“Strong Face” #NSPW14 #NSPW #SuicidePrevention #MHBlog #MentalHealth

Last night I had my first anxiety attack in several months…

Today, my first full blown “breakdown” accompanied by the question, “Why am I here?”

All of this was brought on by not expressing the fact that I had/have been having one of my “depressive episodes” (for some reason I don’t like calling it that, but that’s what it is… textbook). For a while I have been sort of isolating, hiding how I feel, and believing there isn’t anyone I can talk to because I put on the funny face or I’m always attempting to be supportive of others, which doesn’t leave time for me to fully express myself. It’s only by the grace of God that I even had the energy to listen to anyone for the past week.

Which of course is the reason why my sleep was interrupted by an anxiety attack and I finally broke down today.

You see the thing is, I’ve always been taught either directly or indirectly that I needed to be strong. Even within my family, since the male presence didn’t really exist much, the females had to take on roles they were never meant to and that of course passed down to me. There are many instances in which I had to put on my “strong face.” For example:

– I was raised with the notion that you can’t tell people most if not all things because it could be perceived as weakness, and those things could be used against you.
– I was molested from 7-9 with the belief that me speaking about it was weakness, and that “our little secret” gave me power.
– Oddly enough, subconsciously (and this is in retrospect) that instance of sexual abuse led me to cover EVERYTHING. My emotions, and let’s just say I dressed pretty warmly regardless of the weather.
– When I was raped as a teenager I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want to be seen as a victim and since everyone knew me to be a tomboy by this point, I believed that no one would believe that I couldn’t fight back.
– When my grandmother passed away it took me years to fully grieve her loss, because at the time of her death I was being strong for my mother (shhh… don’t tell her that).
– Hearing the phrase “You are so strong” from damn near everyone, which meant that I had to live up to that (so I thought… I mean.. err.. still think sometimes).
– Having what is perceived as a weak moment and being rejected because of it.
– Living in a culture where the belief is that I needed to strengthen my Christian walk or that I was not fully with Christ if my emotions were not in check (luckily for me, I haven’t stopped believing and a quick sidenote: there are many who Christians deal with mental health issues yet still have a strong belief in God. It is VERY possible, as mental illness is not discriminatory).
– Having to keep silent (or being kept silent) after both of my suicide attempts, and not revealing to the world I did so until starting You’re Not Finished in 2012.

The theme of this recent episode and breakdown: I am SO tired of being strong.

It was only after I calmed down enough that I was able to realize that, it’s almost impossible for people to support me in moments like these because it is engrained in me to prove to others I don’t need said support, and since actions tend to speak louder than words my “strong face” is going to overwhelmingly be louder than me asking for help.

Now don’t get me wrong, with time, growth, and true openness there have been great moments of support and love from those closest to me… and I’m confident it will happen again once I hit “Publish” at the end of this post.

Just like I am confident that there is a strong possibility that I will get depressed, isolate, and potentially have suicidal thoughts in another episode after this one. But those episodes are less frequent and don’t last as long as they used to. Those anxiety attacks have gone from daily to rarely.

I am living proof that it does get better, because I went from putting on a strong face to being one of the strong faces that is an advocate for preventing suicide and raising awareness for mental illness and mood disorders.

If you feel like you always have to put on a strong/brave face there is help available for you, and many people including myself that can relate to you. There is hope, survivors. You and I will go from surviving… to thriving; and we’ll never be the same again. Much love.

Depression Hotline: 1-630-482-9696
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-8433
LifeLine: 1-800-273-8255

[Written in collaboration with 100 Voices for Suicide Prevention, hosted by the Masters of Social Work program at the University of Southern California. Follow them on Twitter @MSWatUSC, and get more resources and support from them here: http://msw.usc.edu/category/100-voices-for-suicide-prevention/

More helpful resources online at: https://yourenotfinished.com/get-help-2/%5D

Listen… #suicideprevention #WSPD #WSPD14 #MHBlog #TW

I’ve tried really hard to only post when I’m feeling adequate enough to provide hope for people who struggle with suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, and/or other mood disorders… and I’ve been pretty successful at it.

This isn’t to say that this post won’t do the same, mind you, but I am going to be honest and this could potentially trigger others’ feelings. My hope is that it more so encourages others to be open instead of secluding themselves and feeding into suicidal thoughts today.

It’s almost 3 years to the day since I attempted suicide (September 21, 2011), and I thank God that attempt wasn’t “successful.”

