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suicide

Meet Ariella. This is her Story of Dysthymia,  Suicide and Anxiety + How She Continues to Find Comfort in Exercise

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Meet Ariella. This is her Story of Dysthymia, Suicide and Anxiety + How She Continues to Find Comfort in Exercise

Lesson no. 1: never judge a book by its cover.

 

I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York and am the eldest of three children.  My father is a physician, mother a nurse, brother a 22 year old division 1 hockey player “life of the party”, and sister the full package of beauty and brains at 20.  Then there’s me, Ariella- 25 years old with a mind comparable to a watch that continues to tell time even when the battery dies.  But that’s not all; there is more, so much more.

 

Since before I can remember, I have always felt different.

Not different in the way I looked or acted, but different in the way my mind worked.  Let’s be real – what kid doesn’t feel like an outcast at one point or another?  I convinced myself I was just like everybody else and kept on keeping on with my life because at the end of the day, the mind is an inanimate object that couldn’t be operated on to change it’s makeup.  And physical medicine was all I had known being raised by two parents in the medical field.  

 

As the years passed and I moved through milestone stages in my life, this feeling of being different seemed to become more prevalent on a day to day basis and the struggle became very real.  But-nobody would know, because from the outside, my life was perfect.  I was a goody two-shoes- a sociable, intelligent pretty girl, with a dream wardrobe, a cookie cutter family, and a smile on my face.  Always.

What could possibly be wrong with someone who is always happy and has it all, am I right? 

 

Let’s jump to the part of the story where Ariella is in her third year of high school (sorry for the weird third person interjection – sometimes I like talking about myself as if I’m someone else doing it).  The word “therapist” was one that I began to learn more about and thought maybe I should see one.  Speaking to someone about this weird feeling that wouldn’t go away, but kept getting worse, sounded like a good idea.  

 

At my first session, I was diagnosed with Dysthymia, persistent mild depression.  Keep in mind – nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors and there were many things other than my genetic makeup that were affecting my feelings.  Well, okay, I guess that made sense considering staying in my bedroom watching TV was always the better alternative to doing pretty much anything else.  I continued going to therapy as needed and felt little improvement.  It was a bonus to have an unbiased ear to listen to your problems that nobody knows about-

But this did not fix me. 

 

Off to college I went; my first semester was spent in London, England.  That’s when I really began understanding depression because I felt different in more than just my own mind; my physical self was beginning to have a tough time as well.  It was a very long and dragged out slippery slope, but it was only the beginning of what hell I was about to go through.  When I returned from London, I FINALLY had a word for my overall feeling of being different: Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

 

My third semester of college was in the fall of 2012.  I was going through the motions of being a college student.  Going to class, doing my homework, partying, breaking rules, and “living it up”.  That is far from what I felt like I was doing though, I felt more down and out than ever before.  I began Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with a private therapist near my school.  Then the straw broke the camel’s back. I lost all sense of myself and felt like more of a black sheep in a world of white sheep than I ever had before.

I had a full on mental breakdown my spring semester of 2013.  

 

The crying spells were endless, my appetite nonexistent, and here comes that S word- Suicide was all I could think about.  I didn’t want to be here anymore.  I found the idea of being somewhere other than in my physical body much more beautiful.  I had no plan and did not want to die, but I just wanted to be gone.  I wanted to be in a place where my mind didn’t make things so fucking complicated for me at every second of every day.  

 

I spent 24 hours in a Psychiatric hospital after insisting on going to the ER.  It led to my decision to take the semester off of school and get my feet back on the ground again.  What the actual fuck was I doing?  Here I am about to embarrass my parents for having a kid with a mental illness.  My friends are going to cut me off because who wants to be friends with a crazy girl?  Everyone is going to think that either I have been living a lie or am lying about what I am going through.  I’ll never be able to live my “normal” life again.

 

Oh to have the brain of someone with GAD … Meanwhile, back on the ranch (in Buffalo, not at school), I began to see a Psychiatrist and spent months testing and disputing different medications because I concluded after being in years of therapy, I needed a bit of extra help.

 And so began my road to recovery, a recovery that is lifelong.

 

That was 5 years ago. I was younger then and new to the mental illness club.  (I hate to call it that, a mental illness.  It’s such a degrading and ugly phrase.  You will often hear me refer to it as being different and mental health issues because in my eyes, it’s just like any other illness, but with a not so nice title.)  Every day brings about new obstacles, but every day I am learning what helps me be able to function.

Writing is my love.  I began writing during my semester off from school about my experience and have been writing ever since.  It’s scary as shit talking about something that is not accepted by most of society, but it’s opened up my eyes to how many people I can help by simply sharing my story.  Being consistent with it is not my strong suit, but getting my body moving serves as an instant mood boost.  Some days getting out of bed is what I consider to be exercise, but on other days I go on long walks, do a SoulCycle class, or a virtual workout.

