Counseling

The first time I ever saw a counselor was when I was seven. It was court mandated due to my parents’ nasty divorce. I remember drawing pictures of how I depicted my ever-changing family and playing “Trouble” with the therapist. My brother and I went on to see many counselors and psychiatrists shortly after their divorce. But my seven-year-old self thought it was stupid and silly to talk to a stranger about the private things going on within my family. It would be years before I’d see one again.

Fast forward to 17. My brother had just died from cancer and everything was out of control. My parents thought counseling might make things easier and I started seeing a counselor who was probably more “aggressive” than what I needed. He was in his late thirties with a scruffy beard and big belly. He swore quite a bit and didn’t seem to have the same religious views that I did.
I believe it’s key when finding the right counselor to “shop around.” It’s like a shoe. It needs to be the right fit for you. If it’s not, it’s going to feel uncomfortable and awkward. And unfortunately, my second go around with counseling was also the “wrong fit.”

All throughout high school and college I continued to struggle with anxiety, depression, self-hatred, body image issues, and suicidal thoughts. However I didn’t seek help. Not from counseling, or anything else for that matter.

Soon after I got married at age 20, I fell into my career – recruiting. Within the two and a half years I worked as a recruiter, the environment became toxic, one in which I was miserable every day and walked on eggshells. Yet, I realized that it was more than just my surroundings making me anxious; it was something coming from inside my brain. Something was off. Something was wrong. I was at a loss. So I made an appointment with my family doctor and got a referral to see a counselor.

Now, let me be honest with you, I had VERY low expectations going into my first appointment. Counseling had never worked in the past, and now my issues and problems seemed bigger than ever. How was pouring my heart out to a complete stranger (who was probably just going to judge me) going to help?!?

Somehow, miraculously, the appointment went a million times better than I could have imagined. This time the counselor was a woman in her early thirties, married with a few kids, gentle, compassionate, and easy to talk to. Right away, we had an awesome rapport.

I continued to see her for almost a year. We worked through my every day anxiety, my relationship issues, my depression and body image issues. We talked through my brother’s death, events with a close family member, and the loss of one of my best friends. Things were getting better. I was on medication that was helping, I got a new job, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I was happy again.

So I stopped seeing her.

The next spring An (anxiety) started to creep back into my life. She had never left, but was always hiding in the dark. Her voice had gotten quieter with counseling and medication. But now I was off my medicine and not seeking help. An got louder, more intense, and more consistent with her manipulations and lies.

Something needed to change. So I scheduled another appointment with my former counselor. Over the summer we started to work through things again. An still pushes me down every day. She’s loud. She’s needy. She’s controlling. And some months are worse than others. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned so far in life it’s that recovery is a process. Just because things are getting better doesn’t mean that you still shouldn’t be proactive in your fight against mental illness. In fact, you need to be.

Below are some reasons I’ve heard why people (including myself) don’t want to go to counseling. If you can relate to one or two, I hope my perspective convinces you otherwise.

1. I don’t have the money – there are so many agencies that are either free for low income families or offer a payment plan. These organizations understand your situation and are willing to work with you. There are also grants you can receive to help with the costs.
2. I don’t have the time – really? How much time do you spend on Facebook? Watching TV? Overworking? Exactly. Plus, mental health NEEDS to come first. If your foot was broken you wouldn’t wait months to go to the doctor to get medication and crutches. It would be a priority, just like your mental health needs to be a priority.
3. Why should I talk to a stranger about what’s going on in my personal life – first off, these people are trained professionals. They went to school to learn about your illness or whatever you’re struggling with in order to help you work through it. Also, it’s probably good to get an outsider’s perspective. Your best friend and your mom can only do so much.
4. I’m scared to work through my issues – you’re right. It is scary. At least at first. You’re probably going to open up a lot of scars and they may bleed a little again. But you WILL work through it. It will get easier, I promise. Counseling isn’t going to fix your “problem” overnight. It’s a process. But you can do it. I know you can.

