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.

New Chapter

Life is unpredictable.

I wish I could count the number of times I’ve reminded myself of this over the years, but I stopped counting when I was 16.

Life is complicated.

I learned long ago to not put too much stake into any one person because, at any moment, they could be removed from your life. I tried keeping a safe distance from most of the people in my life for fear that they would leave my life (read: die).

Love doesn’t care.

I kept people at an arm’s length most of the time. And then I fell in love. My walls broke down. I started planning a future.

I broke my own rules.

And I ended up crushed. I planned a future with a person who left me behind. Now don’t think I’m blaming him, because I’m not. I understand why he made the decisions he did. I’m okay now. But for a very long time, I wasn’t.

I swore off love and men and relationships. I promised I’d never marry and the only men left in my life were close friends and my dad. No one else was allowed in my life.

And then, again, I was reminded that life is unpredictable.

This post has been a long time coming. I’ve tried writing it before but failed until I read this article that my sister sent me and it really hit home.

My story is not her story. Luke and my story was never set in motion; we never really had the time. And I won’t refer to two of the greatest loves of my life as “before” and “after” because that doesn’t work for my story. But her article really resonated with me.

I’m in love and it’s okay. It’s actually more than okay.

After Luke died I read Eat, Pray, Love and it was perfect for that point in my life. One quote that really stood out to me was Elizabeth Gilbert’s explanation of soulmates.

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.
A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.”

Luke was my soulmate for my younger self. He taught me to stick up for myself, be proud of my accomplishments, and speak up when I don’t agree with something. Those were the lessons I needed at that point in my life. I grew so much in the years we were together. But his story ended and mine needed to continue.

I have a new soulmate for this chapter of my life. He’s patient, sarcastic, witty, and cares unconditionally for people. He allows me to grieve when I need to – over friends I’ve lost, my mom, or even Luke – he’s sat with me on the floor of our apartment when I had a much-needed crying session. He’s great.

And he’s totally unexpected.

He came into my life the summer that Luke left and my mom was diagnosed. It was the perfect storm of a summer in my life. I was newly 21 and didn’t really know how to handle anything that life was throwing my way. But over that summer a friendship grew. We talked about traveling and dreams and what goals we wanted to accomplish in life. Over the years the friendship remained strong even when he was on the other side of the country. And then, to come full circle, on a summer night everything about our friendship changed. We crossed a barrier that couldn’t be uncrossed and my head was reeling.

I didn’t know what this meant.

I had some very torturous nights going back in forth in my head about my future self and my past self. I didn’t know what to do. And I didn’t want to leave Luke behind.

But as Michelle wrote, you don’t leave a love behind, “Once you love someone they stay with you forever as a piece of your soul.” Luke was, and always will be, a part of my soul. But Adam is a part of my future.

Adam and I have had many conversations about Luke and I’ve come to find that Adam has some fairly strong feelings about my past. He should. When Luke died I fell apart and, for someone who now loves me to have seen that, I’m sure it brings up some heated emotions. But Adam respects the role that Luke played in my life and, if these unexpected life events hadn’t played out the way they did, maybe there would never have been an “us.”

Years ago I sat with sweaty palms across the room from Luke’s mom to tell her about this new man in my life. I was so nervous. And she was so gracious. She was happy for me and I was a little taken aback. My mind went back to a conversation we had before I got my tattoo for Luke. During the period of my life when I had sworn off men and was sure I’d never love again. She warned me not to get it because I was young and I would fall in love again someday and maybe that person would be upset by my tattoo, but I explained to her that any man that was worthy of being in my life would understand the importance of Luke in my life and would understand the tattoo.

And he does.

I am moving forward in my life with fewer glances back as the days, months, and years pass. I’m more focused on my future now than I ever have been. I take time to reflect on the past every now and then and the people who have left my life cross my mind often but when that happens it’s in a positive way and I’m not pining to go back in time.

Life is unexpected. But so is love. My story is nothing like I thought it would be but I’m happy with where I’m at and how things have turned out. I fully believe that, without these life experiences, I wouldn’t be able to love as deeply as I can now.

