Please note that this blog contains serious and graphic discussion of suicide and other sensitive topics. Do not read this if you think that’s going to bother you.
TOAA Reflections: Struggling from Inside
By Melissa K. Vassar-Belloso
It’s been a while since I’ve done something really counting as mainly a personal reflection for the series. I’ve wanted to really steer it towards something prettier and more professional but while I was laying in bed this evening contemplating slicing my own arm open and wondering what the hell was wrong was my brain, it made me realize something. It made me realize that mental health isn’t pretty or proper. It’s unpredictable,scary, and difficult to talk about. it also made me consider that for change and awareness to happen those scary and ugly moments of living with a disability also need to be shared. We’ve formed this society where we try so hard to not see the parts we can’t label or fully comprehend but when it comes to mental health that’s a downside. But let me catch you up to where I am in life, because part of this blog is my personal journey in living with a mental health issue. Or rather let me catch you up to what led to me wanting to write this blog.
I’ve actually dealt with mental health issues for a long time and one of those issues happens to be that I do have suicidal tendencies. For a lot of people this can be a confusing issue because we as a society only treat the issue of suicide based on relevancy. What I mean by that is that the times people seem the most eager to push suicide awareness is when either someone with money commits suicide or a criminal or someone who makes news does it. The reality is that suicide is not a one-off issue. It’s something that those who are affected by it deal with every single day. It’s sort of if you combine a very slow-acting poison with a demon possession in a lot of ways.
My first brush with wanting to die was in high school and while most of the details of the incident are still pretty well-repressed, I can clearly remember my state of mind. I didn’t feel like myself and it felt almost out of body when I broke a glass and cut down my arm. I can’t remember what I wanted. I may have wanted to die or I may have wanted to feel pain because I felt emotionally numb quite often at the time. That incident landed me into a psychiatric hospital for the first time in my life and it was a scary experience that still sticks with me. It really drove the point home that human beings are far scarier than any fictional thing you can come up with when they hit rock-bottom. While I was in the hospital for those three days I made a commitment and that commitment was to take the person I turned into when I cut my arm and stuff her so far down into myself that she never came back. I just wanted to leave the hospital being another person, a happier person, and the kid my parents actually wanted to raise.
For a lot of years I worked hard to keep her buried. I worked hard to overcome my differences and disabilities and be as normal and successful as possible. To be fair, it mostly worked. I was able to hold down jobs and accomplish things and keep pushing on for a good number of years. I would still have times where I’d have a strange urge to down a whole bottle of pills or carve myself up but I found ways to curb the urges that were safe and creative instead of destructive. I would even have times I felt unsafe around myself enough to hand over all the pills and sharp objects I had to a family member or admit myself to the emergency room but I never got the impression the people around me took it that seriously because I said I didn’t think I’d do it. To be fair, the flaws in that system are kind of obvious because I’m sure a lot of people say they won’t do something and then just straight up go home and do it but that’s a whole different can of worms.
Now that’s a fair enough amount of background to get us to now. I’ve been dealing for months now with trying to get disability since I can’t really return to work with the culmination of all my conditions and how they’ve progressed. The hardest part has been having to open so many wounds to try to prove I’m disabled. Today I received my second denial and while I can’t be 100% on what it is about this letter that riled up my inner demons, I think it has something to do with the fact it was over twelve pages of my mental health history splattered across a heartless letter that basically told me I’m not disabled under the law. Quite frankly, I think the law can suck donkey balls right now. That’s not me being bitter. That’s me being disappointed and disgusted. I did work hard for years and paid into Social Security yet when I find myself at a place in my life where I can’t work anymore, I’m being forced to prove I’m disabled.
Now the audacity of spreading my medical history across that many pages and then saying I’m not disabled is a little dumb in itself. But the key issue with things like SSDI is that even Social Security has no idea what disability truly entails. They constantly mistake things like mental capacity,manners, and being able to perform basic hygiene as a key factor to people not being disabled. The truth of the matter is that intelligence won’t end my chronic pain,brushing my teeth my won’t make my anxiety less crippling, and being able to count by twos backwards won’t fill the gaps in the social skills being on the spectrum takes a way from me. Being intelligent and friendly makes me a great candidate to be a dog but it doesn’t make me a great candidate to get and maintain a job, especially in modern work environments which are fast-paced and highly social but not forgiving to disabilities and people who can’t be team players.
There needs to be a huge shift in perspective on what gets the most weight when a person applies for disability because there a billions of people in the world and each one of them is fighting their own fight and wearing a unique face. On top of the stress from Social Security I’ve had to deal with a sort of festering paranoia when it comes to asking others for help. Back in May of this year I was at my financial last straw. My unemployment was nearly drained and as an unemployed disabled person I have next to no options for financial assistance. That was when I thought to try one of the suggestions a lot of sites have while one is waiting for disability to come through and that’s asking family and friends.
