Archive | March 28, 2010

Confessions, and a letter from PostSecret.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I attempted to kill myself.  Honestly, that’s all I’m ever going to say about it.  I’ve only verbally told a handful of people, and it feels strange to be putting this out where the whole world can see it.  Suicide in western culture is a shameful secret, one we keep from ourselves.

Off and on, since then, I’ve purposely put myself in danger, half hoping that something would happen to me.  I once explained it to a therapist by saying “I’m not going to step in front of a bus, but I’m going to take my time getting out of the way if I see a bus coming.”

PostSecret today featured a very touching letter and response.  I would like to share with everybody.

Suicide prevention is a cause that is near and dear to my heart.  Depression is a painful disease, but it shouldn’t be a fatal one.  Frank is, of course, Frank Warren, of PostSecret.com

—–Letter—–

Dear Frank

I thought about sending a postcard but wanted to share a story without anonymity. I’m a senior at Cornell University and at your PostSecret Event here two years ago, I shared the following secret: “My main motivation for applying to the PhD program in Clinical Psychology was to honor the memory of my three cousins who took their lives by acquiring the training to help alleviate the despair of others.”

Recently I received an offer of admission to the USUHS in Bethesda, Maryland where I will be joining the Suicide Behavior and Prevention Laboratory. As soon as I received that offer, I remembered the secret I shared with the audience that night and how deeply meaningful it will be to follow through.

It makes me smile to know I’ll be moving so close to where all the secrets are sent and being only a few miles away from someone breaking down barriers in the mental health field in a way science has yet to discover.

—–Response—–

I still have good memories of the Cornell PostSecret Event in 2008. And being a basketball fan I enjoyed watching Cornell’s team go deep in the NCAAs last week. But I’ve also been distressed to see the lopsided media coverage of student basketball compared to the half dozen student suicides at Cornell this year.

According to Yahoo, 7,573 news stories were written about Cornell Basketball in the past 30 days. During that same period, only 275 stories were written about the six Cornell students who took their own lives.

Suicide is a secret that we collectively keep from ourselves. But if we can find the courage to tell the painful stories, together, we can take the actions that will bring help and hope to those of us who suffer in silence.

This year over 1,000 college students will kill themselves. March is the month with the highest rate of suicides. Here are five ways you can fight back today.

1. Support the Pick-Up-The-Phone 30-City Tour with headliner Blue October.

2. Tell your story (or your friend’s story) and learn how Active Minds can help you fight suicide at your school.

3. Join Congressman Kennedy, HopeLine founder Reese Butler, Jamie Tworkowski and myself in Washington DC, April 12th, for the 6th Annual National HopeLine Network Capital Hill Press Conference.

4. Text “Suicide” to 20222 to make a $10.00 donation to HopeLine.

5. Share this message on facebook and Twitter.

“Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t”

I KNOW that every fourth Sunday I have meetings starting at 8am at the church.  I prepared for it, I went to bed early, even though I couldn’t sleep, and Lulu kept me up even more than she usually does.  I showered chose what I was going to wear–including accessories, the night before, and set my alarm for 7am.  I woke up at 8:30.  Crap.  The last five minutes of my first meeting were really good, though.

I talked briefly with my Bishop, and he complemented me on what I had done in my capacity as the Temple Committee Co-Chair, I thanked him, then commented that I should be doing more.   He just smiled at me and said, “Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t.”  Later, he repeated that over the pulpit to the Ward, and added “and you will be happy.”

Happiness tends to be a fleeting thing for me.  For everyone I suppose.  The depression makes happiness harder to come by, and it doesn’t stay as long as it would for a normal person.  But Bishop’s comments made me think: focusing of shortcomings and failures, as well as thinking about what we can’t do is a surefire way to become depressed.

I was feeling anxious during Sacrament Meeting, and would have slipped out to go home, except I had to teach the Temple Prep class in Sunday School.  So I pulled out a piece of paper, and started making a list of the things that I can do. It included things like temple and volunteer work, helping my family, gardening in my little patio garden, and taking care of the dogs.  There wasn’t anything too big or amazing, but it was a nice little exercise.

While I was writing this, a few other things came into my head–writing, and artwork.  My writing has gotten better over the past few months–I always knew I could write, but have felt self-conscious about what I’ve put out.  This blog has helped me overcome some of those feelings, and my writing has improved for it.   My artwork–painting, drawing and photography, might not be that great, but I can do it.  And with practice, those things will get better.

I have an eye for layout and design.  I can create wonderful things that catch people’s eyes, and that they enjoy.  I can cook and bake, I can sing, just not well, I can memorize songs and scripture and poetry.  I can be happy.

Really.

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