And I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Winter

 

Sometimes It’s the Little Things

I came across this self-care card on Facebook today and it really struck a chord with me. Sometimes, life can be this big, scary, overwhelming thing that we start to believe we can’t handle. A project at work, combined with weight gain, financial stress or a fight with a loved one can all snowball into a giant nightmare that we think we can’t handle. But we can.

Sometimes all you need is to take 5 minutes out of your day to relax, focus on yourself and then re-examine the task(s) at hand.

My challenge for you today, even if you’re feeling great about yourself is this: Complete one of the steps on this self-care card, take a couple of minutes to do something special for yourself and then share it with someone who you feel could really benefit from this. We all have tough days, some worse than others, but it’s important to remember that you really are stronger than you think.Copyright Sinope (eponis.tumblr.com), 2015.

Holidays

http://blog.cookingchanneltv.com/2012/11/13/easy-thanksgiving-table-decorating-ideas/Holidays.

For many the thought of bright lights, tables overflowing with food and family come to mind.

For others thoughts of loneliness, desertion and heartache come to mind.

I’m a combination of both.

Three years ago, after celebrating Thanksgiving with my family, giving thanks for my mom’s health and time spent with family, my mom was hospitalized and died shortly after. Before my mom died I associated Thanksgiving with the death of my high school best friend. While others were excited for time away from school/work, food and time to see cousins who live far away my mind was on the people that I lost. Thanksgiving for me is one of the hardest times of the year. But it wasn’t always this way.

I grew up in a family where holidays were everything; we had decorations for every miniscule holiday and made food weeks in advance to the actual holiday. Growing up I loved holidays but now I find myself dreading them; I count the days until they’re over and life can go back to normal.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great time to reflect on all that you have and are thankful for this past year, but try to remember that some people are only able to think of the hurt that this time of year brings around.

This holiday season I challenge you to reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a long time or someone you think may really be struggling this season. Tell them how much they mean to you and that they’re appreciated because, for many people, the holidays can be some of the loneliest times of the year.

 

Postpartum Depression

This subject keeps popping up in my life this past week. First, with news that someone in my life was suffering with this issue and then again today when I heard the news of actress Hayden Panettiere seeking treatment for her postpartum depression. So, I felt inclined to educate myself and write about this.

As a woman who is not a parent, I will be the first to admit that I had minimal knowledge about this type of depression. While I understood it was real and affected many new moms out there, I didn’t know how broad the spectrum of this really was.

There are two issues many moms deal with after having a baby:

  1. The “baby blues”
  2. Postpartum depression

The “baby blues”

Being a blonde hair, blue-eyed female, people have approached me throughout my life talking about my bright “baby blues” (referring to my eyes). While this is being used in a semi-creepy but lighthearted way, the term which we’re about to discuss is very serious.

The “baby blues” are a mild form of depression and mood swings that occur post-baby; it’s been noted that up to 80% of new mothers experience this. Instead of celebrating their new baby, the mom may feel like crying. The “blues”, as they’re referred to, are spoken of as a part of becoming a new mom and are caused by hormonal changes after birth. These symptoms often occur shortly after giving birth and can last up to a few weeks.

I feel for anyone experiencing this. Not only is that individual expected to care for another human being now but they’re also faced with something that might make a simple task, like getting out of bed, difficult.

However, I have an issue with this term. “Baby blues”, to me, implies that this is not taken seriously; that this is just a hormonal issue that new moms experience post-birth. While this, in fact, may just be a stage in that woman’s life referring to it as the “blues” seems demeaning. It’s just as bad as telling anyone with a form of depression that they just have a case of the blues and will get over.

Too bad it’s not that simple.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression can often look like the “baby blues” but is often more serious, according to some sources, and differentiating between the two may be difficult.

The symptoms make look the same between the “blues” and PPD but the main difference in the two is often the severity of the symptoms and the amount of time these symptoms last. Postpartum does not always arise initially after giving birth; it can take some women days or weeks to begin feeling these and can last months. If the symptoms have lasted longer than 2 weeks, it’s probably a good idea to get you, or your loved one, in to see a doctor.

