How Not to Give Up On Yourself

June 13, 2017

Hey, everyone. Kristin from hope & grace here. I wanted to drop a personal note here because I just had an experience I wanted to share with you.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a few days in and out of the hospital.

If you have a mental health diagnosis, you’re probably aware of what this means. If you don’t or you’re just coming to this community, I’ll explain. As someone with chronic clinical depression, anxiety disorder, PTSD, and addiction, I have to manage my symptoms so they don’t get the best of me. The more I perform these activities, the further away from an episode or a relapse I get. It’s like taking vitamins or antibiotics: the immediate effect is relief, but the cumulative effect is more akin to resistance.

But when life turns upside down and I get away from these daily practices, I can get sick. The signs are all there: I isolate, forget to exercise, avoid social interaction at all costs, stop doing things I enjoy — that kind of thing. When it starts to get extreme, I overeat, shut the shades, turn on the tv, and sleep excessively. Personal care goes by the wayside at some point; there can be days without showering or washing my hair. Eventually, my world view gets smaller and smaller until it’s about the size of a pinhole, and that’s when my brain looks to check out completely. Things seem dark, hopeless…bleak. I start wondering why I’m even here. The crying pretty much never stops. Everything is terrifying or depressing. Eventually, if I catch myself starting to make a plan to leave this lovely earth we call home, I know I have to make a phone call.

Which is what I did. And I’m glad. It’s just what I needed to remind me to stay on top of my treatment plan.

If we’re not clear exactly what I’m talking about here, I’m speaking about suicide.

When this word comes up, it evokes a lot of strong emotion. Some people are sympathetic, others express pity mixed with deep concern, and then there’s the righteous anger crowd with the questions like how could you do this to your family, isn’t it against your religious beliefs, don’t you think it’s selfish, et cetera. While I understand that these questions are incredibly valid, I want to state for the record that suicidal ideation — just like every other aspect of mental illness — is not a character flaw. When your brain chemistry turns against your body and flips itself inside out, that is not a personality defect: it’s a chemical imbalance. If you’re trying to “snap yourself out of it” when you have an attack or a wave of crippling imbalance because you think you should be able to win a chess game with a biochemical upset, I’m here say it’s not your fault. You aren’t weak because you have a mental illness. You aren’t a bad person. Depression is real. Anxiety is real. Addiction is real. PTSD is very real. Eating disorders, psychosis, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, and everything else I have not mentioned is 100% real, and it’s not personal.

When your brain chemistry turns against your body, that is not a personality defect: it’s a chemical imbalance. If you yourself are suffering from a mental breakdown and you are trying to “snap yourself out of it” because you think that you should be able to win a chess game with a very real biochemical upset, I’m here to tell that it’s not your fault. You aren’t weak because you have a mental illness. You aren’t a bad person. Depression is real. Anxiety is real. Addiction is real. PTSD is very real. Eating disorders, psychosis, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, and everything else I have not mentioned at this moment — all of it is real, and none of it is your fault. Love yourself where you are right now. You’re still here. You aren’t selfish, depression isn’t laziness, anxiety isn’t a character defect, and waking up every morning with health conditions that are still incredibly misunderstood by society makes you amazing, brave, and pretty awesome in my book. Give yourself some credit. You rock. Stick around. It gets better.

Here’s the thing: at certain points in our lives, we have to ask for help with these disorders. We have to let down that wall we’ve built to prevent stigma or further upset in order to let the right people in so we can get better. I hate hospitals; I really, really hate them. But when I realized I was making a plan of how my mother could get my things out of my apartment after I was gone, I knew that I had to go. Inevitably, when the pain is so great that the brain will do ANYTHING to get out, there are people who want to help you. Is some of it annoying? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. So, go.

Because here’s the deal: life is worth living, and you get another shot at making it what you want it to be.

In those darkest moments where your world view gets small and dark, where your body hurts and your muscles feel filled with lead, and you just can’t do one more day of this, I want you to know that you are worth trying again. You can start your life over at any moment. As someone who has done this multiple times, I swear on my honor this is true. If you relapse as an addict, you can start your recovery again. If you just had your 2,451 panic attack, you can breathe your way to a moment of freedom. If you catch yourself in a manic state, go get help so you can try again. Some days, you just have to know that tomorrow can be better. And then the day after that might be even better than that. But if you give up on yourself, you’ll never know.

So, please….please, don’t give up on yourself.

It took me almost two solid weeks of puppy and animal videos, comedies on Netflix, and lots of naps to pull myself through it. I started working out again. I leave my house, get some fresh air. I back away from extraordinary stress. I’m seeing a new therapist, and we’re working on a protocol that may or may not include medication. If they prescribe it, I’ll take it. But I’m here because there are too many places in the world I haven’t seen, too many laughs left, and too many good days coming to let the bad days win. I will not give up on myself. I’m a hero in my book: I’ve saved my own life so many times I’ve lost count. And if you’re here right now, so have you. So, don’t do it. Make the call, reach out to your trusted sources, go find new ones if you need them, but get help. Tomorrow is better. Or maybe that next day will be.

Don’t give up on yourself. There’s a better way out there, and there are so many more of us out here living with these diagnoses than you realize. We must help each other. So, this is my way of reaching out. This is me, loving you until you can love yourself. You’re awesome. You’re beautiful…and you’re worth this amazing life you want to build. Stick around for it. You’re just getting started.