotion.

specter_003This…thing I had, made me do all those things. And it wouldn’t leave. It just lingered there for years. It reared its ugly head more than I could handle. I saw its sinister teeth glistening in the shadows. Its chipped, stiletto nails sliding around the corner and scratching on the walls of my soul.

Later, through years of counseling and medicine, doctors help me put a name to this thing and they called it depression. I’ve come to call it, Specter.

A big step to my living with depression and being haunted by Specter was the realization of what I was going through was real. It was not imagined. I was not a freak or different because I was going through it. I was normal. The Lord just dealt me a hand that was different from other folks in my life. That’s a-whole-‘nother talk which I imagine I’ll address in the future. The biggest help to me was decoding the codex. Once I discovered the following four items, I could live with my depression. Yours may be different my friend. You may have less. You may have more. There’s no standard here. And that’s perfectly fine.

Here are four truths I’ve learned from my years of living with depression:

Continue reading “Who is Specter?”

Robin Williams on Depression | [QUOTES]

I’ve noticed this post gets hits everyday so I thought it’d be worthwhile to repost it.

X Chris

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“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.”

-Robin Williams

I Thought of You | [POETRY]

With this month being Suicide Prevention/Awareness Month, I am reblogging my posts and poetry that deal specifically with suicide, as well as those things that often result in suicide such as (but NOT limited to) depression, bullying, etc.

This is a poem I wrote after I read a blogger’s post about wanting to die. Please share it with someone you are thinking of that is dealing with this RIGHT NOW.

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I saw you THOUGHT of suicide,

I saw you wish you died.

Your loneliness and brokenness,

Were all you had inside.

The noose, the pills, the razors,

Sing songs OF sweet respite.

I know my friend, I’ve been there,

I tried too, to end my life.

So hope I send my warrior,

My majestic, fighting friend.

You will not give up that easily,

You’ll fight it to the end.

When life, and friends, and family,

Jeer and taunt YOU to the last.

Hang onto life you solid rock,

Someone needs you now, not in their past.

suicide prevention/awareness month banner

suicide prevention lifeline 1-800-273-8255


Jar of Emptiness | [POETRY]

Someone was preparing to end their life. 

You prevented them from doing that without even knowing it…

Please pass this on to someone who is struggling with thoughts of suicide this September – Suicide Prevention/Awareness month.

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I held a jar of emptiness

Lonely, full of gray

It sucked out all the sunshine

It took the joy away

You came and said hello to me

You put some brightness in

I will not forget your kindness

My thoughtful, loving friend

September is Suicide Prevention/Awareness Month

TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses my suicide attempt. Please, my friend, do not read it if this is a trigger.

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This month is Suicide Prevention/Awareness month.

And next week marks the one year anniversary of my hanging.

So I want to take this month to reblog some of my posts talking about this tumor that can strike anyone at any time.

It strikes those of us who are depressed most often.

For those left in the aftermath the largest question they have is “Why?” My family and friends wondered the same thing while I lay in the hospital.

I wrote this post in an attempt to explain what I was thinking when I put the noose around my neck-

When Do We Decide to Commit Suicide?

In closing, and for those who are where I was a year ago, right now…You. Are. Not. Alone. The feelings will eventually subside. They may revisit like Specter does, but you will know how to deal with them next time.

Right now as I’m writing this I have these feelings pulsing through my veins. I won’t act on these BECAUSE I know they will subside and I have the Lord’s strength on my side. It’s just been a rough week…

  • My account is overdrawn (I get paid once a month)
  • I started a graduate certificate and my tuition reimbursement hasn’t cleared – I am facing late fines and possible expulsion from the program
  • I am worried about having enough gas in my car for the rest of the month and it’s only the 8th
  • I was unable to buy groceries this month
  • My girlfriend and I ended our relationship
  • I was rear-ended last week in a triple car accident on the interstate

I just felt like sitting down and crying today. I feel worthless and at age 42, like I don’t have anything to show except for a daughter that just started 5th grade today.

Maintain hope in the presence of hopelessness.

Maintain strength in the presence of despair.

Rethink your decision in 24 hours.

You will overcome.

We believe in you.

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How To Prevent Suicide: 3 Risk Factors For Suicide Attempts | [REBLOG]

This article was originally published at Psyblog, here.

