My thoughts on 13 Reasons Why and why you shouldn’t turn away

Almost every day, I hear another person talking about the new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Usually I hear something along the lines of someone asking what 13 Reasons Why is about and then a viewer saying “It’s about a girl who kills herself and leaves behind tapes of why she did it!” a little too happily.

It’s not that I have a problem with the show or people wanting to watch it. I haven’t seen the series but I have read the book and although it’s been many years since then, I remember also being pretty engrossed in it.

What I do have a problem with is the way that some viewers are talking about it. In a sense, I almost feel like they are taking it lightly and that the whole issue of suicide and rape is being glorified when it shouldn’t be.

I want people to realize that 13 Reasons Why is real life. It isn’t just another Netflix series to be super excited about. It’s real and it’s happening. Every. Single. Day.

I tell you this now because I know. I’ve been there too many times to count. Fortunately, I have great friends, family, and a medical team that have talked me down from that cliff.

While I haven’t watched and may never watch the sexual assault scenes in 13 Reasons Why, I encourage people who can watch them, to watch them. I know they may be graphic as I’ve heard and very uncomfortable but that’s okay. They should be. However, they shouldn’t be cut out and I’m glad they aren’t.

As a survivor of sexual assault, I know that what survivors go through is not something that can be hidden or cut out. It’s uncomfortable and it’s scary and it’s traumatic and it’s there. I can’t cut out those scenes in my head any more than they should have in 13 Reasons Why.

I encourage you to watch those scenes if you can. Even if they make you extremely uncomfortable which they should. Don’t turn your head away or fast forward through it.

I am only saying this because I think that if you truly want to understand what Hannah was going through, then you have to watch the good and the bad. You will have to spend time grappling with it after you finish the episode and that’s ok.

I applaud Jay Asher for writing a book and the producers for creating a show that will help people better understand bullying, suicide, and sexual assault. I think it is important that viewers understand how impactful 13 Reasons Why will be for our culture and I hope if you watch the show, you will realize that it’s not just another Netflix series. It’s happening and it’s real.

The meaning of my new tattoo “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

Last Thursday, I went and got my second tattoo that says “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul” from the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley. It’s on my ribs which hurt like hell but was totally worth it for what it means to me.

A couple of weeks ago, my therapist and I had a very serious talk. She told me I’m at risk for developing Borderline Personality Disorder because of the environment I grew up in. Not that my parents weren’t amazing and loving but I wasn’t always in the best situations for a kid. My therapist and I refer to those situations as double binds, meaning that I was in situations with a lack of boundaries where I felt like I had to fix things but I couldn’t and will never be able to because they weren’t my problems to fix.

My therapist believed I was showing early signs of leaning towards Borderline Personality disorder or as we call it, borderline style personality disorder. The reason being was my relationships with other people. I often rely on people when I’m struggling to make feel better rather than my own strength. This fall, I began seeking out attention from boys to make feel better. I made a lot of mistakes in my love life to the point that I might have people talking about me for something I did. That is the worst feeling in the world and this tattoo couldn’t have come at a better time.

My therapist, bless her soul, told me my train is heading one way, but I can make it head the other way. I have to start making changes NOW though for that to work. I have been doing better and trying to support myself and keep myself above the water without much outside help. However, I’m still paying for mistakes I made when I was in a bad place last year. It sucks but I have to take responsibility for those things to get better.

My tattoo means that I am in control of my life. I decide where it goes and how happy I am. I decide to be healthy and to not give in to my natural tendencies towards mental illnesses. In a way, my tattoo is a new year’s resolution that will stay with me forever because “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

I’m back

After an almost six month hiatus from writing and blogging, I decided it was time for me to return to a passion and a coping method that I missed so dearly. However, things are different this time. I have decided to dedicate this blog to mental health.

I struggle with anxiety and depression and I have self-harmed in the past. Many of my family members struggle with mental illnesses as well. Also, as a CNA, many of my patients have mental illnesses, so I have a decent knowledge and understanding of mental health.

