A Night With TWLOHA

A Night With TWLOHA

"I'm so glad I'm still here for this."
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Last night I went to a TWLOHA event to see Jamie Tworkowski speak. If you've never heard of it before, TWLOHA stands for To Write Love On Her Arms. It is an organization dedicated to ending the mental illness stigma and helping people who are struggling to find help and support. It was a night filled with some heavy moments, but also moments of victory and celebration as well.

Jamie shared some heartbreaking statistics with us, like the fact that over 2.2 million Americans have depression, but 2/3 of those people do NOT receive the help they need. So let's get real.

Depression favors no one. It is not pitiful, it does not make you weak, and it does not have to be a secret. It does not have to be a deal breaker or a burden that you cannot live with. Depression can be managed, and we have the power to choose what we do with it. But here's the thing, NONE of that is attainable if you're unwilling to bring your depression into the light. You cannot heal what is hidden. I know, the dark seems safer than the light. And the truth is almost always harder than a lie. Our hearts love to hide. But we have to face pain either way. The pain of change or the pain of staying the same. And one lasts much longer than the other.

I know it sucks, and the stigma sucks right along side of it. But we are moving in the right direction. Individuals are becoming more open minded about mental health the more we speak out about it. When I was diagnosed with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) and saw it written on paper, it made me cringe. I felt the stigma, I felt the label in my own mind.

But so what? I decided that, that piece of paper was not going to define me. It would never define who I was or how I lived. It's a diagnosis, not an identity. I believe more than ever that who we are in Christ will never be overruled by a mental health professional.

Okay, so maybe you decide to open up and talk about your depression. You go to the doctor, maybe they diagnose you. Now what? Well let me tell you first off, medication is NOT bad. I've been on an anti-depressant for over a year and it has changed my life. It helps me drastically, and I am so grateful for it. Saying no is fine, but there is a ton of spiritual and mental care that needs to follow. Depression is not just fixed by a pill. It's a hurt deep in the heart at times. While other times it is chemical. But having someone to do life with- we all need. Depressed or not.

We need to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. Push yourself. Push until you're exhausted, and work at it everyday. Each moment makes you stronger. Be brave. You are so brave. You are so loved. And you underestimate your ability. Fight as hard as you can, and don't give up. One day you will think to yourself, "I"m so glad I'm still here for this."

Cover Image Credit: Jessica Sirnic

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Dealing With Anxiety And Depression In College Is Hard, But You're Never By Yourself

My struggles only made me stronger, and God is preparing me for something much bigger.

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Anxiety and depression are two things I've struggled with all of my life, but they were also two things I could never put a name to. In middle school, I believed my mannerisms were something everyone else around me was going through as well.

High school was okay because I was constantly surrounded by people I loved, but as soon as I got to college, it was as if I transformed into this completely different person. My grades dropped, I was losing weight, I was constantly sick, and it felt as if no one around me knew what I was going through or even really cared.

But I'm here to tell you that that's definitely not the case.

Before I could fix myself, I had to name what I was going through, and I think that was the hardest part. I was ashamed to say I faced anxiety and depression because I didn't want to come off as broken. I'd always been known as that "bright and smart" girl, someone who was always smiling and optimistic about whatever she was facing. Someone who always loved everyone else and had no time to worry about herself because she was constantly putting others first.

I was so afraid to label myself as these negative things because I've always been taught the more you label yourself, the more you're limiting yourself from reaching your full potential. But when I was labeled as optimistic, I felt I had no right to be down about things. When I was labeled as smart, anytime I didn't reach the highest level of success, I felt like a failure. When I was labeled as selfless, I felt as though I had no right to worry about myself or my own wellbeing.

The sooner I accepted the feelings I was facing and that I wasn't the only one facing them, the sooner I was able to heal.

The sooner I realized it was all in my head, the easier it was to get rid of those feelings. I began to learn that the trials I was facing weren't normal like my middle school self had convinced me they were, but after being able to name what I was going through, I was able to accept it as it was and push myself to heal. And by push, I mean literally push. I stopped calling my family during breakdowns and instead listened to music that distracted me. I stopped canceling plans with my friends and forced myself to go out because I knew I would have a good time if I just went. I stopped skipping meals just so I wouldn't have to walk across the quad, and my body is thanking me for it every day.

I realized it was okay to feel sorry for myself, but feeling sorry for myself didn't have to include moping around all day. Instead, I started treating myself to getting my nails done, splurging on those new boots, or small things such as buying ice cream with the spare change in my glove compartment. Feeling sorry for myself meant going above and beyond to make myself smile, worshipping more to heal my heart, and spending more time with the people I love to feel whole again.

Now I'm healing, but it's still something I still struggle with to this day. I still think about skipping meals, my anxiety attempting to convince me not to take the short walk across the quad. I still think about bailing out on hanging out with friends. I still think about skipping class. I still struggle with seeing the positive things about waking up in the mornings, wanting nothing more but to curl into a ball and cry until I fall asleep again.

I still struggle with naming the things that I'm feeling, and where they come from, but I'm also learning.

I'm learning not to be ashamed of who I am. I'm learning to find joy in the little things, such as a warmer day than the one before, or a free coffee from the little breakfast shop. I'm learning that what I'm going through doesn't make me weak. I'm learning that I'm not a burden, and the faster you can accept what you're feeling, the faster you'll be able to heal, too.

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