Year 7

Dear Daniel,

I can’t believe it has been almost 7 years. This year I did a lot of therapy work which was emotionally draining, but I think it’s paying off. I still have anxiety, but I can feel progress. Thanksgiving was the first holiday since you passed that I was able to spend with family (not ours, but still) and not feel anxious and have a good time. I still feel grief and sadness but the sharp physical pains and downward spirals are mostly gone. Thinking back on past memories still make me really sad, so maybe that’s what I’ll tackle next year. I love you and wish you were still here.

One Year of Therapy

Dear Daniel,

It’s been a little over a year (and my first time going through the holidays) since I started EMDR therapy. Overall, my anxiety has dropped and I am more self-aware and better at coping when I feel anxious. I had a couple of mini panic attacks at the beginning of November, but I was able to spend 4 hours with my husband’s family for Thanksgiving without feeling sad or anxious. I still feel depressed around your birthday, but I don’t have the sharp pains in my chest I used to get. And I think one of the best things it has done is strengthen my relationship with my husband.

It wasn’t easy in the beginning – dealing with anxiety, him not understanding, both of us low on patience, and me feeling like I was battling on my own. Now I feel like I’m not in it alone and that I have a partner going to battle with me. That we’ve grown together. Being able to talk to him about my sessions and watching him listen and grow more compassionate and turn into my greatest supporter has meant more than I can say.

Sometimes I wonder if you would still be here if you had tried therapy or talked to more of us about your pain. I know you only left because you felt you had no hope. I love you and still miss you so much.

On Commenting on Suicide on Social Media

Dear Daniel,

It’s been a long time since I’ve commented on suicide on social media when suicide is in the news. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’m very conscious of any message I put out there and I’m not sure how to approach it because I have conflicting thoughts and feelings.

Many people share things like the suicide hotline and encourage others to reach out if they need help. Depression (at least in my experience) doesn’t make me want to reach out to anyone, even if I know I have support. And I don’t think a blanket broadcast to your whole network saying “you can reach out to me” is impactful with something so personal. I think some of the intentions are good, and also realize that I am just one person with one set of beliefs. Maybe someone would reach out or actually call the hotline.

Others are saying that it’s on us to reach out if we see someone struggling or notice they’ve disappeared or any other signs. I agree that we should reach out if we see anything, but I think the message of “it’s up to us to reach out” is dangerous because it could be interpreted as us being responsible for others’ lives and choices. Maybe we all are to some degree. But as a survivor who’s had to work through all kinds of guilt and unhealthy grieving, it hits me wrong.

I’ve thought about sharing this blog, but I don’t want it to be like I’m making it about me. I’ve wanted to be part of the conversation but it’s either been too painful or I don’t know/am worried about what to say. Even though I take issue with some of the things people post, I am glad that people are talking more about mental health. I hope the more we as a society talk about it, the less stigma there will be around mental illness and getting help for it.

I think ultimately I haven’t said anything because I’m just not ready. So for now, I’ll continue to just share my thoughts here and in-person with my close friends. I love and miss you.

 

 

On Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain

Dear Daniel,

Not since Robin Williams have I seen so many people talk about suicide this week. It’s surreal and sad. Many of my friends and family know I love Kate Spade’s brand and I worried whether or not someone would bring it up to me – not intending to cause me pain or make me uncomfortable but just to connect with me. And I thought of all the times my husband used to pull up Anthony Bourdain’s show before our trips, and how I almost bought tickets to his show as a gift but thought they were just too expensive for us at the time…

It’s also scary to think that Kate was getting help – on medication, seeing doctors – and her mental illness still won in the end. And I remember after you died learning that after a suicide there could be more shortly after and wondered if Kate Spade affected Anthony Bourdain and if they affected even more people, given their level of fame. Not blaming of course – just thinking about how people don’t realize the impact they make on others or at least don’t realize or minimize it when they’re in a deep state of depression. I get it. When you’re in that much pain, it’s hard to think about anything else other than being free of it.

Things like this remind me that you were in that much pain. I know you loved us all very much. We all love you. I just wish there was more you and we could’ve done to help you get better. Miss you always.

On Our Home, Pt. 2

Dear Daniel,

Mom & Dad are almost ready to sell their house… our home. I think it’s good and that it will help them to move on. But it’s also really sad thinking of all the memories we had there. Every happy memory feels sad and every bad memory feels worse. It’s been six and a half years and I still want to shove down memories of you. They’re still painful to think about. My daily life has adjusted to this new reality without you, but I still wish you were here. I can’t believe I’ll never see you again. I love you so much.

On My Wedding, Pt. 3

Dear Daniel,

I’m now married! It was an incredible day and truly the happiest I’ve ever felt in my life. It feels weird to say that and I immediately feel sad and guilty because it’s hard to wrap my head around being happier – for even a moment – in life post-you than when you were still here. I still very much missed you and wished you were there, and the hardest part for me was saying hi to your best friend. I was worried Mom and Dad wouldn’t have a good time, but I think they did, even if there were moments of sadness. We all love and miss you so much.

On Feeling Anxious

Dear Daniel,

I hate feeling anxious. Feeling overwhelmed by the smallest decision or task. Feeling scared. Thinking about every worst-case scenario. Feeling like my skin is crawling. Feeling tired and insecure. Feeling selfish because I focus on myself and am just trying to survive. I’m grateful therapy has been a big help and that I’ve made progress. But I still feel guilty about how my anxiety takes a toll on my husband and my relationships with others.

A Small Victory

Dear Daniel,

Yesterday, I agreed to go to a networking event with my sister-in-law. Today, I was feeling anxious and ready to bail. I physically felt my body resist and every fiber of my being wanted to cancel. I could’ve texted her and explained what was happening and she would’ve understood. I’ve done it many times before and I’m okay with doing what I need to do to take care of myself. But today, I was able to fight through it, got myself in my car, and went. It’s a tiny victory, but a victory nonetheless – and a little reminder that I’m still making progress.

On My Wedding, Pt. 2

Dear Daniel,

I’m a month away from getting married and am very excited. But I’m also really sad that you won’t be there. It’s not just that you won’t be there that day – it feels like a reminder that you’re not here every day before or every day after. It’s been a struggle lately and I’m just trying to get through each day. I miss you and I love you so much.

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.

♥♥