Post image for How To Prevent Suicide: 3 Risk Factors For Suicide Attempts

A “depressive mixed states” often precedes a suicide attempt.

A major study of 2,811 people suffering from depression has identified three behaviours that predict a suicide attempt.

The study compared depressed people who had attempted suicide with depressed people who had not.

The researchers found there were certain patterns of behaviour which increased the risk of a suicide attempt by 50%.

They are:

  • Risky behaviour: this could be reckless sexual behaviour, dangerous driving or some other form of risky behaviour.
  • Agitation: walking around the room, adjusting clothing, wringing one’s hands etc..
  • Impulsivity: suddenly doing things without thinking about the consequences or planning.

Dr. Dina Popovic, one of the study’s authors, said:

“We found that “depressive mixed states” often preceded suicide attempts.

A depressive mixed state is where a patient is depressed, but also has symptoms of “excitation,” or mania.

We found this significantly more in patients who had previously attempted suicide, than those who had not.

In fact 40% of all the depressed patients who attempted suicide had a “mixed episode” rather than just depression.

All the patients who suffer from mixed depression are at much higher risk of suicide.

We also found that the standard DSM criteria identified 12% of patients at showing mixed states, whereas our methods showed 40% of at-risk patients.

This means that the standard methods are missing a lot of patients at risk of suicide.”

Dr. Popovic continued:

“In our opinion, assessing these symptoms in every depressed patient we see is extremely important, and has immense therapeutical implications.

Most of these symptoms will not be spontaneously referred by the patient, the clinician needs to inquire directly, and many clinicians may not be aware of the importance of looking at these symptoms before deciding to treat depressed patients.

This is an important message for all clinicians, from the GPs who see depressed patients and may not pay enough attention to these symptoms, which are not always reported spontaneously by the patients, through to secondary and tertiary level clinicians.

In highly specialized tertiary centres, clinicians working with bipolar patients are usually more aware of this, but that practice needs to extent to all levels.

The strength of this study is that it’s not a clinical trial, with ideal patients — it’s a big study, from the real world.”

The research was presented at the 28th ECNP Congress in Amsterdam (Popovic et al., 2015).

Dragons Don’t Win | [POETRY]

Do we each have the moral courage to stand up for those whom are bullied?

I promise to answer the call.

WILL YOU JOIN ME?

Poem about bullying
Dragons Don’t Win

Today I saw her spirit, crushed and tak’n away.

The Punisher thought it funny, to treat the girl this way.

The target of repression, he labeled her downcast.

And struck her with his names and stones, and with his fiery blast.

And to the silent, brittle girl, I lunged to take the fire.

To shield her from the dragon’s heat, to help the flames expire.

And all the dragon did, was turn and walk away.

Because someone stood up to the beast, and saved a soul today.

My Suicide Attempt

TRIGGER WARNING: This post is a transparent account of my life with clinical depression and suicide. If this is a trigger for you, please do not read it at this time.

My History

Hi. My name is Chris and I’ve survived with severe depression for about 30 years.

Last year I hanged myself.

Image of storm at sea.

I was diagnosed years ago with clinical depression several years ago.

Not the kind that makes you feel sad after your girlfriend breaks up with you, or explains why you feel under the weather when the weather is under.

No, this is much blacker than that.

Those of you who live in my world know exactly what I’m talking about. Those that don’t, please be thankful that you may have a hard time understanding.

This is the kind of depression that silently wraps you in a paralytic blanket on the couch and condemns you to mindlessly become consumed in a Red Box movie marathon. The kind of depression that comes by and kicks you in the nuts and embeds itself on your shoulders, breaking you down to a kitchen floor fetal position, as you cry hysterically for no apparent reason.

The type that digs its claws into your back like a demon, dragging you down into that black abyss and leaving you hopeless with no hope for escape. The kind that sucks away any spirit you had and leaves behind a catatonic shell entombed inside an invisible sarcophagus…and lowers a grey filter over your life.

Breaking Benjamin is spot on when they sing,

 There is nothing left inside, but I am wide awake.

The depression that when you look outside on a sunny, bright, clear day, all you see is grey – a Connecticut winter, a London Fog, an arctic wasteland.

It’s odd.

It’s surreal.

And it’s frightening all rolled into one.

That’s my depression. I’ve come to call it the fog of war. That’s our depression.