Signs & symptoms to look out for are:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Crying
  • Reduced concentration
  • Appetite problems
  • Trouble sleeping

In Panettiere’s appearance on “Live! With Kelly and Michael” she said:

It’s [Postpartum depression] something that needs to be talked about. Women need to know that they’re not alone, and that it does heal … There’s a lot of people out there that think that it’s not real, that it’s not true, that it’s something that’s made up in their minds, that ‘Oh, it’s hormones.’ They brush it off. It’s something that’s completely uncontrollable. It’s really painful and it’s really scary and women need a lot of support.

Health.com

Postpartum depression. Image from Health.com

Moms have a special place in my heart. I applaud the women who choose to sacrifice their bodies and their lives to bring another human into this world. But it’s important for the rest of us to look out for these women, too.

I’m thankful for the people who are willing to open up and talk about their depression. This week, I was challenged to educate myself and I encourage you to do the same.

We’ll See You Tomorrow

World Suicide Prevention Day.

Four years ago, September 10 took on a whole new meaning. Every year I stop and reflect on my life, the lives of those I love, and I think about how grateful I am to still be here. And I light a candle for those who are no longer here.

I think about Luke and the life we missed out on. I think about the stories I’ve heard through the creation of this blog over the past four years. I run down the list of names I’ve heard and say a prayer for all of those who’s stories I haven’t heard.

Last year I added another name to that list: Shawn. This was my current boyfriend’s uncle – he was 19 when he took his life. Two weeks ago, I took the time to sit down with his mom and we talked about the stigma that surrounds the topic of suicide. Decades have passed since his death and, although some progress has been made, it’s not enough.

The topic of suicide scares people. Rightfully so. But just because it scares you doesn’t mean you should avoid it. People often think that, if they don’t talk about it, they can pretend that it’s not happening. Or, if it’s not talked about, ideas aren’t given to the individuals who might attempt or complete suicide. But that’s not the case. Suicides are happening. All around us. 800,000 people die each year due to suicide. This isn’t an issue that can be swept under the rug any longer.

So my challenge for you today is this: Take action. Talk about what today means. Share with someone that today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Share my blog, add a TWLOHA link on your social media sites, or share resources for someone to reach out to if they are depressed or suicidal.

Don’t let this day, or any day for that matter, pass you by without trying to make a difference.

#WorldSuicidePreventionDay

#WorldSuicidePreventionDay

Let’s Talk.

As summer nears an end and many students and teachers are gearing up for another school year, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of depression.

With the rise of social media incorporated into everyone’s daily lives (mine included) it can be easy to display a confident, happy façade. Instead of pretending that the world is full of butterflies and rainbows, let’s focus on having real conversations that matter.

I read stories about depression and suicide on a weekly basis, each one hitting close to home and reminding me of a time and place in my own life when these thoughts and feelings were all too familiar. Today I read a New York Times article shedding light on depression and suicide among students. It pains me to see that, since 2007, suicide rates among 15-24 year-olds have increased. I forget sometimes that, as willing as I am to talk about these subjects, they are still very much taboo, especially to our youth.

That’s why I love reading about non-profits like Active Minds or TWLOHA becoming more and more active on campuses across the U.S. I love reading articles like this one, a major newspaper, willing to tackle topics that are so important to talk about. We’re all aware that these topics make so many people uncomfortable and can be hard to open up about, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have the conversation.

This article focused heavily on the use of social media and the effect it has on youth. Sure, a smiling selfie might look great, but do you really know what’s going on in that person’s mind? Instead of constantly posting on Facebook or Snapchatting, have a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Open up about your bad days with your roommate or close friends. I’m guilty of closing off others in light of having a difficult conversation, but maybe this is something we need to challenge ourselves with.

Talk about the things that hurt.

Share the things that upset you.

Ask for help when you need it.

And take the posts you see on social media with a grain of salt. Maybe we’re all just trying to put on a Face to make it seem like we’re not living in some dark, tortured world. Maybe our lives aren’t as happy and perfect as we make them appear on Instagram. And if that’s the case … it’s okay.

If you see someone shutting down, please speak up. If you don’t have a story of your own to share, then share Kathryn DeWitt’s story or share mine, but we need to keep talking about suicide and depression. We need to let the youth of this world know that there is a life possible outside of depression and suicide does not have to be the answer.

