About briannadalej

In the American society, many subjects are considered taboo and we are taught at a young age not to talk about them. Two of these topics are depression and suicide. I wanted to give people a place to talk openly about this subject and delve into why this topic is not talked about and what can be done to help raise awareness.

Character Flaw or Disease?

addictionAddiction, like mental illness, is a topic that is highly stigmatized. Is it because we’re scared of it? Or because we think addicts are all bad people? Maybe some of them are, but to generalize that all addicts are bad people, would be a mistake. Many people see an addict and blame their actions and decisions on a character flaw, but if we really looked closely, we would see a disease.

I’ll be the first to admit that I know little about addiction. It is such a huge topic to fully wrap my head around that I’ll never know the half of it. But that won’t stop me from trying. I fell in love with a person who was an addict and that was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Instead of blaming him for his addiction, I blamed myself and other medical issues. But now that years have passed, I can take a step back and understand that his addiction was a disease. And it needed to be treated.

I came across a really great article this morning from a woman who grew up with parents who were addicts. The article goes into detail about the healthcare system and the lack of treatment for addiction. If you’ve got a minute, I recommend giving it a read and maybe next time you come across someone who struggles with this disease, you’ll think a bit differently.

“But, their addiction wasn’t their fault — not just because addiction is a disease, which it is, but because we’ve never treated addiction like a disease, either culturally or in our health care system.”

I’m Here

I have a very heavy heart this week. The flood of emotions raging inside of me is almost as bad as the literal streets flooding outside from this week’s endless rain.

Thursday marked the beginning of Mental Health Awareness month and I’ve never felt the need to spread awareness as much as I do right now.

I was approached yesterday for advice to give a young person who is cutting. Twelve years old and this person is already trying to escape the pain they are feeling inside. It makes so sad to hear these stories, but I can relate. It takes me back to my younger years when I turned toward physical pain as an outlet to escape the torment of emotions I couldn’t deal with at the time.

I didn’t have advice. I wish there was a magic wand I could wave and this person would no longer want to harm themselves. But no such thing exists. All I have to offer is this:

There’s no perfect phrase to say to make this situation better. People cut becuase they’re unhappy with themselves or what they’re going through. They cut because what they’re feeling is so much to bear that they’d rather feel physical pain than emotional pain. Sometimes it’s a cry for help. The only thing you can do is make sure they know how loved they are and that, whatever they’re going through, will eventually pass. Make sure they know that you can see what they’re doing to themself and give them resources. Be willing to be an outlet with open arms and listening ears. Sometimes, that’s all you really can do.

A person that is close to my heart, and is someone I grew up with, was recently affected by suicide. All of a sudden I had a flood of messages coming in asking what could, or should, be said in a situation like this for the grieving family members. I was at a loss along with everyone else.

I sat. I cried. I reflected on this family and on my own past situation. I could feel my heart breaking.

What do you say?

I love you. I’m here. We can talk; we can sit in silence. I’m here.

That was the best that I could do.

The Chemistry Behind Depression and Mental Illness

Last month I received a phone call from my sister out of the blue. We often catch up weekly, but on this particular week, I had already spoken to her. When I answered the phone, the voice on the other line was full of passion and frustration.

My sister is a chemist who has only a few short months until she receives her PhD. While doing her research, she came across data supporting and explaining the chemical imbalance that someone suffering from depression or a mental illness faces. Although my sister has been a major part of my support system, it wasn’t until last month that I realized just how supportive she really is. She went on to tell me of the frustration she feels when people believe that medications are a “crutch” for someone dealing with a mental illness and the stigma that surrounds this topic.

The comparison was brought about that if you had cancer or diabetes, that medication would be the first step in overcoming and working through those diseases.

“Why, then, wouldn’t someone with a mental illness want to get that same help and treatment?”

My point exactly.

It is in these out-of-the-blue moments and side conversations that I remember why I fight for this cause.

Below is a post from the (almost) Dr. Hoover:

As a scientist, I like to look at problems in a critical manner. When I think of depression or any mental illness, I think of these from a chemical imbalance perspective. If you can inhibit the production of a certain chemical (dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine) and induce depression, how can one argue there is not a need for medication to restore a better balance of these “feel good molecules”?
Major depression affects 5% of people globally. While we refer to it as a chemical imbalance, it’s truly not that simple. Many chemicals are involved in the process, working both inside and outside of nerve cells. Millions, even billions, of chemical reactions are responsible for controlling a person’s mood and how they experience life. Scientists understand the brain better than they ever have, but we have a long way to go to truly understand how depression works at the molecular level. For now, I will choose to focus on dropping the stigma of taking medication that may help a person live a happier, fuller life.