It should be noted that I’m not a very direct person but I do feel very comfortable with technology and so I thought to try using a modern approach to reaching out to the people around me. I made a Facebook life event and a charitable crowdfunding page explaining my situation. I even broke down the amounts to justify what I was asking for and made it clear the money was not for recreation but bill paying only. I just wanted to be able to pay my bills for another couple of months like any good citizen and being raised in the church I remembered the concept of christian charity and made the mistake of reaching out and trusting my family and friends on Facebook. The campaign wasn’t even up for a day before two members of my family ratted the life event out to another member of my family who took the step of yelling at me and frankly making me feel like shit for asking for help in my time of need.
I took the campaign down immediately,deleted the life event, and refuse to trust the church or family and friends with anything personal since that incident. If the church is teaching my relatives to slam into their loved ones for asking for help than it’s not for me and the incident just confirmed what I’ve suspected for years and that is that the church is just a building with people. Those people are still capable of being just as shallow and fair weather as any other people and can’t be trusted just like most other people.
But unfortunately, being forced to not be able to trust other people has really opened the door more and more over the last few months for all the things I buried to come up to the surface. I’ve been feeling a huge increase in how much I think about death and just this evening when I realized I was one more appeal down and right back at rock-bottom with no one to reach out to, my mind didn’t just jump to thinking about if I were dead. For the first time in years I felt like her again. I didn’t just wish it. I wanted it. I could remember what it felt like to have blood trickling down my arm and a sea of broken blue glass around me and it truly terrified me.For a moment all I could hear was my heart beating like an increasingly loud drum and I felt like the ugliest and most worthless person in the world.
Now at this point you’re probably wondering what this blog is actually about. I honestly can’t tell you that. I’ve had a lot on my mind lately and no person I can trust enough to tell it to. When I express myself a little too much around my family I get tons of backlash and shaming so I tend to not say anything to them and internalize it instead. But also to be honest, this blog has really been saving me. Anytime I feel trapped from the poor communication in my family or like tonight feel like calling it a life, I can channel it into a blog and possibly reach some people instead and that’s not just for me but also in case someone else is sitting out there and wondering if they’re the only one feeling a certain way.
But let’s wrap this puppy up with a few things you can actually walk away with.
First, be kind to others, especially if you are a person who likes to cling to things like your religious faith or an organization of some kind. If it really is something you believe in than act as if you’re an emissary,because what you do can make or break how people see that grouping. This can apply to anyone reaching out to the disabled party that has strong ties to a helping organization so not just churches but also suicide hotlines,medical facilities, or even community organizations. By acting and being tied to organizations like that you not only have to worry about the interaction but also how that interaction looks in reflection the organization.
Second, if you have something that occurs between you and a person close to you, especially a person who has a mental health concern, talk about that issue and don’t try to bury it or let it fester. You may forget about it but a person with depression and anxiety won’t and by avoiding it they will internalize the situation instead of letting it go or finding a true sense of closure. Be honest and talk to the people in your lives. By expecting it to pass, you may actually be doing more harm than good and unintentionally hurting that person in ways you can’t even begin to understand.
Third, take suicide seriously not just when it’s relevant to you but every single day. Suicide awareness is something we need to have on our radar at all times because for every celebrity and newsworthy one you see, there are hundreds of other people foaming at the mouth from an overdose or hanging from a rope because they thought no one cared. If someone tells you they frequently deal with thoughts of death or have considered suicide it should be more than enough cause for concern. I mean that just as much for mental health professionals as I do everyday people too. Suicidal ideation is serious and just because they don’t seem like they’re going to do it is no reason to not value their life.
Lastly, If you have a demon of your own lurking then don’t try to bury it. Dealing with suicidal thoughts is a difficult journey and burying that part of you won’t make it go away. Even if it’s one person, learn to trust someone and remember that there are a lot of people who understand how you feel when you’re curled up in bed and contemplating ending your life. It’s a tough battle but with the right help and the right support network, you can do it. The next time you feel ugly and worthless,look in the mirror before you pick up a knife or some pills and realize that those thoughts and feelings don’t have to own you and you’re a strong and beautiful person who deserves to live well. What has always kept me kicking is channeling the destructive feelings into creative things like art or maybe a poem or something written but try to find an outlet that suits you and turn that negative situation into fuel for something positive or therapeutic.
Thank you if you made down this far for taking in this TOAA reflection. I hope sharing my experiences helps someone out there to not just learn a little bit about what life can be for a disabled person but also how we can just be slightly better as people in general. If you’d like to reach out to me definitely try the contact form on the site here or leave a comment.Also if you like my work and would like to see more of it or support it I’d love it if you’d check out my Patreon page or follow me on Facebook or Twitter via @themeinav!