Thankfully, today I am doing better…surviving through my depression.

So far.

Recovering if you will. Maybe recovered. But the condition is always there like a specter, crouched down in the distant corner of my soul, waiting for me to let my guard down.

Lurking just out of the light, in the shadows with its hollow eyes, bearing its fangs and waiting for the chance for me to skip my medicine so it can slash at me…waiting for me to be alone with no protection.

Painting of Saturn devouring his son.
Saturn Devouring His Son, Francesco Goya; SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Paintings

Through counseling, I later discovered my depression was hybrid with an anxiety disorder and adult ADHD. Here are some things I found out about myself the other day from a recent doctor visit:

♦  has anxiety disorder (rule out panic disorder)

♦  has depressive disorder (rule out bipolar disorder)

♦  has adult ADHD

♦  has mood disorder (rule out bipolar disorder)

I was given medicine to cover all the bases but never really felt “at peace”. I’ve been on every anti-depression medicine in the doctor’s locker. Years later (since I left teaching and am working towards divorce) the anxiety has faded into the background and become nonexistent. The ADHD on the other hand is still there but…HEY, SQUIRREL! I believe this positive rebirth is largely the result of the medicine that I’ve been taking.

My Suicide Attempt

On the other hand, the interim was my crucible. Sunday, September 14th of 2014 was my watershed. I remember the day perfectly. It was a warmer, sunny day in Norfolk, VA. Perfect for me to be outside, working on art for my business.

So I rounded up my tools, plugged in my ear buds, and cranked up my tunes. My upstairs neighbor was outside also, grilling dinner for his family on his cooker, which is just out of the left side of the picture below. I talked and laughed with him for a bit then went back to listening to Bullet for My Valentine, Breaking Benjamin, Five Finger Death Punch and the like.

I was perfectly happy despite my playlist. I made the peace sign below that day. I was in the zone. Life was perfect and I was filled with joy and accomplishment.

Image of driftwood peace sign
This is the piece of art I finished before I hanged myself.

Hours later as the day started winding down, I began to pack everything up and take it inside. I was tired and worn out but still on top of the world. I tinkered around with my projects inside, painting and drilling until a reasonable time when my neighbors would be going to bed. I try to be as considerate as I can with this.

About 8:30 I called my daughter to tell her good night and that I love her.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

No answer.

I called her on her second cell phone number.

Ring.

Ring.

Ring.

No answer.

This is when it started.

This is my trigger.

The beast’s lips peeled back over its incisors as it waited in the corner.

I called her mother’s phone.

Ring.

Ring.

RIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGGG!

No answer. Resentment grew in me. The demon’s chipped, stiletto fingernails reached for me out of the darkness. Resentment quickly gave way to anger. Red. Anger.

The demon slashed.

If it stopped at resentment I would have been “alright”. Not the option a person who is born again should chose. But I went down the road of resentment nonetheless.

I plugged my phone’s playlist into my surround sound and I let the Five Finger Death Punch rip! After a short time, probably 20 minutes after that the anger turned to depression. FFDP’s “Coming Down” was playing and I put it on repeat and cranked it.

“It’s caving in around me, what I thought was solid ground,
I tried to look the other way, but I couldn’t turn around.
It’s ok for you to hate me, for all the things I’ve done,
I’ve made a few mistakes, but I’m not the only one.”

Tonight I didn’t go to the fridge to grab the wine like I usually did.

I went to the 80 proof rum that sat on top. I filled a cup up about 3/4 of the way and then topped the rest off with diet Coke.

I started to drink.

Heavily.

I was walking aimlessly back and forth from my apartment kitchen to my bedroom. Back and forth. Waiting for the elixir to kick in. It did. And the bottom dropped out. I started to cry. I cried vehemently…violently. I don’t know what it’s called at that point, but crying isn’t it.

“Step away from the ledge, I’m coming down.
I could never be, what you want me to.
You pulled me under, to save yourself (save yourself).

You will never see, what’s inside of me.
I pull you under, just to save myself.”

Forcing myself to focus through my pain, anguish, and tears, I sat down at the corner desk in my bedroom and started to write. About 30 minutes and four pages later I finished my “living will”.

It’s funny they call it that, because it’s at that very moment I decided I didn’t have the will to live.