My goal on this blog is to help people understand mental health and mental illnesses. While not visible, mental illnesses affect approximately 18.5 percent of U.S. adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and while they may be the most prevalent category of illnesses, they are very misunderstood. That’s why I have chosen to write about them so I can not only have another coping method, but also be able to help others understand.

I will try to post every two weeks, although I make no guarantees. Some topics I plan on covering will be:

  • Addiction
  • Physical effects of Anxiety
  • Internal vs. External Depression
  • Cutter Culture
  • Support Systems
  • Coping Methods

And many, many more! I am very open to suggestions and I would greatly appreciate them. Either DM or leave a comment below if there is a topic you would like me to cover.

Love,

Fiona

Depression: fighting to regain myself

When I first began to self-harm, it was last fall. I was slowly falling apart, piece by piece. I was in a dark place. The pain I felt was unbearable, and I didn’t know who to go to or what to do. So I began cutting.

The depression and self-harming didn’t start out of the blue. I struggled with depression on and off for many years, however, not like when I started cutting.

At first, the cutting was minor, but after a month or so, I started doing it more often—almost every few days—and the cuts got worse.

Eventually, I knew I couldn’t continue doing what I was doing to myself. I told a friend first and then went to my coach. He helped me tell my parents who provided me with the support and the resources I needed to fight my internal battle.

The thing people don’t realize about those who struggle with depression and self-harm is that it is not a choice. Depression overtakes the mind and often times you lose control of yourself. The depression drives you to do things that you wouldn’t normally do, like cutting.

There were times when I would look in the  mirror with my tear-streaked face and puffy eyes and wonder, “Who is this girl?” I didn’t recognize myself. There were nights when I would lay in bed and plead with God to make the pain stop. At times, I felt almost suicidal, thinking that I couldn’t handle the suffering anymore. I wanted an out, but even though I was broken, I knew suicide was not the answer. I knew that I had so much to experience and that suicide would be a selfish, easy way out.

I was constantly trying to fight off the dark cloud that would consume me. There were days—and there are still days—when I lose that battle, and I let the depression eat away at me. Those are the days when I did and still do rely on my support network.

I have a number of people who I trust enough to see me in a state that would send many running. However, there have been a few people who couldn’t handle what I was going through and left me to self-destruct. I’m not angry with them. I understand that they aren’t prepared to handle some of the things I struggle with. I just wish I hadn’t lost them as friends.  I would give anything to have them back in my life—just as friends—not even close ones.

My journey to recovery has been a long one and is not over. It may take me years to finally be free of the pain and sadness. I know that there will be times when I relapse and I will  have to rely on those around me to pull me back up.

While I never want to go back to those dark months when the cutting was at its worse, I was blessed to have met some of the best people in my life today.

The biggest door I opened that  led me to some amazing people was back in January on a very special night: New Year’s Eve and, a few hours later, my birthday.

There had been an incident a few days before my birthday that had caused me a lot of grief and hurt. Despite the fact that I was surrounded my friends on New Year’s Eve to celebrate, I couldn’t shake my negative feelings. At 3 a.m., I was curled up in my bed, alone, bawling my eyes out. This is when I made one of the best decisions of my life.

I scrolled through my contacts and sent a text to a senior girl who I had been sort of friends with during cross country season. She responded immediately and came to my house and sat with me in her car in my driveway while I told her the whole story and cried. She hugged me and talked me through it. A few weeks later, she recommended I go talk to the soccer coach, someone she trusted very much. This inevitably changed my life.

The first time I talked to him, I realized that he had advice beyond his years and would do whatever he could to help me through. I began working out with him on a daily basis and just that support of knowing he would be around if I needed something helped me. Through him I was introduced to other students with whom I’ve developed friendships with.

Becoming involved with him turned things around for me. Since I started spending time with him and the other students who do stuff with him, I’ve started getting better. I’ve made vast improvements in just a few short months. I’m no longer as lonely as I once was when I have a bad day. I’ve become more outgoing and more comfortable with myself. I’ve learned that no matter how hard I think my life is, there is always someone who has it worse than me.

