Hindsight is 20-20: Poem Describing Teen Depression/Anxiety: “The Things I Did Instead”

I’ve had a lot of comments on blog posts from parents with teens suffering depression/anxiety. You parents who realize what is happening are the lucky ones, relatively speaking. So many teens suffer without anyone, including themselves, really knowing it. I was one of those teens.
I still got good grades.
I still held down a good part time job.

The signs can be subtle, and often are dismissed as typical “teen” behaviour. Under/over sleeping, being irritable, under/over eating.

One sign to watch out for is isolation.
Do friends ever call?
Does your teen ever go out with friends, talk about friends?

I was a pretty isolated teen much of the time. I knew something was wrong. I knew I was very sad and felt scared and alone. I didn’t know it was depression/anxiety, but when I look back on poems I wrote, I described it pretty darn well. Here is one example. I hope it gives you a little insight about what teens with depression/anxiety are feeling.

The Things I Did Instead:

I saw a beautiful butterfly
It fluttered all around me
Touched my hand and my heart
Then it circled away into the deep blue sky
Left my eyes, and made them cry
I think it is hard to catch a butterfly
But what do I know?
I didn’t even try

These are the things I did instead
I cried night after night until I could take it no more
Then I fell
I fell very far, and I fell very deep
I fell very fast into a death like sleep
I became numb
Free from the pain
And free from the truth
I was so free that I was trapped
Left all alone, again and again
I lived day after after day feeling nothing
Nobody could see
That my soul had left me
There was nowhere I could go
Nothing I could be
I had let that butterfly go
Stupidly, I had ignored the sound of my own screaming
NO

Whatever became of the butterfly?
It kept on going
Circling farther and farther away
Until it got too high
And slowly started dying
Its wings turned black
It started to fade
It got so sick and so weak
Still it soared through the smokey air
Forgot what it was
Forgot that it cared
It became a part of the night
All of its beauty
All of its magic
All of its innocence
Gone

We’re a pathetic pair
That butterfly and me
One chance not taken
A tiny, terrible mistake
And we will never be
But one thing always remains
One thing time can never take
The love of that moment
So painfully long ago
Endures with strength
It will never shatter
It will never break
That day, that sunny smiling day
Shines again every once in a while
It lives in his eyes
It lives in my smile
When I’m walking through the woods and the butterfly pasee by
I tell him to remember
He tells me not to cry

I see a beautiful butterfly
It flutters far away
Once it touched my hand and my heart
I can see it circling in the deep blue sky
It leaves my eyes and makes them cry
I think it is hard to catch a butterfly
But next time it comes near
I promise I will try

Thanks for reading.
Be Brave, and Talk

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Suck it Up

“There’s nothing wrong with you. You don’t need counselling. You just need to start eating. Stop being so stupid. ”

“Yeah, he’s on stress leave. Pathetic.”

“Maybe you should stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

“If she’s not going to call us back, whatever, forget her. I don’t care if she’s depressed, calling someone back is pretty simple. She needs to stop making lame excuses.”

“You’re doing this to yourself. Stop being so negative.”

“I’ve been through worse in my life, but I’m not depressed. It’s life, you just accept it. Suck it up.”

******************************
This moment, countless people suffering mental illness are hearing these kinds of statements. Perhaps this makes them feel like it’s their fault. Perhaps they feel weak. Perhaps they feel guilty. Perhaps they feel inadequate.

Definitely they no longer feel comfortable talking.

Talking is the most affective way a person with mental illness can help themselves.

Talking is their best hope.

Stigma steals that away.

Mental illness is real. It gets diagnosed by doctors, just like diabetes, asthma, the flu.
Mental illness can destroy relationships and families.
Mental illness can leave a person living on the streets.
Mental illness can kill.
Yes, mental illness can kill.
Technically I suppose, suicide is a choice a person makes. But it’s a choice they make because the inner torment they suffer is too much, and they see no other escape. Suicide is a symptom of mental illness.
Suicide is a symptom of complete isolation.

Isolation made far worse by stigma.

“You’re doing this to yourself.”

“Stop being so negative.”

“Suck it up.”

Nobody would ever dream of saying this to someone with cancer. Why do so many of us think it’s okay to speak like that to someone with mental illness?

******************************

“How are you feeling today?”

“You are so strong for fighting this battle.”

“He’s on stress leave. It must be really bad. I can’t imagine what he’s going through.”

