Remembering–Mourning the Loss of an Advocate: Amy Bleuel

(This post was originally written on 3/31/2017, a few days after the loss of Amy Bleuel . It seems fitting to me to repost it in remembrance of her.)

Suicide Prevention Advocates--Sometimes we're in the battle for ourselves, too.

****WARNING–THIS POST MAY BE TRIGGERING IF YOU HAVE SELF HARMED, CURRENTLY SELF HARM, OR ARE A SUICIDE ATTEMPT SURVIVOR.****

My heart has been heavy the past few days since the report of mental health advocate Amy Bleuel’s death was released.

For those who don’t know who Amy was, she pioneered a network of peer support via her non-profit organization, Project Semicolon, founded in 2013. Project Semicolon exploded into social media consciousness in 2015 when pictures of semicolon tattoos inspired by the Project took off and started spreading like wildfire, but I was a follower of the Project since 2014 when I came across a photo on Facebook dedicated to Semicolon Day:

Project Semicolon
(The above photo is from 2015, but the one I came across was the same or similar.)
Project Semicolon defines itself as “dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury”, and “exists to encourage, love and inspire.”[8] While they are devoted to achieving lower suicide rates in the U.S. and worldwide, they do not themselves practice psychiatry, and the staff are not trained mental health professionals.[4] Rather, they recommend contacting emergency hotlines (e.g. 9-1-1 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) or seeking mental health professionals.[9]
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. with 42,773 reported deaths in 2014.[10] (from Wikipedia)

I can’t stress enough how important the Project was to me as someone who has a past history of self harm, who has struggled with depression and anxiety, and as a suicide attempt survivor and the mother of a suicide attempt survivor.

Amy made it okay to talk about these things more openly for many and touched so many lives with a small punctuation mark. By nature, those who self harm tend to hide what they do. There are differing reasons and methods of self harm that I won’t go into here, but the nature of the stigma has prevented many from seeking help or having hope for recovery. Suicide attempts often have similar stigmas attached, and many survivors, suicide loss survivors, or those considering suicide tend to feel alone even in the mental health community. Amy gave us a place there.

As an advocate for mental health as well as chronic illness, I admired and continue to admire Amy and her message of inclusion and support.

Amy was a suicide attempt survivor who struggled with depression and trauma PTSD herself, and whose father died by suicide. As many know, survived suicide attempts increase the risk of death by suicide in an individual. Yesterday, it was indeed confirmed that Amy died by suicide.

People tend to think mental health advocates have the answers and have conquered, but we’re really still in the battle with them.

We’re navigating the same waters, but don’t necessarily have a lighthouse in sight, a life jacket, or even know how to swim in uncharted waters…we just know we’re called to help others.
Sometimes in helping others, our own self care takes a backseat; sometimes because it’s easier to focus others’ problems, sometimes because we get caught up in what we do, and other times because we just don’t see that we have that same safety net we try to be.

When an advocate dies by suicide, people wonder what will happen to those they reached out to.
Will they feel “cheated” or abandoned?
Will they lose hope and give up?

Such a loss does not invalidate the message or their work. It makes it more important.

Rest in peace, Amy Bleuel. Your story is still not over, and neither is your legacy.

IMG_20170330_025915

My Scars Are My Triumph

****WARNING: THIS POST MAY BE TRIGGERING IF YOU HAVE SELF HARMED, CURRENTLY SELF HARM, OR ARE A SUICIDE SURVIVOR.****

I don’t know a single person that doesn’t have at least one scar.

Large or small, prominent or barely noticeable, every scar has a story attached; sometimes one we remember firsthand and sometimes one told to us because we were too young to remember.

This post is a celebration of all we’ve lived with and struggled with and survived. Our scars are our story…written in flesh or carved in our minds.

– “That’s from the time I was chasing my sister on my bike and she stepped in front of me. I swerved on the gravel and the road bit my face. I refer to it as one of her two attempts to kill me. ( Kidding about her intention, not about how I refer to it. )” – me

This could be an example of one my daughter might tell:

– “This one is from an emergency appendectomy when I was 8. I got sick from the anesthesia, so they gave me Phenergan. Turns out I have a really bad reaction to it, my mom says I was ripping out my IVs and crawling over the bed rails until they had to give me something to make me sleep.”