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The hard way

I’ve been taking my time to figure things out
But lately it feels like I’m going out of my mind
I feel like this life isn’t mine
I’m watching it unfold in third person and as much as I want to slow down I just can’t. I feel stuck, I feel lost, i feel alone.
More alone than i have ever felt.
No one knows because I put on a facade.
I know I’m not alone but it feels like I don’t belong
Everything feels so wrong
And it’s like everyone wants me gone
I want to reach out to my friends for help
But they are never around anymore,
Im not around anymore.
I keep wondering why everyone is distant
I’m still the same person why doesn’t anybody listen
I wish someone could just explain to me
What happen to the way we always said we be
Cause right now I don’t know why I pushed through the pain that I got through
I’m losing hope
I need a good reason not.
There is these voices going on inside my head and they claim I’m going at it the hard way.

I tell myself that everything is fine, a big lie but then I get lost in my thoughts
I can’t keep my mind filled with a thousand things to distract me from my head.
My head is a bad neighbor that I shouldn’t be traveling alone.
There is another _________ trying to to take this _______ down. But at the end of the day I know I can only make myself happy but I always bring myself down.
Everywhere I look I start to see
Everything what people think of me
It looks like I was never welcome
If It is true or not I won’t know
I guess the voices in my head are right
I do go at things the hard way

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Using Facebook

Did you know that Facebook now has a new suicide prevention protocol feature? If you see a post from a “friend,” you are able to now take different courses of action on Facebook to intervene. Should you see a concerning post, you can activate the report feature by clicking the arrow in the corner of the post. Facebook will prompt you to answer a few questions to indicate if it may be a suicidal post. From there you will have the options to contact the user directly, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline via chat or phone, or have Facebook review the post to determine risk.

In a recent study performed by The American Association of Suicidology, it was found that while many Facebook users have the capacity to assess and determine risk, little is done about it once the risk is determined. This means that YOU have the power to save a life. We’re all guilty of skimming through our news feed, barely reading what is on the screen in front of us. However, Project Seth would encourage you to try to be a little more aware of what you are reading. It could mean the difference of saving a life or losing one.

It was also found in this study, that most users who didn’t know the potential person at risk well, were less likely to reach out and offer support. No surprise there. However, what is a surprise is that when asked, suicidal/depressed users said they would be open to an acquaintance or even a stranger reaching out, rather than no one reaching out at all. While it’s easy to see these posts as “attention seeking” or “over dramatic,” in reality it could be a cry for help. It’s not worth the risk of just continuing to scroll down to the next post, when you could change a person’s life just by reaching out.

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Tears

Project SETH recently learned of two more young adults that took their own lives. Learning of one life lost at the age of 17 was enough to bring immediate tears to my eyes. I felt them rolling down my face before I realized I was crying. 30 minutes later we got the call of another 24 year old who couldn’t see any hope. I was still brushing the tears from my cheeks from the last call when this just compounded what I was feeling and brought emptiness in my heart. This is real.
My first thought is always of the child. How is it possible to see such darkness that you cannot see any hope? I imagine a crowd surrounding them in those troubling last moments and enveloping them with love and compassion and hope. I imagine the darkness lifts and their heart opens to the love they had no idea was so close to them, that accepts them for who they are in our world.
My second thought is for the parent/s. The heartache and the struggle to breathe are real. The emptiness is real. Their death is a physical pain that can take your breath away. Your mind races 24/7 with “what-ifs” and cannot get past what went wrong. You fall to sleep crying. You wake crying. The bond between parent and child doesn’t just end with death; it is a bond that lasts forever.
My next thought is the friends and family. The shock they are feeling and questions they are asking themselves. “What happened? What did I miss? What could I have done?” Maybe they are rehashing the last time spent together and trying to make something out of nothing or maybe realizing the warning signs were present. They will have to be reminded to take one day at a time, but they will survive.
We found out later these young people took their lives within hours of each other. Miles apart they were experiencing the same hopelessness and did not reach for help. They were 2 of the average 17 young people that take their lives on a DAILY basis. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in teens and takes more lives than cancer. Suicide is taking lives of kids at younger and younger ages every day. 9, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 24…suicide at any age should not be accepted.
The tears I shed for Seth will always include tears for each child we learn died by suicide. It is daily we’re reminded Seth is gone just like other parents trying to live through their loss. Suicide will not stop unless we make a change. Imagine what we can do by sharing our experiences, helping each other, and offering one another hope. Our goal is to hear more stories of hope and share fewer and fewer stories filled only with memories. This is real. Let’s be the change.

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