What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?
I’ve always struggled with some form of mental health issues, specifically anxiety and obsessive worrying, which would happen very cyclically throughout my childhood and young adult life. Since moving to South Dakota, living so far away from my family and childhood friends, I’ve noticed that I struggle significantly more, less with worrying and more with depressive episodes. Winter has regularly been my downfall, coupled with a physical assault at the beginning of the pandemic (3/20), limited mental health resources, and the idea that “I just need to pick myself up and dust myself off, I can handle this.”
My “oh shit” moment came on a dreary February morning in 2023. I hit (another) pothole, and I got so angry. I was mad that the pothole wasn’t big enough to swallow my car whole, with me in it, because then at least it wouldn’t be my fault. Shortly thereafter I lost a good friend unexpectedly, and the intrusive thoughts got worse, but always with the tinge of – “as long as it’s not my fault.” I don’t want people to think I did it to myself. I was okay with dying, but I didn’t want to do it. Somewhere along the way, I knew I was in big trouble. March has never been my friend – but this year was particularly bad. I cried every day on the way to and from work with just a heaviness in my chest that I could not escape.
I smiled, did my job, volunteered, and made sure things in my life got handled, but I was just doing what needed to be done to not show anyone the cracks. I was playing a part in my own life and not owning any of it. I didn’t really care about anything.
I’ve never asked for anything from family or friends – I offered help and support and was right there when people needed me, or even when I thought they might need me. So when I hit the proverbial “rock bottom” and no one was around to help, I knew I was in trouble. When you’re always the helper, it makes it so much harder to ask for help.
What resources have helped you to address this challenge?
I started out using the BetterHelp therapy app around mid-March. I switched providers a few times trying to find the right fit. I finally found one that was good, but not great. Our sessions were only 30 minutes, and by the time I got into the meat of the issues, the session was over and no solutions were available. She recommended me to a foundation that specialized in helping women who were the victims of violent crimes. They referred me to a local therapist with Moore Counseling Group where I could receive EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing) therapy. This helps me to both process the most recent trauma and desensitize triggers that had been established during childhood and my youth.
Because of this therapy, I’ve learned that my voice had been stifled, I didn’t have any boundaries, and I didn’t trust anyone to be there for me when and if I asked them to be. I’m learning and healing a little bit more every week.
Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?
We have started making mental health a mainstream conversation, and that is SO important. For people to see themselves, their thoughts, feelings, and experiences portrayed in others, so they know they aren’t alone, is a massive improvement from where we were 5, 10, 20+ years ago.
I think the biggest struggle is buy-in from generations that believe you just need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. The folks that think therapists and counselors are only there to pacify you and collect your insurance money.
Normalizing mental health is important, but normalizing going to therapy is going to be just as important in the future, which also means beefing up the programs in schools that promote education in that field and the importance of healing from the inside first.
What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?
If someone has a single vulnerable moment in front of you and then brushes it off, don’t ignore it. Just because they say “I’ll be fine” doesn’t mean they will. They probably don’t know how to ask for help. That’s not something everyone learns growing up.