Being a suicide survivor

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The topic of suicide has been everywhere this week due to the death of Robin Williams. I can’t put into words how sad it must be for his family and friends, especially with the circumstances of his death. I know his family must be asking themselves what they could have done differently. I’m sure his friends are wondering why Robin never asked them for help, or maybe he did, and now they’re asking how they could have helped differently. 

Mental health is not easily understood by people. There’s a lot we don’t know about the human mind, and how it operates. Generally, unless you have a mental health issue, you won’t be able to understand or relate to someone who is suffering from a mental health issue. The result is that people easily come to their own conclusions on how things should or should not work, and outcomes such as suicide are less understood. 

I see the threads of conversations on facebook and twitter now. Is suicide selfish? Is it the result of a disease we don’t really understand? Is suicide from mental health issues the same as suicide as a resolution to a physical disease that causes unimaginable suffering? All of these questions are natural, and are reactions to losing someone we love. I think the reactions of people are a result of grieving, and I think it’s healthy that we have these type of conversations. Robin Williams is an amazing human being, and I love him for all of the joy he brought to my life. I hope this death brings about a better understanding of mental health in the long run. I don’t think asking “why,” is a bad thing – but when most people heard he committed suicide and asked “why” …I asked … “why him, and not me?” 

I am a suicide survivor. It isn’t something I tell people, including my closest friends and family. It is something that I regret, and it is shameful. That said, I was very lucky I happened to have someone near by when I tried. I do not want to go into the details of the event itself, but I was lucky, I was very lucky. 

Why did I do it?

I’m sure you could narrow down a number of factors, but none of them on their own make much sense. I didn’t have the easiest upbringing, but honestly there are people in the world who had it worse than I did. Is it genetic? I do have evidence in my family of depression, but the science on ‘nature vs. nurture’ is still a long way from being settled. Was I unhappy with my personal relationships? Throughout my life I have made good and bad choices with people I have made friends ( or more) with, and I expect to continue that trend as I learn and continue to grow. Was it residual guilt from the loss of my Mom at age 17, before I started my senior year in high school? 

I don’t know, but I don’t think any of the above reasons justify such an action. When I made the choice, it felt like the choice was made for me. My memories of the event are non existent. I felt like I was in another world, a place of pure darkness, and the voices in my mind were telling me to destroy myself. It was real. Part of me honestly believed the world would be better without me in it, and I honestly thought everyone who ever knew me would feel the same way.

All of that is bullshit, of course. I’m way to fabulous for that to be true. The truth is, I don’t have a simple explanation for why it happened, but it did. 

Then what?

Before it happened, I was already in therapy for years. I was diagnosed with chronic depression when I was 20. I had tried different treatment options, including medication. Sometimes I got better, and sometimes I got worse. When the “event” happened, it was during one of my good times, which is really odd to think about. My emotional state seemed to have come out of no where. I wanted answers, and started to switch therapists and tried more intensive treatment methods. 

I finally worked with a doctor who had been in the mental therapy field for a couple decades, including spending some time with people who had been in the military. After some review, I was diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is a long winded way of saying I have post traumatic stress disorder for a REALLY long time. I always considered myself a very visual person, always remember things like playing back a movie in my mind, but I didn’t realize that some of that “playback” was actually a flashback.

When I received the diagnosis, there was a sense of relief because it explained so many different aspects of my behavior I never understood before. It also explained why I tend to act like a ‘lone wolf’ when it comes to my social habits and have a hard time maintaining close long term relationships – and yeah…depression happens, but I know why, and it’s extraordinarily comforting.  I’m now able to make healthy decisions about my mental health, and more importantly, I am able to recognize the triggers of my disorder. Hopefully, in a couple years, it will be like second nature to me. 

Grades of depression

Okay so…now comes the controversial portion of my post. The word “depression” gets thrown around way too much. There is still so much we do not know about our mental health, and treatment options are lacking. It doesn’t help that a lot of people get mis-diagnosed with depression, including me, but the fact is…most people who are “depressed” do not have “depression.” To this day there are a lot of arguments regarding the criteria of depression, but with most of the doctors I have worked with, there is general agreement that the current criteria doesn’t work, so nothing in the medical community is settled on this topic. 

For those of us who are not doctors, we often think of depression as a emotional state. Being “Depressed” is an emotional state, but clinical depression is an actual mental disorder. Just because you feel sad and lazy all day long, doesn’t mean you have clinical depression. It could be a symptom of a mental health issue, but for most of you, it’s just the result of bad choices you have made. 

When someone commits suicide, a natural question we ask is: Why didn’t they just ask for help?

With clinical depression, the feeling of hopelessness and loneliness is so overwhelming, that it is damn near impossible. I know when someone is depressed when they have seemed sad for extended periods of time, but go out of their way to admitting it. 