I still sink into a depressed state from time to time, and I still see a therapist on a pretty regular basis. However, I’m stronger than I used to be. I know how to get through the stress, the darkness, and the pain no matter how unbearable it may seem.

I’m not writing this post to get attention. No, my intentions are the complete opposite.

Recently, I have noticed and become acquainted with other students who are going through some of the same stuff I went through. It makes me sad to see them fighting with no support. It makes me realize  how lucky I am to have parents who care and can afford to pay for treatment and people to hold me up when I can’t support myself.

I’m writing this post for the kids who will never speak up for themselves. I am speaking up for them. No one should have to go through what I did alone.

No one talks about these issues because many people feel uncomfortable doing so. I want to break that barrier. It’s time to talk about this stuff.

I hope that through writing about my own experiences, I can instill the courage in someone else to ask for help or to advocate for someone else who is going through a rough spot.

Lastly, I want to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who helped me along the way. You saved me.

Hospitalization, depression, and friends

The nurse from the ER led me back to the “quiet area.” Another nurse made me leave my stuff in a locker and change into a gown. She showed me to my room, 27. There was a bed, a pillow, and a chair. That was it. The lights were bright and the door was all glass so that the nurses could watch you from the desk.

The ER doctor came to talk to me about why I was there. I explained to him that my therapist thought I was a suicide risk.  The nurse took my vitals. The lab came and took my blood. My head hurt but the nurse had to wait for my blood work to come back clean before she could give me anything. I took a long nap. I waited and waited. Finally, the social worker came to talk to me and decide whether or not I was a risk.

Ultimately, I went home 5 hours later with a safety plan for how I would proceed. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I had to go to the hospital for having suicidal thoughts. It was a wake up call for me. I realized that I needed to start trying a little harder to get better. I needed to try and live.

There is a lot that has to be figured out– what the right medications for me are, should I be seeing a psychiatrist, am I depressed or just angry. There is not a clear answer with mental illness. It’s a lot of trial and error. It takes time to figure out okay that medication didn’t work for me, but this one does, okay this person isn’t able to support me, but this person can. Every day is touch and go.

There are a lot of bad days and there are a lot of good days. There are the in-between days. Those are the days that you just go through the motions because it’s easier to be numb then feel. The bad days where you want nothing more than to sleep for hours so you don’t have to think about all the fucked up things. Then there are the good days, where you have hope that you are going to get better. Everyday you take a step. That step may be a bad step or a good step but you won’t know until you try.

I didn’t think I was depressed until a few days ago when my therapist pointed it out. I associate depression with cutting and since I don’t cut anymore, I didn’t think I was depressed. But I am. I most definitely am. I’m tired, angry, irritable, sad, and in pain. Those are all symptoms of depression. People think depression is just being sad, but it’s never that simple. Mental illnesses are not simple. They all manifest differently depending on the person. That’s why you can’t treat the illness. You have to treat the symptoms.

The worst part about being depressed is the way some people treat you. They make you feel crazy and they blame you for being depressed. You try to talk to them about how your feeling and they tell you that you are being too negative. They tell you that talking about your problems is only for your therapist. Those are the people who don’t understand and they may never understand. Inevitably, we all have people like that in our support systems. Sooner or later, you will figure out who they are.

However, there are so many amazing people out there who want to help you. They may have experience dealing with mental illnesses or they may not. My support system is split almost evenly between people who know what it’s like to be depressed or anxious and those who don’t know. You don’t have to have a mental illness to be able to understand someone who does. I have many friends that prove that. So the people who don’t understand always blow my mind. They say things and I’m just like why the hell would you ever say that to someone who’s depressed???? Just no. You don’t blame them for feeling like crap.

If you want to help someone but you don’t necessarily have similar experiences, you go in with an open mind. You ask them “How can I help you? What can I do?” Never ever alienate them or say something that might make them feel worse. You don’t have to know what to say. You just need to let them know that you support them and that you are there for them. That’s all that matters.