I made sure all my bases were covered for those who would find me and have to deal with the repercussions. I wrote the password to my computer files down for my neighbor and gave ownership of ALL my belongings to her and my mom. The first thing I detailed is that I didn’t want my estranged wife within 50 yards of me at any time from this point forward.

I was very specific.

I gave ownership of everything associated with my art business to the President of our local art association. She’s a dear lady and she would know what to do with all I had. I wanted to make the hassle of the after effects of deciding where my belongings would go, “easier” on them.

I didn’t care about the emotional impact.

I didn’t care about being selfish. You don’t when you’re in it. It didn’t even cross my mind. I was so far gone. Then I texted three friends whom I now call my angels.

“Was there ever any question, on how much I could take?
You kept feeding me your bul*****, hoping I would break.
Is there anybody out there, is there anyone who cares?
Is there anybody listening, who will hear my final prayers?”

The first text was to my upstairs neighbor. She’s my non-blood sister and has grown to be my confidant and trusted friend: “Do you have any sleeping pills?” Her response was “no”.

Next.

I texted the lady who is currently my girlfriend and asked the same. “No I don’t. Are you alright?”

Next.

The last person I texted was my dear friend who I knew had them. She’s my prayer warrior and a devout, selfless person of faith “Yes, I do. Why?”

My quick response was, “I want to die tonight.”

“Step away from the ledge, I’m coming down.
I could never be, what you want me to.
You pulled me under, to save yourself (save yourself).

You will never see, what’s inside of me.
I pull you under, just to save myself.”

Between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. I walked to my closet door and took out a belt. I looped the buckled end then looped the holed end around the door handle. I secured that end with about five zip ties so it could handle the weight of a 205 lb., 41 year old male. I sat down on the floor and cinched it around my neck. Just slack enough so that when I passed out and fell forward it would take my life through suffocation.

When I had finished sizing and positioning the noose, I released myself and got my bottle of sleeping pills.

“It’s caving in around me (caving in), it’s tearing me apart (tearing me).
It’s all coming down around me (coming down). Does anyone care at all?
I will never be, what you want me to.
You pull me under, I pull you under.”

I sat down with my second drink, re-attached myself, and opened the bottle of pills. I wasn’t scared of what I was doing.

I was scared that it wouldn’t work.

[phone ringing and goes to voice mail] I had committed and had no sense of judgment left in me.

[phone ringing again and going to voice mail] I took three pills and threw them back in my throat, forcing them down with my liquid courage. I laughed at myself and thought, “You have to be joking. You’re trying to die, not go to sleep.”

[phone ringing and going to voice mail a third time] I dumped the rest of the pills on the floor and took one handful.

Gulp. I grabbed another handful.

Gulp. This was easy.

I grabbed a third handful. Gulp. I chased them with the last of the rum and Coke.

And waited. I remember things got blurry and my eyes got heavy.

“I could never be, what you want me to
You pulled me under, to save yourself (save yourself)
You will never see, what’s inside of me
I pull you under, just to save myself”

Two days later I came to awareness in a hospital bed. I didn’t have restraints on, they took those off the day before, I learned. I had on eight point leather restraints because I was so violent. Two on each limb.

I spent the next week in the hospital, stabilizing. While in the hospital I couldn’t believe I was surrounded by so much love and support. It’s all still sinking in several months later. I am thankful for all those people in my life. I love them all. And I am indebted to them.

When I left the hospital, I was transported to the Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center of my own recognizance. I remained there for a week.

What I’ve Learned

1.   Journal (or blog). I’ve learned to blog about my experiences. Whether you do this in a paper journal offline, or a virtual journal on the web, this will normalize things for you. You will not only be telling about your personal experiences and processing things for yourself, but you will also read stories of others going through the exact same thing. And you will know that you are not alone. This will be the start of a wonderful support network for you. Blogging will help you put your situation in perspective. It will help you crystallize the things that matter…the truths. It will allow you to see the progress you’re making. It will allow you to see your lapses as well as write about what you will do differently next time. I’ve found that writing about mental “illnesses” is a really big issue in the blogging world. Why not express yourself in a public forum and receive support from others that are going through the same issues?