“It’s okay to cry. I’m here for you. Im here to listen if you’d like.”

“I believe you. I also believe you can beat this.”

“Don’t give up.”

These are the kind of words that fight stigma.

These are the kind of words that give hope.

These are the kind of words that can save lives.

Thanks for reading!
Be Brave and Talk
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Let The Pain In

Let the pain in.
Feel it to its fullest intensity.
Accept it.
Endure it.
Thank it.
It gives strength to your heart.
It gives the precious ability to appreciate what’s good to your soul.

You will smile again.
And because of your pain, that smile will be radiantly beautiful.

Thank you for reading.
Be Brave, and Talk.
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Long Lost Friends

Maybe you both work too much.
Or it’s distance.
Busy family lives.
Maybe you grew apart.
Maybe you can’t really find a reason at all.

She vanishes from your life without warning. Your phone calls are unanswered, unreturned. Birthdays pass, holidays pass, time ticks on. Sometimes a song comes on the radio that reminds you of her. You wonder how she’s doing, and if she ever thinks of you. You miss her. You wonder why you weren’t good enough for her to keep you in her life. You shake your head, shrug off the sadness. Oh well. It’s her loss.

Her loss.
Her nagging guilt.
Her deep regret.

You came into her life at a time she desperately needed a friend. Heartbroken and alone, she leaned on you without you even knowing it. You confided in her, invited her to follow along in your life. Your friends and you even called her “Little Sister.” You helped her feel like she belonged when her life was falling apart.
She trusted you.
She admired you.
She loved you.
She loves you still.

She cried the day you said goodbye. She moved to another city. New responsibilities, new relationships. She was absorbed, and overwhelmed. She listened to the messages you left, told herself she’d call you soon. Time moved on, and the thought of phoning you got harder and harder. Cold with anxiety, unsettled in her stomach, she held the phone and took deep breaths.

What if you were mad at her for taking so long to call back?

What if she sounded awkward, had nothing interesting to say?

What if you didn’t really like her anymore, and were annoyed by her call?

What If……so many What Ifs…

What if she called you at home when she knew you’d be at work?

She left you a message, so she’d stay safe, and you would know she still cared. She promised herself she’d answer if you called back, pushed the guilt aside. A few days later your call came, she stood frozen with fear. She realized her lack of action was not the norm. She hated herself for being such a coward. She hated herself almost all the time. Her self loathing made her believe somewhere deep inside that she was unworthy. She truly thought she didn’t deserve you.

If only you could have known.

Her anxiety was too much for her to cope with. The consequence was losing a dear friend.

If only you could have known.
You could have told her she was more than worthy.
You could have told her she had no reason to feel afraid.
You could have told her she deserves friendship.
You could have told her she deserves love.

She tells herself even still, that one day she’ll contact you. Maybe she’ll send a letter, maybe a birthday card.

She says she will do it tomorrow.
But tomorrow never seems to come.

I hope one day you long lost friends bump into each other by accident. I hope you give each other a big hug. I hope you become friends again.

This may not happen of course, but one thing will always remain true. You shared laughs, tears, a special kind of love. You affected each other’s lives for the better. You were great friends.

“Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened. ”

It happened. And that’s never going to change.

Thank you for reading.
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Be Brave, and Talk

**Quote by Dr. Seuss.

Please Stop Saying Sorry

Facebook Status: Today was a terrible day. -feeling lonely. 😞

You leave it up for 10 minutes, check it, see no feedback, then hit delete. People don’t want to be brought down by your negative status.

Facebook status: Whoa! I got 98% on my term paper! Yahoo! – feeling proud. 😃

You leave it up for 3 minutes, then hit delete. You don’t want anyone to be annoyed and think you’re bragging.

Facebook status: My heart literally hurts. Why did she have to do this to me? -feeling heartbroken. 😢

You leave it up for about 30 seconds, then hit delete. You picture that meme with Leonardo Dicaprio wearing sunglasses and laughing at people who post “problems” on Facebook and shudder. People hate drama. What are you thinking? You take a cute picture of your puppy and post that instead.

So much insecurity.
So much guilt.
Why do we feel so uncomfortable being real?