Giving Back

It still catches me off guard when I see someone wearing a TWLOHA (To Write Love On Her Arms) shirt or sporting a bumper sticker. It always takes me back to the first time I heard about this organization and realized how much of an impact speaking up about suicide, depression, and self-harm can actually make.

If you’re feeling generous this week and want to support a great cause, log on to the Sevenly website and support TWLOHA with your purchase.

World Suicide Prevention Day

For a very long time, most of my teens at least, the word suicide made me nervous. I didn’t know how other people would react to the word, and I just hoped they couldn’t see my cheeks turn red, or ask me any questions. The thought of talking about it openly among others made my stomach churn and it was almost unimaginable. To do this day, I still find it easier to share my story with strangers than with close friends or family. The stigma of this topic is still so prevalent today.

But I’ve always liked a challenge.

I grew up as a pretty timid person, I was scared of dogs for the first ten years of my life and the thought of jumping out of a plane when I was in high school never crossed my mind. But eventually I grew up. I became slightly obsessed with any and all dogs, eventually having my own. And one of the best birthday presents I have ever received was a trip to go skydiving. I overcame my fears. So I figured, if I could make steps toward facing some of the things that scared me most, even if they were small, then I could talk about suicide. I could share my own story. Those things matter far more than an adrenaline rush or owning my own pet.

But even as I sit here now, my hands still shake a little as I think about opening up further. As I think about the people, mainly the ones I know, that will stumble across this post. I still have fears about how others will view me if they know my past. If they really get the chance to see the person that I am or the things that I’ve been through. And then I think about all of the stories I’ve heard about people who didn’t get a chance to share their story or who’s life could have been positively affected if they had known they weren’t alone in their battle; that people have been down these roads before them.

So here I am. Saying that I am a survivor. And that I’ve known many people who have struggled, and some who didn’t make it to overcome their struggle. It doesn’t make you a bad person, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. If you’ve struggled with suicide or depression, that is just part of the story that makes you unique. And stronger.

Today, and this week, notice the people who are wearing yellow in support of those who are struggling and notice those who are writing “love” on their arms. Share your story, or be willing to listen to someone tell you their story. Who knows, it could save a life.

Depression in New Moms

Baby season is in full swing. With the arrival of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s Royal Baby and with other babies popping up all over the radar, both in the news and in personal lives around me, I thought it was important to address the topic of depression in new moms.

Though stories of depression in new parents will not be the stories that make the headlines in the newspapers (apparently not as interesting as Kate and William’s baby name, which is George, by the way), but this is still an important topic to discuss.

One of the main misconceptions people have of pregnant women and new moms are that they should be overjoyed with the arrival of the new baby, but sometimes, this isn’t the case. Not only can depression occur after the baby is born, but depression can occur during the pregnancy stages and can come about long after the baby arrives.

Having a baby, whether it is your very first child or your fifth, can be an overwhelming experience to adjust to. Not only does the new mom have to now deal with the changes of her body and the change of dynamics in the relationship with her significant other, but now a crying infant is thrown into the mix who needs constant love and attention. Who wouldn’t be overwhelmed?

It’s important to take a second to stop and ask yourself if what you’re feeling is short-term, and is just a part of the adjustment period, or if this is more long-term and needs some attention.

Though I’m not a parent, I do know enough about parenting to know that the last thing a mom is going to do is think about herself, but in the end, this can be the most beneficial thing a new mom can do; if not for her own health but for the well-being of her child.

Depression greatly affects the person who is suffering, but it can also begin to affect those closest to that person; especially an infant who is completely dependent on them.

If you think you, or someone you know, may need help, there are online screening tests that can be found online in order to begin to take that first step.

Whether you’re following the Royal Baby, watching Snooki lose her baby weight, or just having conversations with a friend who is beginning the new journey of being a parent, there are important questions to ask and signs to look for.

Cory Monteith’s Death

I woke up with a heavy heart on Sunday morning. As I was going to silence the alarm on my phone I read an update from USA Today that “Glee” star, Cory Monteith, had died the previous day in his Vancouver hotel.

I’m not all that interested in celebrity news, I watch the occasional Entertainment Tonight episode, a few reality shows, and browse the headlines of gossip magazines while in line at the grocery store, but many times when I hear news like this I’m not that affected. This time was different.

I remember hearing back in March that the actor had voluntarily admitted himself into rehab. Given the history of people I care about, I was interested in this news. My own boyfriend had been through a bit of the same thing, so I thought it was a great step for Monteith to take and was even better that his girlfriend, co-star Lea Michele, was standing by his side as well.

So when I heard the news that he died, my mind immediately went to his girlfriend. Granted, I didn’t know the cause behind his death, but being as he had admitted to being a previous addict and his rehab history, I had my speculations.

