All posts by Lisa Lambert

Silhouette of hands and the horizon

A Reflection After the Deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

Silhouette of hands and the horizonby Rachel LaBrie

Recently, we all got the news that both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain died by suicide.

I feel a certain emptiness right now. But I also feel like I would like to speak more about my experience with suicide and spread a message.

I lost my best friend to suicide. She was the kindest, gentlest person you could ever meet. I remember the day she died, it felt like there was a black hole encapsulating me. I could barely talk, my tears would not stop. How could they? Losing her was like losing a part of myself.

In my lifetime, especially after losing my best friend, I contemplated suicide. A lot. It’s all I could think about. But for some reason, I knew my friend would be heartbroken for me to be with her so soon. I knew she needed me to carry on her legacy. So I did.

I became a peer. I became a voice for those who found it hard to speak. So here is a message I want everyone who reads this to remember.

It is not as easy as saying “reach out for help if you need it.” Sometimes, depression makes you isolated. It makes you disappear into the background, fall to the ground, and you feel you cannot get up. In my experience, in times like that, I needed someone to reach out to me, because I was incapable, or at least I thought I was incapable, of reaching out.

Ask a friend today how they are feeling. If they say “fine” or “okay” try and find out the truth behind those words. Sometimes the saddest of hearts hide behind a smile and “I’m fine” passing through their mouth. Sometimes, they need you to show you truly are reading the messages they need you to hear.

Rest in Peace, Anthony and Kate. Your legacies will carry on forever. Thank you for all you have done.

Rachel LaBrie is a young adult who has a passion for advocacy. They are currently working on writing a book of poetry about mental health.

person

Anxious Mess: Thoughts of Someone with Social Anxiety

personI often think of what it would be like if I went to a party like a lot of young adults my age do.

In every scenario I can imagine in my head, I see myself crying in the corner, hands covering my ears because it was too loud in the house where the party was taking place. I see myself having panic attack after panic attack because there are people I don’t know, and my social anxiety can be crippling if I am not used to a situation.

Most people don’t really think I have any real social anxiety. I’ve had people tell me “You are so social. How can you possibly have social anxiety?” I suppose that is because I don’t really go to new places alone, and people don’t get to see me try tons of new things. I’m always at a familiar place with familiar faces that I know and feel comfortable around. It hurts me when people say the things they do. There are lots of people who are social but have social anxiety. I am simply good at hiding my anxiety at this point in my life. However, a person telling me I can’t possibly be socially anxious makes me upset, but also angry and annoyed.

People keep urging me to go new places and try new things. And I’m trying. I really am trying so hard. But I am scared to death of “new.”

What if I have a meltdown in public? What if I fall to the floor screaming because I am terrified of my surroundings? And walking in the city? Any city? Never, not me. What if someone talks to me on the street that I don’t know and something bad happens?

These are just a few of the questions that go through my head when thinking about going to experience new places and meet new people. The scenes that play out in my head are one of a horror movie in which a young girl finds herself bombarded with scary people who don’t understand. A movie where a young girl is hated by a whole new group of people.

Next time you think someone doesn’t have social anxiety, you may want to reconsider. Everyone has demons. Everyone has something that terrifies them. And for me, it’s social interaction, among others, and it’s real.

By: Rachel LaBrie

Rachel is a young adult who hopes to someday be a peer mentor or a peer specialist.  They are currently working on writing and publishing a book of poetry.

Wide Open: Opening Up About My Trauma

I hear my therapist ask me “what was it that brought these memories back up?”

I think about it for a minute. These repressed memories of sexual abuse were bound to pop up at some point now that I’m being open about my trauma. I knew the answer within a minute or so. “I was making a timeline of the emotional and verbal abuse he put me through, and then all of these repressed memories I’d tucked deep down kind of popped up as I was writing.

In my lifetime, I have been sexually assaulted, as well as emotionally,verbally, and sexually abused in a relationship. I hadn’t found the courage to talk about it until about August of 2017. It started with me in the car with one of my best friends. We were talking about my ex boyfriend and the words came flying out of my mouth, the words I hadn’t been brave enough to utter before then. “He was emotionally abusive towards me.” Back then, although I didn’t admit the other abuses, I still felt so free. I felt like I could start talking. My friend hugged me and said, “I’m glad you told me. It takes courage.”

My openness took a break in November of 2017, though, when I got a new therapist. She was extremely rude and had a serious lack of knowledge in trauma and abusive relationships. She asked the question therapists should know the answer to; “why didn’t you just leave?” I already had doubts about her, but this is why I stopped seeing her. If she couldn’t understand that concept, she wouldn’t understand anything about me.

I was hospitalized in January of 2018, and had to address a lot of the trauma I had endured. I had to work through challenges, including flashbacks and panic attacks, and I made it. I got out and am starting to thrive. I have two jobs, and am learning the most important two words I need to know and practice the most: self care.

Self care is the most important thing I do for myself. I write about my struggle. I talk to friends and others in my support network when I feel low. And, I’m learning that I have to stop blaming myself for what has been done to me. I am not the deeds that have been done to me. No, I am much kinder. I am a giving person, and I need to work more on realizing I am not at fault.

If you are, or have been, a victim of abuse, please realize you are not defined by your trauma. You are not to blame for what happened to you. There are people out there who understand. There are people who can and will support you through this. You are so strong, and I am so proud of you for how far you’ve come.

If anyone you love is, or has been, a victim of abuse, please realize there are some things you shouldn’t say. Pay attention to triggers. Ask them what is not acceptable to say, and what their specific triggers are. And most importantly, please respect their boundaries. If they tell you they are uncomfortable doing something or are uncomfortable with what you are doing or saying, respect it. It is extremely important.