******************************

You stare blankly out the bedroom window and wish it wasn’t sunny. Maybe then you wouldn’t feel like such a loser, lying in bed in the middle of the day while your husband takes care of the children. You hear them laughing as they get shoes on for outside, and your heart sinks. You try willing yourself out of bed to join them, but your aching body doesn’t want to cooperate. You place cool hands on your forehead, try to relieve the throbbing pain. Precious moments pass by wasted, as your family plays in the back yard without you. You bury your head in the pillow, squeeze your eyes shut. There’s no way you’re going to be able to fall asleep. You haven’t slept properly in months. You are sleep deprived beyond belief, but your racing mind keeps you awake any chance you get to catch up. Cursing yourself, you jump out of bed, angrily swallow down some Tylenol, and rush outside.

Your daughters race to greet you, giggling, fistfuls of dandelions in their hands. You put on your best smile, kneel down and let them crash into your arms. You squeeze them tight until they fight to get free and run off again.

“Did you get any sleep?” Your husband’s brow furrows with concern.

“No. No, I didnt.” You snap.

“Why not? Why don’t you go back and lie down?”

“Because! I can’t sleep! My head hurts too much! I’m not well, don’t you understand? Something is very wrong with me! I’ve felt absolutely awful for MONTHS!”

You turn your back so your daughters wont see, and sob into your hands. Your husband gives you a tight hug, you cry into his shirt. You indulge in the comfort for a minute, dry your face with the back of your hand.

“I’m sorry, Love. I’m okay, don’t worry. I’m just really tired, that’s all…..Did my mascara smear?”

******************************

Oh, how I wish I had the power to travel back in time, to you as you stood in the dandelions and apologized to your husband for crying on that sunny day. As you looked him in the eye through your tears and lied, pretending you weren’t breaking inside. If I had the power, I’d hold you tight, I’d whisper in your ear that your pain is not weakness, your anger is not a sin, your tears are not a burden. I’d tell you I admire your determination, caring day after day for your family, when you desperately need care yourself.

I’d tell you to let it out, scream if you have to.
You hurt.
You are afraid.
You are strong beyond words, but you are tired of being strong.
You just want to be truthful.
Please stop saying sorry.
Be truthful. Be real. Be brave, and hold your head high.
This world needs more truth.
And the truth, in time, will set you free.

Thank you for reading!
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Be Brave, and Talk

7 Ways To Show Love To Someone With Anxiety/Depression

The hardest people to love are the ones who need it most.

In honour of Valentine’s Day, here are some ideas for showing love to friends and family members with anxiety/ depression:

1.) Give Compliments:

Chances are, someone who suffers from anxiety/depression also struggles with self esteem. Help her challenge her feelings of self loathing by giving her sincere, specific compliments. Being specific is really important, because it will make her more likely to remember what you said later. It will also make her more likely to believe you. For example, instead of saying, “You’re a good mom,” you could say something more meaningful: “You are so patient with your children. I love how you encourage them to keep trying. They are so lucky to have you.”
One thoughtful, genuine compliment has more power than 10 careless comments that feel like flattery. Put your heart into what you say.

2.) Offer Your Company:

Appointments, trips to the grocery store or mall can be very trying for someone with anxiety. If your friend has someone he trusts to come along with him, it can be quite helpful. It offers distraction, support, and ensures he won’t have to face unforeseen events, such as a panic attack, all alone.

3.) Send Texts or Email To Ask How They Are Doing….Really:

Text and email might be better for this than a phone call. It can be very hard for someone to open up if they are going through a tough time. Text or email gives her all the time she needs to respond honestly, and might help her be more comfortable. It also takes the pressure off to say she’s “good” or “okay” when that’s not actually the case. In the depths of depression, it is easy to feel like nobody cares. Ask how she is doing, and really listen. Make it all about her. Let her know you believe everything she is saying, and you are there for her whenever she needs. She is not alone.

4.) Take Care Of Him:

Depression can make even the most mundane tasks absolutely exhausting. Self care is often neglected, because the person just doesn’t have the energy, the ability to focus, or the desire to do things for himself. You could cook him a nutritious meal, pay for and send him for a massage or haircut, take care of his kids while he takes a bath. Remind him that he deserves TLC just as much as anyone. This just might help motivate him to start loving and caring for himself.

5.) Invite Her For A Walk Outside….And Keep On Inviting Her:

Being in nature is soothing to the soul, good medicine for anyone. Exercise increases the body’s production of serotonin, which helps reduce anxiety and depression. Exercising outside just makes sense for someone with mental illness, but the hard part is getting her out there. Invite her often, and if she declines, be sure to not make her feel guilty….she probably has plenty of guilt in her life already. Just shrug it off, and invite her again in a few days. Your persistence will let her know you care, and hopefully she will one day accept.