Exercise has never failed to comfort me.

 

There are so many things I can and want to say about my experience living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression, but I can’t give away every detail that I want to include in my (one day) book.  So I will leave you with an easy to read bulleted list for those struggling with their mental health and those who know someone who is.

 

If it’s YOU:

• You are not alone.  I know first hand that more often than not it feels like you are in isolation, but I promise you are not alone.

• You are allowed to talk about it.  People will always hear what they want to hear and refute what they disagree with.  Guess what – this is your life and not for them to decide how you are supposed to live it.

• Not everyone will understand what you go through day in and day out, and some may not even accept it.  Don’t be discouraged by it.

• You are just as much a human as everybody else.  If others are going to treat you differently for opening up, change your surroundings.

 

If it’s a LOVED ONE:

• Don’t take anything personally.  When you are not wanted around, it has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with how your loved one is feeling.

• Don’t tell without being asked.  Suggesting ways to deal with their mental health to loved ones may seem to be in their best interest, but it’s not the case.  Chances are they have tried everything in the book at one point or another, especially if their diagnosis is nothing new.

• Just be there.  When I am not in a good place, sometimes all I need is someone to physically be there, even if it means sitting on the couch with me in silence. 

• Educate yourself.  It’s hard to relate to something you don’t experience first hand, but there are so many resources available for you to learn more about mental ailments. 

 

Being you is the best you can be.

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Meet Alli. This is her Story

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Meet Alli. This is her Story

August 8th, 2004 is a day that will forever leave a painful mark on my heart.


It was a Sunday morning that started like many other mornings; I slept in, grabbed a glass of water and went downstairs to find my parents to start our day. I picked up my pace heading down the stairs, and that’s when I heard some painful gasps- which I soon learned was coming from my Dad. I walked into his office in the basement to find him hunched over in my Moms arms, crying (which I had never seen) and I knew.


To give you some context, let me tell you about Garrett.


Garrett was my half brother (we shared the same amazing Dad). We had a big age difference and lived in different cities- but we were very close. Garrett was a top shelf, full package guy. He was tall, good looking, had killer hair, was active, a marathon runner, loved to cook, drove a Volkswagen and a motorcycle, had great style, was kind, thoughtful, knew his wines and was an Air Canada Pilot. Pretty solid line up, right?


This is why I was beyond excited to move to Toronto (where Garrett lived) after being accepted into Ryerson University. Not only that, Garrett lived in a loft near the Campus so I was going to get to see him regularly- team workouts, team dinners, you name it... there was so much to look forward to!


We first learned of Garrett’s battle with Bipolar Disorder when he was diagnosed with the illness in the year 2000. What followed was a four year battle for Garrett and our family that had many peaks and valleys. Garrett was very aware of his battle and looked for some alternative therapies to help him through his illness; this is where he developed a love for running. Like many things Garrett did, he nailed the whole marathon running thing pretty much immediately! He ran the Toronto Marathon, New York City Marathon and always dreamed of doing the Boston Marathon.


My parents and I lived in Winnipeg during this time, so my dad was making regular visits to Toronto to spend time with Garrett. Garrett also spent time flying back and forth to Winnipeg.


Garrett had planned to attend my high school graduation in June of 2004 but unfortunately wasn’t able to make it. He was feeling very “off” that month and admitted himself to the hospital to seek appropriate treatment. Though I missed having him join us for that milestone, I understood. I had already been accepted to Ryerson by that time so we knew we had lots to look forward to....


On August 8th, 2004 Garrett took his own life.


Despite a lot of opinions and questions, I moved to Toronto at the end of August 2004 and completed my four year Fashion Communications program at Ryerson.


I have since had some incredible career experiences, met some very special friends, met my husband, bought a house and have run 10K and 15K races in memory of Garrett. Fitness became a very powerful outlet for me throughout my grieving process and more so a way for me to feel connected to him. Running to a good playlist will make me think of him, boxing will release any pent up emotions or anger and yoga helps me to connect my mind + body and feel deep gratitude for a beautiful life.


There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my brother. Losing someone to suicide leaves you with so many unanswered questions and painful feelings.
Though I miss Garrett terribly, I know he is at peace and watching over me and my family.
We talk about Garrett often and toast him on his birthday, Christmas and even the anniversary of his passing.

Life is still meant to be celebrated.

 When we celebrated Garrett’s 10 year anniversary, I wanted to celebrate it on a bigger level and do an event in his honour and in support of Mental Health. I had the opportunity to partner with the incredible team at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) for this event, as well as many others these last few years.


