Friday, January 1, 2016

Believe & Decide

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.


A couple of weeks ago, one of my Afro-Latina sisters asked me for help with a writing prompt she was working on. She wanted some of us to give advice to our younger self. Not our teenage or child self, but rather the person we were one year ago. For me, that was Jasminne at 30...when I expected, that simply because I was in a new decade of life everything would suddenly change and miraculously get better. Wrong.

The advice I gave myself when I responded to her post was mostly predictable, (follow your heart, things won't change unless you do, be kinder to yourself etc.) but one thing I wrote started to nag at me today (in a good way) on this first day of the new year as we all consider our future goals and reflect on the year behind us. The one thing I would tell myself, that I think everyone should think about or may think about at least once in their life is the following:

"Believe that your life isn't worth living, and then, decide not to take it."

Why does this matter? Why is it ever ok to believe that your life isn't worth living? Because I think that at some point in our lives we all feel this way, even if only momentarily. And we have to forgive ourselves for feeling this way, and allow ourselves to feel it. And then, make the empowering choice to not take it. To be on the brink perhaps of the thought or the action and then, take back control. When I decided not to take my own life that night at 3am, it didn't mean I think it was worth living it, I just finally realized that this was the one thing I COULD control. (Yes, despite all the hogwash about happiness is a choice and all that other bullshit..sometimes..people..let's be's not..and you are just fucking sad...and that's that).

When you live with chronic pain and illness, suicidal thoughts are real, very real. After all, who wants to live with pain for years on end? What kind of existence is that? Many of us feel that we have lost all control of our own bodies. Our bodies have betrayed us and there is nothing we can depend on. We continue to fail ourselves and our loved ones on a daily basis. Living becomes exhausting. Depression a byproduct of our physical pain and limitations (though many have tried to convince me that if I just changed my attitude my physical health would improve...this is where I would HIGHLY disagree with illness is not caused by my depression, my depression is caused by my illness.. don't get it twisted).

So, how do you overcome it? You decide, in that one crucial moment as you shake the bottle of pills, cradle the blade or the knife or the gun or whatever weapon of choice you have in your midst, that even if every organ in your body decides to deteriorate tomorrow and you can no longer follow any of your dreams, that you CAN and DO in that moment have control over whether or not you will take the next breath.

In 2015, I came very close to the end. But I stopped myself. I found a sense of reason deep inside and asked myself: what will this solve? who will this help? And though I had some pretty strong reasons and answers to those questions, I found something else inside me that decided this was the ONLY thing I was in control of, and I wasn't going to lose that too.

I don't claim to know what it's like to live with depression, anxiety, bipolar or other severe forms of mental illness for years at a time. But I do know what my life has been like off and on the last 8 years because of how my physical illnesses have affected me emotionally and spiritually... and my friends... "the struggle is real." The allure of suicide hangs in the recesses of my mind on an almost continuous basis, especially during times of agonizing pain and weeks of insomnia. But I've always found the mental reasoning to rationalize myself out of it. And most recently, I've realized that feeling and being healthier and stronger has alleviated 99% of my depression and anxiety and allowed only goodness and light to flow into my life. And no, I don't think it's the other way around. There's no chicken and egg metaphor here. Being in less pain has made me happier. Period. It has provided clarity and hope in my life where none used to exist. Because I don't fear or look for death and pain around every corner, bite of food, missed night of sleep, hospital procedure or pill I am now able to plan for and enjoy the present and the future. I have regained what I lost almost 7 years ago. Control. Or at least a sense of it. And though I have SO MANY successes and life lessons to be thankful for in the past year...that is the greatest gift 2015 and turning 30 gave me.

Most of us have the power and the mental capacity every day to stop living and breathing if we so choose, and yet we don't, and being in control of THAT (your mind and your choices) surpasses any other physical betrayal of the body. If you have the mental capacity to stop yourself from ending it all, then you have more than you'll ever need.

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