Our young adult blogger chooses to remain anonymous. They like to sing and advocate for change.

flowers

Coming out of Hibernation

flowersWhat is your favorite part of winter? The snow? The skiing and snowboarding? The days off school?

My favorite part of winter is when it’s over. Winter feels like a punishment to me. I work so hard to get outside, exercise my arthritic joints, get that vitamin D doctors are always hassling me about, and just get out of the house in general (easier said than done). I feel like winter rips that away from me. I struggle with the shorter days and cold, bitter air freezing my lungs and joints.  I end up forcing myself out of bed in the morning, knowing full well that I will probably slither back under that fortress of blankets like a polar bear in her den. What’s the point of going out when I can hide in bed all day?

I long for that first day where I can hear the birds and walk outside without dreading the cold. My chronic physical illnesses on top of my mental health challenges make it really hard to get motivated and the snow is like a flashing neon sign telling me to give up before I’ve even gotten up. It bullies me into avoiding self-care and socialization. I try my best to fight that blanket of snow each morning, sometimes I win, sometimes I don’t.  What matters is that I try. Even if I end up back in bed, I know that I fought the winter blues. I’ll beat them some day.

Lucy is young adult that loves art, drawing and writing. Their favorite pet is their rats that help with anxiety. Lucy loves to help other youth and continue to advocate for system change.

Children, suicide and race

When my son was 7, he tried to jump to his death.  He was climbing our stairs to a landing twelve feet above a tiled floor.  When he got there, he put his foot over the bannister and tried to launch himself into the air.  I was right behind him, grabbed him and yanked him back to safety.  As I held him he struggled, sobbing, “Let me go, let me go.  I want to die.”

My heart was pounding, time slowed and everything I saw and heard became sharper and more vivid.  There is no single word to describe how I felt.  It was some combination of shock, horror, disbelief, anguish, inadequacy and panic.  My young son, who until then had been school phobic with nightmares and sadness, had veered sharply into new, horrifying territory. It was his first suicide attempt, but not his last.  He got older and more sophisticated in his methods and I felt that combination of shock and anguish each time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate for children increased 64% from 2006 to 2016.  The rate for young children rose even higher. But the rise in suicides for African American children outpaces all other groups, rising 71% in the same time period.  Just like me, their mothers and fathers no doubt feel unprepared, in shock and disbelief.  We wonder how to make sense of this.

The Washington Post article, “He was happy. So far as I know” tells the story of 11 year old Rylan Hagan, an African American boy, who hanged himself last November. His mother found him and is devastated each hour and each day.

Rylan was loved, he had friends and did well in school and sports, even winning a trip to Disneyland that he never had a chance to take.  His mother is searching for clues she might have missed in the music he listened to, the video games he played and the movies he watched.  Once, when she asked him to do chores, he reacted emotionally, saying he wanted to kill himself. She wonders if she missed an important clue.

Parents look for answers everywhere after a suicide attempt and certainly after a completed suicide. Since we can’t look inside our children’s minds, we look at the things they surround themselves with, hoping to find leads.  We hope we will know it when, if, we see it.  A lot of the time, however, we don’t find what we are looking for.

Researchers don’t know why the rate of suicide for children has jumped and they can only guess why the rate of suicide for black children is even higher. They are alarmed by this spike and we should be too.  Researchers do suspect that racism plays a part as does an idea, a myth, that suicide is not a “black problem” and black children don’t kill themselves, says Rheeda L. Walker, a psychology professor at the University of Houston-Downtown. Myths like these mean that African American parents can be slower to get mental health care for their children.

Have you ever noticed that myths seem to congregate in groups? We believe groups of myths about food such as eating before swimming causes cramps and Twinkies don’t have an expiration date.  We believe clumps of things about animals including that toads cause warts or bats are blind.  People will still tell you that spicy food causes ulcers and carrots improve vision. No matter how often they are debunked, some myths seem to live on and on. If we believe one myth on a topic, we are more inclined to believe others.

We have a lot of myths about mental health, too, and they can encourage us to act or delay.  The one parents hear most often is that mental health issues stem from bad parenting.  Another myth is that mental health problems are a sign of weakness or only a phase.  Just wait, we are told, he will grow out of it. People will say with great authority, repeating common and false ideas, that therapy for kids is a waste of time and considering medication will lead to overmedicating. Just as people continue to believe that teaching sex education in schools leads to more sexual activity in teens, many also believe that talking about suicide will put that thought into a child’s head.  None of these myths are true.

Some of these myths are stronger and more persuasive for some groups of parents than others, but most of us buy into one or two.  No parent should be faulted for what they don’t know.  No one wants to believe that small people, children, can have big illnesses.  Unless you have a personal or family experience as a point of reference, myths guide us away from realizing what’s going on with our child. At least until it smacks us in the face.

Nikki Webber Allen created I Live For, a storytelling intiative to end stigma around depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders in teenagers and young adults of color.  When her 22 year old nephew took his life, Allen realized that remaining silent about her own depression had also robbed her of the opportunity to talk to him about his own mental health issues. Allen, an Emmy winning producer, is creating a documentary to tell the individual stories of people of color who have struggled with anxiety and depression.  She hopes it will help boost understanding and dispel myths.

When my son made his first suicide attempt, I looked for other parents like me.  They were very hard to find and in my search I was often met with disbelief that young children could be suicidal or depressed.  Even my son’s pediatrician and teachers were unhelpful, telling me I’d have a hard time finding other parents who were going through the same thing.  We need to find each other and tell our stories out loud. We all need to ask why suicide rates for children, especially African American children, are going up.  Parents are looking for answers. That’s what we do.