The problem I have been having recently however, is that I have come to realize that this is the only way I can express in depth my thoughts and feelings about suicide; behind a computer. I can only think of a handful of times in the last 3 years where I have actually had the opportunity to physically open my mouth and talk about something this serious without someone trying to shut me up or thinking I’m overreacting or just want attention… and it caused me to wonder if other suicide attempt survivors feel the same way.

So here’s the truth.

On the morning of September 21, 2011, I made the decision to end my life. On the afternoon of the same day, I had began to regret telling anyone my plans because if I hadn’t told anyone then I would have been dead. After I left the mental health hospital I received a good amount of support, but I knew things were different. Talks and outings with friends and family that were supposed to happen never did, and for almost two years after that I still lived in regret with a drink in my hand and a smile on my face.

Who could I possibly express this pain to? In my mind, the last person I was able to be open to bailed when things got too difficult and since I seemed to be living in a perpetual cycle of people walking away from me that wasn’t an option.

Fast forward to February 2, 2012 which marks the creation of this site. I made it with the intention of allowing suicide attempt survivors, including myself, to use their voice to get help and support/raise awareness and help others do the same, even if it’s just one. I wholeheartedly believe that support from people who have been through some of the same things I have goes a long way, and I know it has proven true for others as well. 

It’s only by the grace of God and a change of atmosphere that I’ve been able to live an increasingly abundant life, alcohol-free. Do I still get depressed? Sure. Has attempting suicide crossed my mind? Rarely these days, but yes. I can’t lie about that.

If you’re out there and you know someone struggling with mood disorders and suicidal thoughts, just listen. Even if you don’t, listen anyway. Listen more with the intention of understanding and less with the intention of solving the problem. Listen more with love and less with judgement.

But for those who are struggling, listen when I say to please give yourself a chance to create a better life for yourself. Give yourself an opportunity to find someone who will just listen to you, or to let them find you. I haven’t found that person yet, but that doesn’t mean I won’t.

Stay hopeful, stay strong.
Much love, survivors.

Get Help: https://yourenotfinished.com/get-help-2/

Depression Hotline: 1-630-482-9696
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-8433
LifeLine: 1-800-273-8255
Runaway: 1-800-843-5200, 1-800-843-5678, 1-800-621-4000

Guest Post: Asian-American Stigma by @AliTanaka1 #MentalHealth #MHblog #NoStigma

I was one of the 27% of Asian Americans who sought treatment for my depression, anxiety, and ADD. Despite all that time I spent in a windowless office on a sticky faux leather couch pouring out my heart to a stranger and the subsequent antidepressants, nothing worked.

My body rejected every form of medication I downed.

Yes, I have the most sensitive body on the planet that reacts to everything I put in my mouth.

Unlike a lot of Asian parents, my parents didn’t try to gloss over the fact that I was depressed. They were actually the ones who brought me into therapy. While I could go on for pages about how they destroyed my adolescence, you lovely readers didn’t come here for a blow-by-blow account of how awful our relationship was.

All you need to know is that every time I asked my parents why I was taking the medication, they lied to me.And being the naive child that I was at that age, I accepted their answer even though I knew there was more to it than that.

There is an irony here. I was raised in the States, yet I acted on Japanese values. I didn’t question my parents’ authority. I just assumed they knew what was best for me and accepted what they said as the truth. In my experience, Japanese people tend to do that, especially when it comes to medical issues. They tend to beat around the bush about the real problem.

I dealt with my emotions the only way I knew how: bottling them up. It sucked, both literally and figuratively. It drained me of all my energy. I didn’t feel safe in the house, so I put up a façade. I pretended I was fine when I really was the farthest thing from fine. And by the time the mask came off, all I wanted to do was fall face first on my bed and pass out.

In my experience, Japanese people deal with heavy subjects like depression the same way.I’m still trying to navigate the balance between the clashing cultural values that surround me. And I’m not going to lie. it’s painful. Sure, it’s enriched my life in a lot of ways, but it’s also been the catalyst for conflict.

I can’t just snap my fingers and be done with my issues, as much as I would like to be. I can’t change who my parents are. I can’t change the past or my upbringing. All I can do is move forward with a new awareness and try to make tomorrow better than the last.

If you want more from Alisa Tanaka, follow her on Twitter, Facebook and WordPress on the links below:

@AliTanaka1
https://www.facebook.com/AlisaYuiBlog
http://alisayui.wordpress.com/