(here comes that fun part!)

On the flipside, I know when someone doesn’t have depression when they express how depressed they are. This includes doing it on social networks. I will never understand why people spew their personal business on twitter or facebook, but expressing yourself on one of those platforms and announcing your emotional state verifies that you are not clinically depressed. In fact, I have noticed that my friends who are clinically depressed, are more likely to use social networks as a way to spread happiness and to use it for fun. It’s an odd paradox, but if you think about it, Robin Williams did exactly the same thing. 

I’m not saying people who express their sadness on facebook are not sad, in fact, I’m not even saying they don’t have mental health issues (they may still be suicidal, even!)…but those are cries for help. Depression doesn’t allow you to call for help, anymore than cancer will let you live. For those of you who express yourselves on social networks, if you really need or want help, turn to your loved ones and ask them directly, and you may have mental health issues that have gone undiagnosed. See a specialist, and get some help!

The point of all this…

I actually didn’t have a point. I just wanted to share my thoughts and feelings on this topic since it’s being discussed so heavily. I don’t know if any of this adds anything to the discussion, but I am hoping at least one person reads this who is in a bad situation – gets help. 

The fact is, unless you have been through this dir
ectly, you will never understand – and if you do, it’s cause you’re a survivor and you know how dark the human mind can get. I only survived because of a friend, and by the grace of God. If you are a survivor, make sure to thank your friend every day. 

For those of you who have been on the side where you have been impacted by suicide, your feelings about suicide are only natural. I have seen people say that “suicide is selfish.” In a way, I understand that perspective, especially since it can cause so much pain. It’s okay to be angry about it, and angry at the person who left this world. Don’t stop loving them though. Robin Williams, I love you man, you will never be forgotten. 

Finally…I think as a culture we need to become more self aware of ourselves and each other. If you say you “love” someone, friend/family/other/etc. , make sure to ask them how they are doing on a regular basis. Make sure to spend time with them or somehow maintain contact with them over social networks. It has never been easier to reach out to people and communicate with them. People who have been diagnosed with clinical depression, or have depression as a symptom, will do everything they can to lock themselves away from the world. Don’t let them. Pull them out of their shell kicking and screaming. 

Someday, we will fully understand the human mind, and we will be able to cure mental conditions like this. We can never cure sadness, nor should we, because it makes the good times seem that much better. Until that day comes, we will have more casualties. The best thing we can do is to take care of each other, tell each other “I love you,” and try to live life to the fullest. 

Why you Nerds be Haten?

I wanted to get something off my chest for a while, and now it is time.

Dear Nerds, my brothers and sisters, why are so many of you judgmental assholes?

Let me take a step back. I love to share information with people on facebook on twitter. I find something I love, and I post about it. I love music. I love Star Wars. I love working out. I love my San Francisco Giants. I love humor. I love a lot of things. I find that I am a much happier person when I spend more time celebrating life rather than criticizing it. There is a time and a place to be critical, especially when it comes to my self improvement, but for the most part I don’t relish in negativity (or the negativity of others).

So many people use social network platforms, and other methods of communication, to spread their negativity  and to put each other down. I sometimes see  negative conversations manifesting when people try to have political discussions, or deeply personal conversations about ethics, religion, and morality. I can understand why these conversations become so negative, because they are so deeply personal, but surprisingly I see it more when one of my fellow nerds try to rip on something someone else loves. I see it with my fellow nerds more often than any other group I follow on Twitter and Facebook.

The criticism normally comes as a statement that suggests it is a statement of fact. A good example would be:
“I think people who like Baseball are idiots.” or
“People who enjoy Power Rangers need to grow up,” or
“I don’t understand why people even pay attention to Star Wars anymore,” or
“People who LARP are losers.”

Or just people who who make open comments about art and artistic things like:
“I hated that movie, it sucked.” (Where’s your movie?)
“That TV show was the worst thing I ever saw” (where is your Television show?)
“That was the worst album I ever heard” (where is your record deal?)

I see those type of comments and feel sorry for the person who says it. Why? Because I know that person is actually hurting inside and is a very insecure person.

When I was much younger, and I had a head of hair, I was insecure about the fact that I wasn’t very “cool,” and didn’t believe that I had very much talent, or was good at anything. My main obsession was music, and I would spend about 50% of my income on buying CDs (that’s right kids, people actually paid for their music!). Whenever I had free time, I would listen to music, and just day dream. I had a passion for music, it was MY THING!

Whenever I listened to other people talk about music, it often triggered a mental response in the back of my mind where I thought “But wait, I LOVE music! I spend all my time understanding and finding new music! This is MY THING! Not yours! Mine! What do you know?!,” and I would spend time defending my space by critiquing other people’s tastes, as if the topic was my territory and no one else. I was insecure about myself. I had no confidence, and I sought to put other people down because it was the quickest way to make myself feel better.

