Dear Followers

Dear Followers,

I’m breaking my usual format for this post. Sometimes when I’m feeling frustrated about where I’m at, it helps to remember where I started and how far I’ve come. So I’m sharing more of my story as a message of hope for you and anyone else who is going through a hard time.

First, rock bottom.

Six years ago, my brother ended his life. It felt like mine had ended as well. No pain I had ever felt before came close to the crushing weight of grief, depression, and anxiety I experienced after his death. I was unemployed for six months (it took a year before I felt functional enough to handle a full-time job), had no savings, was running low on the money I had left, couldn’t get a restful night’s sleep, and felt trapped because I didn’t have hope for the future but I had also made the decision to never commit suicide either. I had the support of my amazing family and friends, but felt incredibly lonely. I had trouble concentrating, panic attacks, and frequently cried while feeling a searing pain ripping through my heart. I was a mess.

Then, my decision.

But as I mentioned, I made the nonnegotiable decision to live. And if I had to live, I figured I might as well try everything I possibly could to become better. I tried many things: therapy, doctors, talking to friends, writing, yoga, running, massages, eating healthy, getting a pet, practicing gratefulness, helping others, taking care of myself (to name the more constructive ones) and more. I didn’t start every day filled with motivating drive and shining optimism to tackle my demons. There were days I would wake up defeated. I usually felt tired, weak, and in pain. But I kept fighting.

Now, where I am today.

After years of fighting, I’m doing better. I had no job, now I have a great one and am building a career. I felt alone and didn’t want to meet anyone new, now I have an amazing fiancé. I never thought I would feel happiness again, and it still amazes me that now I do. I have more energy and am in less pain. Mentally and physically, I’m in a much better place.

I still have anxiety, but I’m working at getting rid of it and it’s improving. I still have moments of sadness and miss Daniel every damn day. I’m still on the road to personal wellbeing, but I am leaps and bounds from where I was six years ago. I still have a long way to go, but I have hope.

When you’re feeling down and defeated and done, I just want you to remember you have  greater impact on others than you realize. Things can get better if you keep trying.

Make the decision to live and make the decision to fight.

♥♥

On Staying Alive

Dear Daniel,

Since you died, I’ve felt this extra responsibility to stay alive for Mom and Dad. I love them so much and they’re great parents that didn’t deserve to lose one of their kids and definitely don’t deserve to lose both. But life isn’t fair and I can’t control everything that happens to me, and that has been causing part of my anxiety. I know I can’t be fully responsible for their happiness and wellbeing, but it upsets me when I think of what their life might be like without both of us.

On Talking About Therapy

Dear Daniel,

I’ve been more open about talking about therapy and EMDR with people. It started from something I noticed in San Francisco: a couple of coworkers whom I admire and respect would occasionally casually mention going to therapy. It was the casual part that caught my attention because yeah, it’s nothing to be ashamed of and yes, it’s not always a big deal. They were normalizing it, which is something I want to continue to do and hopefully inspire others to do like they did for me.

On Mental Illness

Dear Daniel,

It’s hard for me to accept that I have a mental illness. When I think of what my goals are this year, I feel a twinge of embarrassment to say it’s working on my mental health. I know I shouldn’t. The stigma is going away and I wouldn’t judge anyone who said the same. Why does it seem like everyone else is so much better at coping with grief or sadness or anxiety or stress? I exercise. I do yoga, meditation, breathing, visualization, therapy, eat healthy, and surround myself with friends and family. Why is it so hard for me? I’m still trying. I still miss you. I love you forever and wish you were here.

On EMDR

Dear Daniel,

EMDR has been the most helpful thing I’ve done since Landmark. Even with a therapist that wasn’t a good fit, I saw progress. It’s helping me process traumatic memories and change negative thoughts like “I should’ve known better” to “I did the best I could at the time” (and actually believing it). It’s removing some of the physical pain associated with those bad memories. It’s even getting me through baggage unrelated to you that I forgot or didn’t realize I had. And it’s reducing my anxiety, the main reason I started it.

On Being Open to Help

Dear Daniel,

I recently asked Mom & Dad about trying EMDR and was disappointed that they weren’t interested. And I realized recommendations don’t matter if people aren’t already partially open to trying it. I get it, I’m that way too. Sometimes you’re just not ready to try things. You don’t think you need them. You don’t want to, or it’s a lot of effort. I just want our parents to heal like I’m starting to. We all miss you, and our family is incomplete without you.

Year 6

Dear Daniel,

This year felt like a step back. Anxiety started to become part of my daily life, with constant headaches and tiredness. I felt it straining my relationships and fueling my insecurities. I had a really rough time at my future brother-in-law’s wedding and other holidays. But, I started EMDR therapy and things are turning around. Every year feels like forever without you, but somehow 6 have already gone by. I miss you and love you always.

On Jokes About Suicide

Dear Daniel,

I never really noticed how often people joke about killing themselves until your suicide. I was guilty of it too, but I no longer do. Even some of my friends can’t help it – it’s so casual that they don’t even think about who they’re saying it to. Some friends catch themselves and immediately feel terrible and apologize, some don’t even realize it. I don’t fault people for it, being a previous offender myself. But I wonder how many people I’ve accidentally hurt in the past without realizing it. And I wish I had been more sensitive then, instead of now just because it happened to me.

On My Relationship

Dear Daniel,

Growing up, I heard the phrase “find someone who brings out the best in you”. I feel very fortunate that I have. My fiancé helps and supports me in so many ways, and our relationship plays a big part in me pushing myself to become better. I know my anxiety and depression affect him, just like how when he’s feeling down it affects me. It’s because of this that I keep working on myself – and have even gone back to therapy (something I probably would’ve put off for a long time). I know the better I am, the better he and our relationship will be. I’m still sad you two never met, and we’ll really miss you on our wedding day. Love you, bro.

On Anxiety Meds

Dear Daniel,

My anxiety was worsening, so I asked my doctor for something I could take on an “as needed” basis. I was given a prescription and it works… but, it makes it difficult to wake up and I feel foggy for a long while after. So if I have bad anxiety, it’s a choice between feeling really terrible through the night or feeling clouded and out of it the next day. I’m not a fan of either, but it’s a short-term solution. Mental illness is a bitch. Thinking of you more as another birthday passes and the holidays approach. Love and miss you always.