2.   Have a support network.On the night of my incident, the last friend I texted knew EXACTLY what I was doing. She lives a solid 50 minutes away from me. As soon as she got my text she rushed to her car and sped to my home. It was her three calls that I heard on my phone that night as she called on the way to my home. She got there in 20 minutes! She rallied several others to save me that night. They are my angels. I would be dead if she were not in my life. I love you, Chelise. If you need a place to start looking to start a support network, join the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). Find a local group to join as your support system. I am working on doing this for 2015.http://www.nami.org/

Image of the author with the person that saved his life.
Myself with Chelise, the woman who pulled the noose off my neck.

3.   Have a plan.I did not have a plan for when the beast reached out in September. I should have had an intervention and had it posted on my wall. I should have had a contract that I signed with my support network. I didn’t have a support network either. The first step would be to call [a specific name here] should I feel like I’m becoming depressed. The people that were closest to me that night all keep our phones on and the volume on high when we go to sleep. We answer when the others call, no questions asked. No apologies. No judgments. It’s our oath.

4.   Take your medications religiously.I have been on medications for years. You will need to contact an MD who can prescribe your medicine but also set up a schedule with a psychologist. A professional who can be an outlet for you. Someone who teaches you how to move forward and gives you strategies or resources for help. It MAY take time to find the right combination of medicines. For me it was years. Don’t give up here. DON’T. GIVE. UP. Keep going until you find the combination that works. It makes ALL the difference in the world. In hindsight, the only combination that worked for me was the one I got in the psychiatric center. You will suffer less the sooner you and your doctor decipher this. Be transparent with your doctor and tell him/her what works, what doesn’t work, how you feel, when you feel what you do (dates, days, and times), and for how long. Keep a journal of the medicine you take along with the date and the amount. I used to get weary of carrying a paper journal around so I have a file in my (free)Evernote app labeled, Prescriptions. Keep track of them here and also bring the actual bottles in to your doctor when you meet with them.

5.   Don’t drink.Yes, give up ALL alcohol. Drinking negates the effects of the medicine. I was drinking a lot of wine at one point and could definitely feel a difference. You have to try YOUR BEST to not drink any alcohol. We have a “disease” we live with…a cancer of the soul. This is the biggest way to combat the emotional effects of the specter that haunts us.

6.   Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone of seclusion.I’m an introvert. I like my alone time. Alone time can be dangerous. If it’s not time that you’re recharging your socially depleted batteries, it’s probably tipping into the red zone. Force yourself to seek help and comfort from your friends. Reach out to them. You may have to be a friend to get a friend. It doesn’t have to be all of them. Just one. Find your angel.

7.   Exercise.The second biggest way to combat the beast lurking in the corner, is exercise. After alcohol, this is the biggest factor for a healthy mind. If you don’t like weights, try the treadmill. If you don’t like the treadmill, try walking on the beach. If you don’t like walking on the beach, sign up for a Yoga class. Get outside. Get up. Notice the greatness of God’s nature around you. Get your heart pumping. Get those endorphins surging through your veins. Push yourself to up your heart rate for 20″ straight. Aim for once a week and move up to two times a week. Strive for 3-5 times a week over time. Forgive yourself if you miss a workout. It won’t be the end of the world. This is not short term or a five day fad diet to get in shape for Spring Break. This is long term baby! If you think about it in these terms, you’ll be more forgiving of yourself when you don’t get up to get the heart rate up.

8.   Give thanks.Be thankful for the small things in life. Say it out loud. “I’m thankful for the bright sun.” “I’m thankful that my car works.” “I’m thankful to have a job.” In exercise of my faith, I spend days walking along the beach picking up sea glass and shells. Each time I find a piece of glass or shell and bend down to pick it up I say, “Thank You for this, Lord” The more you can program your brain to be thankful, the brighter your days will become. Little by little. Baby steps.

9.   Don’t beat yourself up.My new mantra is, “I realize I’m perfectly imperfect, and that’s perfectly okay”. It came to me as clear as day while I was in the psychiatric unit. You have to learn to not punish yourself. You are human. You give grace to others. Now just give it to yourself.

10.   You. Are. Not. Crazy.Don’t EVER let someone tell you are crazy. And don’t you DARE believe the lie. What you are going through is VERY, VERY real. Don’t EVER let someone downplay what you may have to deal with on a daily basis. Don’t let them downplay it if you go through it once a year. It is real. It lives with us. It may lurk in the corner or it may not. We realize this. You are human just like everyone else around you. This is not anillness, this is a lifestyle.

Keep hope through your valley

– Chris