Mental health awareness has become a big passion of mine and something that I will always support. I have found that being open and honest about my experience with losing Garrett has not only helped my grieving process over the years but I have been able to use it to help others.


Losing Garrett has taught me many life lessons- but most of all to appreciate and enjoy life.

You only get one, so be sure to live it to the fullest.

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Meet Holly. This is her Story

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Meet Holly. This is her Story

On the evening of April 15th, 2014, I got the call from my dad that my sister, Christine, was gone. It is the one moment in my life that I will never forget. I remember every detail down to the moment where I collapsed to the floor as though all the strength left my body. All I could do was pound my fists to the floor and scream "No! No! No!"

Words cannot express the type of pain that shoots through your heart; reaching every inch of your body, or the amount of disbelief that overtakes you.

 

For the rest of my life, I am without my sister. How could this happen? She was young. She was successful. She had a 5 year old son. She had so many friends and family who loved her. She was beautiful and kind, and witty beyond belief. How could she possibly take her own life?

 

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I had a bad day at work. I came home, made dinner, fell to the couch with whatever crappy dinner I made for myself. I put my feet up and took a breath. Then my phone rang. I looked at the screen to see who was calling. It was my parents. Ugh. I did not want to talk to them. I did not want to talk about my day. I wanted everyone to leave me the hell alone. I let it ring. I wasn’t going to answer, but a feeling came over me that told me I should. With zero enthusiasm I answered. My dad said my name with a quivering voice. I perked up, wide eyed. I knew something was wrong, and then there they were; the words I never thought I would hear, ever.

“Holly <my dad sniffling>…Holly <my dad bursting into tears>…I’m so sorry. You’re sister killed herself this morning.”

 

“Killed herself”. What a fucked up concept. What a completely unbelievable thought. Did she kill herself or did she kill the pain? How could she go through with it? Why didn’t she talk to me? It’s her birthday in 9 days. We had plans. How could she? How long was she suffering? 1 million questions ran through my mind that night, the next morning, the next week, months later, years later even to this day 4 years later. I had never lost someone so close before. You hear about suicide all the time but words cannot express the all consuming feeling that clings onto you and reaches deep into your soul after the unthinkable happens. Suddenly your entire world comes to a halt. While everything freezes in time, your mind still manages to go 100 miles a minute; going over all the times you meant to call and didn’t. All the times she seemed upset and backed out on plans and you didn’t dig deeper to learn why. Why did it take this to realize the extent of her pain? Was I too caught up in my own shit to notice? Was I selfish? Did I not ask enough questions? Did I not show her enough support? Did she know I loved her and looked up to her? Did I tell her that enough?

 

The most difficult thing to do after losing a loved one to suicide it to not blame yourself. I think because we are never prepared for it, it leaves us with so many questions. We will never know their final thought. We will never know exactly what it was that caused them to end things at the moment they ended it. The only thing we can do is grow from it. It feels selfish at first to move on and build positivity through something so shattering, but it’s important to remember that grief still happens in between it all. Grieving is crucial. Nobody is ever better off avoiding the feelings of losing a loved one. Things will never be the same. There will always be that empty spot at the dining table at Christmas. Every year that passes will still mark birthdays and anniversaries. You cannot avoid something that is so blatantly in front of you, every day. All you can do is embrace it. Learn from it.
 

Christine enters my mind in some way every day. I embrace the thoughts of her because I loved her and always will. I choose to remember her because she deserves to be remembered. I tell stories about her because she was alive and she deserves to live on. Her son will want to know all about her one day and it’s my duty to be open to that, for him. Keeping her memory alive is far better than pretending her life and death didn’t happen. It was all real so pretending is not an option.

 

I’m grateful for what Christine has taught me. I know now how important my own mental health is. I need to take care of myself. I need to be open with my feelings and talk when things feel overwhelming or confusing. I need to pay attention to others and what they’re going through because they are likely to feel a lot of the same things I do. I need to be an ear for them. It’s time we all start to ask questions. Even when it seems like someone isn’t hurting; talk anyway. It's amazing what comes to the surface when you open up. I don’t know why there’s a stigma attached to something that effects each and every one of us, but it’s time to kick it to the curb. We have all seen what poor mental health can do to those around us, so it’s time we all support one another. Everyone deserves to be seen. Everyone deserves to be heard. Nobody deserves to live a life chained to the burden of mental illness.

 

To help fight mental health stigma, join me at #AxeTheStigma on June 16th at BATL Kitchener, 69 Agnes Steet.

This is for Christine. This is for all of you. You are here and you matter.

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/axe-the-stigma-tickets-45244681059

 

Email: axe.the.stigma@gmail.com

Instagram: @axe.the.stigma

Twitter: @axe.the.stigma

 

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