Like I said earlier, it’s all about trial and error. It will take time to find your people and it will take time to find what helps you feel better. Just remember, if they can’t handle you at your worst, than they sure as hell don’t deserve you at your best 🙂

A few thoughts about suicide in the Awakening

When my English teacher threw down a book in front of me a week before the class ended, I was skeptical. I didn’t think I would like the book and I certainly didn’t want to read another long, boring literary classic. What I found in The Awakening by Kate Chopin was not what I expected.

The Awakening follows Edna Pontellier as she “awakens” to find herself living an unhappy life. After spending the summer with Robert Lebrun, Edna finds herself wishing to be youthful and independent. When she returns to New Orleans, she is no longer the same person. She finds herself going against her social responsibilities and becoming a free spirit.

Eventually her summer lover, Robert, returns to New Orleans. Edna confesses her desire to turn her back on her husband for Robert, however Robert is unable to commit to having an affair. Edna is summoned to help with her friend’s birth, only to return to find Robert gone with a note saying he is sorry but they can’t be together. Edna, deeply depressed and guilt ridden, returns to her summer home on the Grand Isle.

While on the Isle, Edna decides to go for swim. Feeling alone and hopeless for a life she know she will never be able to have, she hands her life over to the ocean.

Upon finishing the book, my English teacher asked what we thought of the ending. One person spoke up and said they thought Edna’s choice to commit suicide was selfish.

That comment stirred something inside of me. I used to think suicide was selfish too. After being depressed for so long and honestly contemplating suicide in some of my worst moments, I don’t think suicide is selfish anymore. It may be easier than trying to work through overwhelming amounts of pain, but you can’t call someone brave enough to pull the trigger a coward.

Suicide makes sense to me when I think about the amount of pain and depression a person must be experiencing to seek out suicide. I mean, I never went past cutting but it took an awful lot of depression for me to get to the point where I was cutting every other day just to make it through what otherwise felt like hell.

I’m not condoning suicide. There is never a time when it’s the best option or the right choice. I think getting professional help even if that means hospitalization is better than committing suicide and I think most suicide survivors would agree with me that living is worth it.

CNA works proves to be mentally, physically taxing

“Owwww! Ow! Stop!” I scream on Friday night as a resident attempts to break my wrist. As soon as the resident lets go, I burst into tears from shock and the fear that I would hear my wrist snap.

Ever since I started working as a CNA three months ago, my perspective has changed in many ways. Maybe it’s because I spend most of my time with 90 year olds who can’t even remember their own names some days or maybe it’s because I have more at stake than the average high school student who works in food service. Whatever it is, its changed me.

I spend eight hour shifts toileting residents, cooking or cleaning, and interacting with my residents. I’ve been peed, pooped and thrown up on. I’ve had my butt grabbed multiple times as well as called a bitch, asshole, and motherfucker. I’ve been swung at, bitten, and spit on. It’s just part of the job.

The unforgettable moments with my residents are the reason I decided to be a CNA. Life is never boring with them. I love to hear their stories about their lives and they are constantly making me laugh. The wisdom that I’ve gained from my time with my residents is priceless. You can’t beat those moments when you make a resident’s day just by simply taking the time to sit down and talk with them for 15 minutes.

It’s not an easy job though. Physically, it can be debilitating. I spend a large portion of my time at work transferring residents. Sometimes I come home with back aches or I wake up in the morning sore from the night before.

The hardest part about being a CNA though is the mental aspects. You have to be extremely patient and when you deal with difficult residents day after day it can be exhausting to stay patient with them. It’s extremely depressing at times as well.

I will always remember waking up at five a.m. with a text from my boss saying that a resident died. I hadn’t been working as a CNA very long and I didn’t know the resident’s personality hardly at all which made the death easier on me. I was still in shock though. It was my first death as a CNA.

There are things that only a fellow long term care worker can understand. Like why we joke about death or laugh at the most inappropriate times. We have too. If we didn’t, the emotions associated with the work would destroy us.