Always Keep Fighting

I was surprised when I opened up my Facebook today and saw an update that had “depression” and “Comic-Con” in the same line. I was confused and intrigued, so I read on.

Over the weekend the ever-famous Comic-Con took place in San Diego. During one of the breakout sessions, fans lit candles in support of Supernatural actor, Jared Padalecki, and his battle with depression.

Months ago, the actor launched his first Always Keep Fighting campaign with proceeds going to To Write Love on Her Arms. I wasn’t aware of Jared’s story but have spent a good portion of my morning researching his battle and how he has taken his platform as a celebrity to speak out about issues that really matter and to share his own story.

Stories like this always bring a smile to my face and I love that stories like this are seeing more and more press coverage and encouraging others to speak out about depression and the struggle that many people face on a daily basis.

Always Keep Fighting

1460 Days

When someone you love becomes someone you loved, it becomes really difficult to try to wrap your head around.

They were here. You were in their arms. You held their hand. You laughed. You had adventures. You loved. You were loved.

All past tense.

Trying to understand that you will never get the opportunity to do these things with this person again is nearly impossible.

Instead, you fill your days trying to remember the exact lines of their smile. Or the way their hand felt wrapped around yours. You try to remember the details of every single conversation the two of you ever had. But slowly these begin to slip away.

35, 040 hours. 1,460 days. Four years. I could have sworn it’s been decades since he was here. Since we were together. And yet, I can still remember how he walked and I can hear his laugh if I focus. What I can’t remember is who I was before all of this happened. I can barely remember the person I was at 21 when we were together.

IMG_4328

Four years ago, at 11 in the morning, I received the worst phone call of my life. I can recall so much from that moment. The sun was shining, the pavement was hot under my knees when I fell to the ground, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky when I looked up questioning what it was that I just heard.

I was in love. I was head over heels in love. I was nearing the end of my college years and I was ready to start my life. My mom had just been diagnosed with cancer, which put a huge speedbump in my life, but she was going to beat it and life was going to continue to get better and better.

And then I got that phone call that shattered my whole world. The person I loved was gone. He chose to end his life. He chose to leave this world. And I was left behind to figure it all out.

I’ve never been angry. I’ve never questioned why this happened. I know why my boyfriend chose to end his life. And I could never be upset with him for that. I can, and am, sad that he felt that was his only choice. I feel guilty that, even with all my efforts and the conversations we had, I wasn’t able to save him. I don’t think that feeling will ever go away.

I just miss him. I miss the nights we spent cooking supper. I miss binge watching season after season of Dexter in my college apartment. I miss driving up to small mountain towns in California. I miss carving pumpkins at Halloween and drives to his dad’s house on summer nights. I miss talking about our dreams and how people suck sometimes. I miss his advice and his honesty.

IMG_4335

My heart breaks for people who are in similar situations. For those who feel so alone in this world and feel like there’s nowhere to turn.

I could talk about Luke for hours. I could tell you his views on religion and society. I could tell you about his love for Star Wars, That 70s Show, and how he was an amazing artist. But I only tell his story, and some of mine, in hopes that maybe sharing it could help someone else down the line. Maybe it can save some heartbreak, and maybe – hopefully – four years down the road, it will save someone from sitting down at their computer writing about the person they miss on the four year anniversary of their death. Maybe it can save someone. And maybe it can’t. But this is my way of keeping him alive in my memory. This is the way I can remember, and celebrate, the person that I loved.

IMG_4330

Five Years in the Making

One of the best aspects of my life over the past three and a half years, has been the opportunity to listen to people’s stories. Everyone in this world has an amazing, inspiring, but often, tragic, story. I believe that by sharing our story with others we not only gain strength, but empower others to share theirs as well.

For some of you, today might just be any other day, but for one particular person reading this, it’s a step to a new life. It’s a step to working through the depression and the events that life has thrown their way and turning the page.

Earlier this week I was approached with the story below and, with their permission, I am sharing this with you. Thank you for being brave. Thank you for sharing your story.