Did it make me better as a person? Nope. Did it make my friends  feel better when I made fun of them for loving something? Nope. It was a lose-lose situation. I simply choose to hurt my friends feelings in order to feel better about myself, because I was weak. Did it work? Oh sure, for like five minutes, then I would have some awful fallout with a friend and lose an opportunity to have a good relationship with someone.

When it comes to art, sports, and media, it is all very subjective. People like what they like. If my best friend wants to love football, how does that honestly impact my love of music? It doesn’t. What my friends love and like doesn’t have any impact on what I love or like; other than the possibility that I may like or love once they talk about it, and if I don’t, then who cares?

It’s totally fine to dislike something, or even say something like: “Meh, I didn’t like that song too much,” or “You know, football really isn’t my thing,” but if you don’t like something – then move on. Why spend the extra energy putting someone down for liking it in the first place? Isn’t it better to know someone, like someone, or love someone who has passion for life rather than someone who doesn’t give a damn about anything? Why spend the extra time to hate something? If you didn’t like something in the first place, why spend any more energy on it?

My nerds, you need to stop spending so much time ripping other people down for what they love. You should be spending more time loving yourself, and work towards improving yourself so that little voice inside your head that says “It’s time to strike and be critical” becomes a afterthought. It is harder, believe me, to criticize yourself and accept your short comings (and try to over come them)…but in the long run, you will like yourself better for it. You may even discover that the world is a much brighter and better place when you don’t fill it with your black clouds.

 

 

This is the only kind of story that can happen in a Dennys in the middle of the night in Los Angeles

I won’t get into “why,” but I was stuck overnight in Los Angeles (specifically the LAX area), and decided I was going to pull an all-nighter so I can catch the early flight. Much to my dismay, the options around the airport at 2:30 am were limited. My only real option was a Denny’s.

I wandered over to the Denny’s and noticed it was surrounded by two strip clubs and a hotel with a hourly rate. I knew that this was going to be an experience in it of itself. When I went inside the diner I saw that the restaurant had two sides, filled with a group of people wearing all blue, a group of people wearing all red, and a group of people who wear all purple. Since I grew up in LA, I wasn’t clueless about what I was walking into. The entire place was filled to the brim with gangs from different parts of the area. Generally when I see something like this I would expect fights to break out, but everyone was keeping to themselves and eating. I decided if they felt safe, I have nothing to fear, so I took a seat on the bar stool and ordered some really gross greasy food (it was amazing!).

To my right was a group of guys who were all wearing purple colors. I didn’t know which “group” purple belonged to since I only know the gangs that were around when I was a teenager. One guy looked at my jacket and saw my Automattic jacket, and I was wearing my ‘Happiness Engineer’ T-shirt. I’m sure I stuck out like a sore thumb.

The purple guy finally asks me “Hey man, what’s with the hoodie? Which crew are you with?”
“Crew,” I said “well…I’m part of the store crew,” which is the name of my team at Automattic.
“The store crew, shit man, can I buy some beer from you then?!” The purple guy starts laughing.

I can’t help but laugh back cause hearing people laugh usually makes me laugh too, even though the jokes are often on me.

“So where’s your hood at,” he asks. Normally a question you ask when you try and figure out a gang’s ‘territory.’
“Well, we don’t really have a hood, persay…we live all over the world and gather a couple times a year and do our thing.”
“Holy shit man, youz are like a secret group, like cross and bones or some shit.”
“Sort of like that…I suppose…..”
“Like, do you guys like….go banging and shit, or what?”
“Nothing like that, but we do use software that has taken over 20% of the internet.”
“holy shit man, that sounds crazy.”
“It is, it really is…..hey, do you like to blog?”

I start showing my new friend how to use WordPress, and the guy starts coming up with all kinds of ideas. I hear comments like:
“Dude we can put our demos on the site!”
“Fuck man, we could put those hot pictures of your girl on the site!”
“We can build a site for our friend who died!”

Before I realized it, I had a crowd of people looking over my shoulder watching me show the guys how to use WordPress. Blue, Purple, and Red….they all watched….And it was pretty cool.

 

This breaks my heart

I had the pleasure of meeting Eric Meyer once at a tech conference years and years ago. He most likely doesn’t remember me. I watched a couple of his talks over the years and respected him greatly. I heard the news regarding his 5 year old daughter having cancer, and it broke my heart, but these two blog articles were real tear jerkers.

“The Truth” by Eric Meyer
“The Evening” by Eric Meyer

Both are really good reads. My heart and prayers go out to Eric and his family. I can’t imagine what that must feel like, and I hope no one in my family and friends have to ever experience it.

Holy wow bees

Today it was discovered I have a bunch of bees living in the wall on the side of the house. Ugh. I hate bees.