Being a CNA has taught me so much about life. It’s extremely rewarding to be able to make a difference in someone’s life even if it isn’t very glamorous. I wouldn’t give up my time as a CNA for anything.

Who am I living for?

As I donned on my scrubs on Saturday morning, I wasn’t particularly thrilled to be going to work for 6 hours at a house I had never worked at before. I was pleasantly surprised by what awaited me.

One of the residents’ husband came to visit. He started talking to me about high school and my plans for college. We talked for a long time as I prepared lunch and I found what he had to say to be very interesting. He told me that he studied french as a child and studied abroad in France and Germany. When his own kids were old enough, he exchanged them with a friend in France’s children. His kids both turned out to be fluent in French.

I told him about my years learning Spanish and the opportunity to go to Paraguay during the summer to practice my Spanish. He encouraged me to do so and not to worry about missing out of average high school experiences because they truly aren’t that special. He told me that from 16 to 26 you have no obligations and hardly any responsibilities. No children or spouses to hold you back. That is the time to go and travel, he said. I believed him.

Then later on the same day while I was still at work, I had the most amazing experience speaking with a resident who was born in Sudetenland in 1939 right as WW2 kicked off. She told me about the fear that plagued the whole family because of her mother’s well known dislike for Hitler. Her father worked at a factory and the town she grew up in Czechoslovakia was constantly being bombed. One day when she was six years old, she was walking home from getting her hair done with her sister and the alarms started going off. Her older sister frantically put grass and dirt on her little sister’s head to camouflage her from the bomber planes flying overhead.

As she tells me this, I survey the boxes and boxes of knitted scarves and knitting supplies. She tells me that she learned to knit to help support her family after her father died when she was 12. I listen with admiration.

Her story and my conversation with my resident’s husband makes me think about my life and the person I want to be. I don’t want to live in fear or worry about missing out on high school. High school doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters in high school is getting good grades to get in to college. Once you graduate from high school, the people and the memories don’t matter nearly as much.

I want to live and help others live. I think about my own experiences with my friends and their reaction to some of my choices. I still remember very clearly when I told them I was going to start my pursuit of a career in the medical field by taking a CNA class over the summer. Without hesitating, my friend told me that I wouldn’t be able to get a job in a negative tone. I left it at that, determined to prove her wrong. And I did. I work for a great company now.

Today, I said goodbye to a person who I deeply cared about. He was moving to Texas and I was sad because I didn’t want him to leave. Then I realized how selfish that it. I can’t be angry with people for trying to hold me back when I was doing the exact same thing to him. So I told him I would miss him but I wished him the best and told him how proud I am of his choice.

If he had stayed, he wouldn’t be happy. I realized that. If you continuously let others make choices about your life, then someday you will wake up and be absolutely miserable. You will wonder what happened to your life and where it got off track. You will hate yourself for not following your dreams and you will resent the people who you let hold you back. That’s not a life to live.

Like the old Katy Perry song, Who am I living for, I ask myself that question. Who am I living for? Am I living for my parents, my coaches, or my friends? Am I mostly doing what they want me to do? Am I happy? The answer is, I was living for parents, friends, and coaches. I’m not happy. That stops now. I am going to live for myself this year. I’m going to explore every opportunity open to me and not let anyone hold me back. This is my year bitches.

Resolving not to resolve

Last year at this time, I was typing up a list of New Years’ resolutions. That included doing yoga once a week, eating better, and not cutting. I think I only followed through with one of those. Not cutting.

This year when my sister asked if I had any resolutions, I laughed. I think my literal response was “hell no”.

I used to believe in the “new year, new me” bullshit. However, very few times did I follow through with those changes. Yes, in 2014 I started doing weights a lot more regularly and achieved a better mental state, but those don’t necessarily make me a new person. I’m very different from the person I was a year ago but thats because 365 days have passed. We all change a little bit every single day. It doesn’t happen overnight.

About two weeks before finals, I started to withdraw. I stopped eating lunch with my friends and instead ate in the newspaper room. I spent most of my time at school in silence. I stayed home on the weekends and avoided seeing people. My friends thought I was relapsing. That’s what I thought too at first, but after two weeks of being on break, I know that’s not what was happening.