My friends have scar stories of their own:

– “My beautiful battle scar on my upper right arm is still with me to this day! When I was 13 I was diagnosed with stage 3 Melanoma (skin cancer). The surgeons cut away the entire cancerous section including some of my muscle. The surgery itself was 8 hours. After months of more minor surgeries, stitches, Dr appointments, rehabilitation, and treatment I was in the clear, as in remission for 5 years.” – Abby

– “My favorite scar is from a c-section at 19. Frank Breach they called her. Her adoptive parents named her Alyssa. I like that name; I love her wherever she is.” – Ericka

Not all scars are physical or visible, but are still carried with us and remembered vividly in a way that affects us years later:

– “This one is from when I went to the ER for a severe Migraine attack. The doctor decided to give me Ketamine, also known by its street name, Special K. While rubbing his hands together and bouncing on his feet, he said to me in a giddy voice, “This will be fun!”
It was not fun. The walls moved around me and started closing in on me. The clock on the wall was making circular trips all around it. My bed felt like it was on violent waves of the sea, and I held on to the rail for dear life. My right leg disappeared. I couldn’t find it. Then I felt myself fading, until my consciousness was nothing but a small speck in my chest. I thought I was going to be snuffed out for good. I screamed and screamed for help, even though I couldn’t hear myself. The nurses ignored my complaints and asked if my Migraine was better. It wasn’t. Shortly after, they came back with a second dose and said, “This will help.”
It didn’t. They left me alone for 2 hours with my hallucinations and paranoia and then sent me out the door in a wheelchair.
My Migraine was still not better.” – Brianna

– “These are from years of mental and emotional abuse from my father. They aren’t all healed even now, 20+ years later.” – me

– “This one is from my father walking out on us.” – anonymous

– “My invisible scar is from being raped.” – anonymous

Some scars are visible, but not understood…often those who carry them try to keep them hidden because of reactions based on the stigma attached, rather than compassion.

– “Are you talking about physical scars or emotional/psychological scars as well? You could write a book on my psychological/emotional alone, but the physical one would be my body. I eat my feelings so it shouldn’t surprise me that I look like I do. There are a few others from when I was cutting myself but they are hidden really well. Another thing is since I have always researched any diagnosis and/or test result is I also research the treatments so when I was cutting myself I knew where not to cut. I was mindful of being able to hide them.” – Malinda

– “These are from years of self harm–for me, it was easier to deal with the physical pain than the emotional pain. Some are hidden, some aren’t; they are the days when the only thing that mattered was the physical pain to shield and distract me from emotional anguish.” – me

– “This one is from a suicide attempt.” – anonymous

– “I never hid my self harm scars. But people pretended not to notice because it was easier than admitting to themselves I needed help.” – anonymous

– “My scars are proof that I fought my demons and survived myself. They are a reminder of my struggles I’ve conquered.” – me

Sometimes scars are something that helps us relate to others or reminders that others are fighting battles we can’t always see. No matter which they are, our scars are part of us and of our story and can be used as a source of triumph over the things we’ve come through.

May your story be a tale of triumph and compassion.

Being Disabled Is a Job

#DownTheRabbitHole #chronicmigraine #ChronicPain #chronicillness #depression #anxiety #TardiveDyskenisia #panicattacks #mentalhealth #mentalillness #abusesurvivor #disability

THIS.
This sums up so many of my own thoughts. – Selena

BeingCharis

I’ve heard some say disability benefits are unnecessary hand-outs for people who should just die off, and why should hard-working people foot the bill for people who are lazy, whose lives mean nothing?

The disability process itself mirrors these same sentiments – the 3-5 years (average) process for applying, fighting for, and receiving disability (SSI or SSDI) in the USA is by its nature a grueling process, with analysts hired to deny applicants not once, but twice (standard procedure), forcing the applicant to appeal their case twice over several months before a hearing is granted, which then takes years to schedule due to a shortage of judges. It is a process intended to force people to give up.

You usually have to be literally dying to be automatically granted disability in the USA.

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