Dear Friend,

It’s February again. I keep waiting for the depression to seep in. It always follows me around like a dark cloud on a rainy day this time of year. No matter how busy I keep myself, no matter how much I try to distract myself from the negative thoughts and emotions, the rain cloud grows and grows and grows until it reaches its peak on February 25th, the day I was raped five years ago.

Five years ago, I didn’t understand what had happened to me. Five years ago, I didn’t know how to deal with what had happened to me. Not much has changed today.

I will spare you the specific details, but there are some things about my rape you should probably know. It happened in my own house, in my own room, in my own bed. The person who raped me was a friend, someone I had once liked.

After it happened, I immediately started shaking. I felt physically and emotionally dirty. After he was gone, I texted my best friend and explained to her what had happened. I told her things had gone too far. She told me I was raped. She told me I needed to go to the hospital. Instead I put my sheets in the washing machine and went to school. I sat through my classes and acted as if nothing had happened. I came home from school and did my homework and ate dinner with my family as if nothing was wrong. Meanwhile, depression and confusion were numbing my entire body. I wanted to explode from the guilt and regret I felt.

I dealt with what happened by binge drinking and cutting. They usually went hand in hand. I would drink to numb whatever pain I was feeling, but instead it would intensify those emotions, and at the end of the night I would slip into a nearby bathroom and delicately cut my thighs or my forearms.

Today, I have completely stopped cutting. Although I consider myself a healthier person emotionally, I still don’t know how to deal with what happened to me. Maybe that’s why I’m writing this letter, as a way to cope.

I think the hardest part for me is not feeling like I have anyone to talk to about it. I have tried to open up to friends, but no one has seemed to understand or support me the way I wanted them to. Even after I confided in some of my friends they still continued to make rape jokes or make light of rape while I was hanging out with them. This made me want to run from the room screaming but instead I would usually sit silently or pretend to laugh it off with everyone else.

The word “rape” makes me cringe or freeze up. Regardless, I still find myself immersed in books, movies, and news stories that deal with the topic. Maybe other survivor stories will help me to understand my own. And maybe my own story will help another survivor.

I’m not sure if the emotional pain from my rape will ever go away. Sure, it has dulled with the years, but it’s still there. And every February, it soaks back stronger than ever, maybe just as a reminder that I survived, and that I’ll keep surviving. Here’s to making it through another February.

The darkness has to end & give way to light

What does depression feel like? I received an email and was asked this question the other day. That’s a loaded question and, for everyone, it’s different. For me, it has felt like the end of everything; being numb to anything and everything. Sometimes wanting to feel something, being aware that there are no emotions packed deep down inside, and worrying that it will stay this way forever.

  ————————————

Have you ever walked through a dark tunnel or road at night all by yourself? It’s just you and the darkness pressing in all around you. When you speak out loud your voice echoes and, maybe, you can hear the faint sounds of someone in the distance, but you see no sign of anyone around you. You think that, if you can just get to the end of the road, you’ll see you’re not really alone. Eventually, you know the darkness has to end and give way to light, but the longer and further you walk, the more afraid you get that maybe you were wrong. Maybe darkness only gives way to darkness. That, to me, is what depression feels like.

When I was little I would go swimming, I would always try to swim the length of the pool completely underwater. The only problem is that I had terrible lung capacity, so I never made it that far. Most times, as I was swimming to the top, just seconds before my head would break the surface of the water, my lungs would feel like they were on fire. I’d go into a panic worried that, maybe, I wouldn’t make it to the surface in time. My heart would race and it would feel like pins and needles in my arms and legs while I broke into the world again, gasping for air. When I was at my lowest, there were days I would have begged to feel something so real again.

 ————————————

Over the course of the past three years I’ve had the opportunity to talk with so many different people, ranging from people that I’ve known for years, to complete strangers. Hearing someone’s story about their life, their struggles, their success and frustration, that, for me, is one of the greatest things about this life. Listening to people who, maybe, wouldn’t have been heard otherwise. I have worried about people I’ve never met and sat shaking at my computer as I wrote down my own story. As I wrap up another year I am grateful for an outlet and for the opportunity to speak with so many amazing people. I hope 2015 brings everything you need, but mostly, I hope it brings you happiness.