The news of his death hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t know these actors, nor what may go on behind the scenes in their own lives, but I do know what it’s like to love someone who is struggling and I know the heartache that follows losing someone you love so much.

It’s times like these that I wish we could talk openly about mental health, addiction, depression, and substance abuse in our society today. We tend to look down on people involved in any of these, we criticize them for the mistakes they make, comment on their trip(s) to rehab, and then just sit back and hear the news of their death. This isn’t something that we as a society should just accept.

Whether it’s a celebrity, co-worker, or your best friend, we need to open our eyes to the struggles that people we see every day are enduring. We can’t wait until it’s too late to speak up or ask someone if they’re okay.

Daily Reminders

This past Monday I was approached by a friend at the end of, what seemed to be, a very long day.

“Tell me one thing about your day that you really enjoyed.”

For a person who gets the Monday Blues pretty regularly, this was a hard question for me to answer. After thinking for a little bit of one thing that happened that day that made me happy, I responded.

“My drive to and from work…I rolled my windows down and turned my country music up. And for a little bit, it felt as though I didn’t have a care in the world.”

Something as simple as that was the one thing I looked forward to that day. And still do most days. That little time I took out of the day for me, made some of the unbearable days, seem a little more bearable.

A few days after that conversation, my sister sent me a link to a site that displayed over 20 photos and stories of people with depression who found strength and comfort in their tattoos they chose as daily reminders of how far they had come. By the time I came to the end of the slideshow, I could feel the sense of loss and defeat that these people had been through, but I could also see the strength and empowerment they felt from overcoming their daily battles, even if it was only for a moment.

It was then that I looked down at my wrist and realized I was one of those people, too. The simple tattoo I have on my write says Breathe. I got it after my mom had been hospitalized from her cancer and saw how hard it was for her to take a simple breath or to walk a flight of stairs.

I realized how much I had been taking my life for granted. I spent most of my days feeling sorry for myself or questioning why I was put in the situations that I had been. I was blaming the world for all of my problems but not doing anything to change my life. Don’t get me wrong, I still have plenty of those days where I just want to wallow, but now when I do I look down at my wrist. I see the reminder for me to take a breath. Slow my life down and, instead of getting overwhelmed at the big picture, live in the moment. I wrote this the day before I got the tattoo:

One word. It’s a part of every second of every day. It’s supposed to be one of the most simple things a human can do. But sometimes life and events can get in the way. And what was once simple, is now more difficult than ever. It’s in these moments that you have to remember you’re stronger than you believe. Just breathe.

Some days are harder than others, that’s no surprise. And having a reminder or something to look forward to each day isn’t always going to change the hard days. But some days it helps.
Even in our darkest moments, we need to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Because, no matter how far away that light may be, it is there.

Just Breathe

“Is it worth it?”

Is it worth it? Those four words can have so much power behind them.

Is it worth it to travel across country, just because you want to? Is it worth it to go to college? To fall in love? To get a divorce? There are endless possibilities as to what could be worth it.

Last week, I met a woman who quickly turned into a friend and it was as though I’d known her for months instead of days. This woman was going through a major tribulation in her personal life and was at a loss as to what she was supposed to do now. This woman also happened to struggle with her diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia.

I was with this woman for six and a half days straight and we talked about everything we could think of. She told me about her husband and three girls, we talked about college, work, love, and the inevitable heartbreak that we’ve both had to endure in our lives. Of course, that brought up the death of my boyfriend and my mom and the highs and lows I’ve experienced because of the events life has thrown my way.

On the last day together, an hour before I was supposed to leave, this woman called me into her room. She sat down and with tears in her eyes she looked at me and asked those four words.

“Is it worth it?”

I didn’t know how to respond to that question. And even though I knew what she was talking about, I clarified.

“Life?” I responded. And after a few seconds passed, I added, “It really is.”

There have been many times in my life that I have asked myself that exact question. Is life worth the disappointment the heartbreak, the grieving? Is it worth giving up all of the highs for some of the lows?
I don’t think so.

Everyone is going to respond to this question differently, and honestly, I wasn’t sure how I would respond to it until I had no other choice but to reply.

There’s going to be many trials and difficulties in life, but trading all of the good for some of the bad isn’t worth it, either.

After the question was asked, I sat there talking to this woman about being on the other side of suicide and being on the other side of not having a mom. I explained the difficulties I have every day dealing with both of these.

Not every day is going to be perfect, and you’re going to have days that are much more trying than others. But you’re also going to have days that you stand in the sunshine and are so thankful to be alive. Life isn’t going to be easy, but I think that it is worth it.