I was unhappy, but not depressed. I didn’t like the life I was leading. I didn’t feel like myself and I certainly didn’t like who I was.

As a teenager, it’s pretty common to feel uncertain of who you are and where you belong. A mentor of mine confirmed that in a chat before break. She told me that there is nothing wrong with changing friend groups and sometimes thats what you have to do.

Sticking with the same group of friends for the rest of my life is not who I am. I need people of all ages and interests. I need people who share my dreams and who have their own dreams. I need to be around people that allow me to be the happiest version of myself. That’s what I realized over break. I can’t let people hold me back anymore.

This year I’m not making resolutions. I don’t want to define my year before I’ve had the chance to experience all 365 days. I’m resolving not to resolve this year. I’m not going to let who I’m around determine what face I wear. I’m going to wear one face, whichever that may be.

2014 Highlights

1.1.2014 3:??? a.m. While bawling my eyes out three hours into my birthday may have been horrible, this moment opened the door for an amazing girl to come into my life. Alyssa changed my life. She helped me build friendships with other exceptional people and she continues to make me a better person everyday. I cherish the moment I decided to text her for help.

1. ???.2014 No idea what time The first day I talked to the teacher that would become my mentor was a good day. I opened up to him about my depression and things I was going through. He invited me to join his student workout groups, which immensely impacted me both physically and mentally.

3. 16.2014 Hopping off the plane at LAX with a dream and a cardigan. Over spring break, my family went to California. I had never been to California and it was such a great trip. I was starting to come out of  the depression and a relaxing, fun trip with my family was just what I needed.

5. 3. 2014 8:20 p.m. This is the day I published my blog post about my struggles with depression. A life-changing day. The support that poured in following was incredible. Writing about my experiences with depression and cutting helped me be a better version of myself. I’m more aware of other peoples’ feelings and my own.

6.12.2014 6 a.m. On this fabulous summer day, I woke up at the butt crack of dawn to go to the surgery center for my labrum repair. While I do not look fondly upon my surgery, it is what it is. I did it so I could run pain-free even if I don’t run anymore. It taught me a lot of things about myself and going through challenging times.

7.6.2014 Driving through Missouri I got in a fight with someone I really cared about this day. It was the first of several nasty fights with the same person. I was so upset that night that I tried to cut myself but didn’t. This was the beginning of several miserable weeks for me. However, the fight taught me how to be mature about conflicts.

8.13.2014 8 a.m. I stepped outside of my comfort zone today and danced at the freshman orientation. I would never do that before. I don’t care as much about what people think of me anymore I guess.

9.9.2014 8:30 a.m. Today I got my first AP chem test back and cried. Not joking. I got a D. I thought the rest of the semester was doomed and my grade was killed already. Fortunately, I worked harder and got a tutor and with a miracle finished the semester with an A.

9.???.2014 4:45 p.m. I’m driving to work one afternoon after coming home sick earlier in the day from school. I’m exhausted and accidentally run a red light when I see the left turn signal turn green. Unfortunately for me, a cop is behind me and sees the whole thing. I apologize profusely and he doesn’t give me a ticket. I’m close to tears when he lets me go and very embarrassed. I don’t tell any of my friends.

10. ???. 2014 7:55 a.m. I just hit someone’s car in the school parking lot while pulling in. Shit shit shit. I leave a note on the car with my number and text my mom. I called an auto repair store and set up a time to come in and get my sidelight replaced before my dad notices that it’s broken. A few days later, I get a text from the person I hit and later I talk to his mom. The whole ordeal costs me $400 but I pay in a heartbeat knowing it was my fault. I avoid parking next to anyone for a long time.

11.27.2014 10 p.m. It’s Thanksgiving and my dad’s birthday. I make it through the break without a breakdown which is 10 times better than last year when I cried my eyes out in front of my whole family and grandparents and cut myself.

12.1.2014 Today marks a year of not cutting. I celebrate internally until later when I publish a blog post.