6.) Hug Him….The Longer The Hug, The Better:

We are all familiar with the healing power of a hug. What you may not know, is loving gestures like hugs cause the body to release oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone.” Oxytocin causes relaxation, and aids sleep, perfect for someone with anxiety/depression. So hold him tight, for as long as you can, and you will be helping him feel better on an emotional and physiological level.

7.) Let Her Be

The hardest, most isolating part of mental illness is trying to live up to real, or imagined pressure from family and friends to be happy.

Accept that she is not happy today.
Offer no advice on how to change her mood.
Be with her when she is irritable, and don’t make her feel guilty for it.
Let her know that although you don’t fully understand what she is going through, you believe every complaint she has, and you respect her strength in living through it.

Let her be.
Don’t force her to pretend.
Love is unconditional, after all.

Thanks for reading!
Be Brave, and Talk
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Worth Celebrating

It’s what every single one of us needs, desires.

It keeps us up at night.
It soothes us to sleep.

It saves us.
It redeems us.

It’s the reason we live, and the reason we’d die.

It’s powerful.
It’s universal.

It’s the beauty within our souls.

You saw him just an hour ago, but you’d give anything to bring him right back here. His touch lights a fire within you, the beauty of his face fills you with awe. You hear his voice, it makes you shiver. You breathe him in, it makes you heavy lidded and weak. His kiss is an intense rush, you can’t get enough. You bask in the heat that is your attraction, you never want it to end.
It’s a marvel.
It’s an addiction.
It may not be the deepest, but it’s certainly the most fun.
It’s physical.
It’s electrical.
It’s I-need-to-exchange-as-many-of-my-bodily-fluids-with-you-as-possible
Love.

You get that promotion at work, and the first person you think of telling is her. The touch of her hand comforts you, the beauty of her face makes you feel at home. You hear her voice, it makes you cringe, or miss her like crazy, depending on circumstances. Her kiss sends you to sleep each night, it wakes you up each morn. You relax in the laughter that fills your home, you never want it to end.
It’s taking for granted.
It’s appreciation.
It’s not always brimming with passion, but she’s certainly your best friend.
It’s intimate
It’s emotional.
It’s i-think-one-day-soon-I’m -going-to-ask-you-to-marry-me
Love.

You hold her close in the rocking chair, you’ll keep doing it as long as she needs. The touch of her soft skin brings you to tears, the beauty of her face fills you with awe. You hear her cry, you jump, ready to serve. You feed, you soothe, you clean until you are heavy lidded and weak. Her kisses are full of slobber, but still you can’t get enough. You savour the days you’re her number one, you never want it to end.
It’s exhausting.
It’s a gift.
It may not be the easiest, but it’s certainly the most powerful.
It’s unselfish.
It’s pure.
It’s I-didn’t-know-I-was-capable-of-this-much-feeling-until-I-had-you
Love.

You doze in the chair beside his bed, you’ll be there when he wakes up. The cold feel of his frail hand brings you to tears, the beauty of his face fills you with nostalgia. You hear his voice, you smile with relief. He smiles back, heavy lidded and weak. His gentle kiss gives you strength, you help him to stand up and walk. He leans on you, as you’ve leaned on him, you two will endure til the end.
It’s a thousand private jokes.
It’s connection of your souls.
It may not be the most sensual, but it’s certainly the most beautiful.
It’s rare.
It’s forever.
It’s Yes-Dear-of-course-I’ll-apply-the-hemmorrhoid-cream-for-you
Love.

You gaze at your reflection, appreciate every feature, accept every flaw. You know the person beneath the skin, her beauty fills you with pride. You’ve quieted the cruel voices within, fought til you were heavy lidded and weak. You forgive yourself, you take care of yourself, you remember you’re more than enough. You give thanks for each day, try to truly live each day, you’ve got one life and never know when it will end.
It’s victorious.
It’s essential.
It might not come easily, but you’re certainly worth the fight.
It’s all knowing.
It’s all accepting.
It’s before-you-give-your-heart-to-anyone-you’ve-got-to-realize-it’s-worth-yourself
Love.

It’s what every single one of us needs, desires.

It keeps us up at night.
It soothes us to sleep.

It saves us.
It redeems us.

It’s the reason we live, and the reason we’d die.

It’s powerful.
It’s universal.

It’s the light that endures all things.