Mental Health: Dealing With Suicide

TRIGGER WARNINGS: self-harm / suicide

A friend hit me up this week broken-hearted that yet another one of their friends had taken their life. They asked if I might explore the complexities of dealing with suicide and raise general awareness here on Bummed Out Baker and I am going to do my best. Please know that I mean to approach the topic with the utmost sensitivity, and am writing about it not for sensationalism, but in hopes of providing solace or understanding regarding suicide.

My first thought on suicide is that it is, of course, deeply personal. When someone takes their own life, unless you’ve been in their very position, the idea of teetering on that edge between life and death is incomprehensible. However, more people than you might think have contemplated the act, several of whom are the people in your life you’d least suspect.

I’ll begin by laying my cards on the table. In 2008, before I was properly medicated under the supervision of a good psychiatrist, I hoped for death most every night. I was 19. I feel like chronic depression (or other mental illnesses) are like addiction / sobriety, in a way. If you’re an addict who doesn’t keep a close eye on the maintenance of their sobriety, a trigger that leads to a slip could sneak up on you. (In this vein, I can’t help but think of the tragic death of the wonderful Philip Seymour Hoffman. Read the moving piece from his partner here.) Mental illness is similar. Sometimes brains need a medicinal switch up, and if you’re not monitoring the effectiveness of your current (or absence of) RX, dark thoughts and ideas can begin to infiltrate your psyche and then start to seem reasonable. Something else to be aware of is that suicidal ideation can be heightened in the first several weeks of taking a new medication. A medication can also blatantly make things worse – the whole thing is a precarious trial and error to be treated with sensitivity and care. While my thoughts of death still come and go, with therapy and medications I am able to better manage with self-talk. Like I’ve said before, I don’t know when the cloud will left, but I know it eventually will.

I believe suicide to be about interiority, something happening on the inside that feels irreparable, a drought of hope that can never be replenished due to circumstance or chemical imbalance. After the initial shock, denial, and guilt, some people believe suicide to be selfish. An English teacher of mine in college opened my eyes to an alternative idea when she likened viewing suicide as selfish to wanting someone to walk around in shoes that are killing them with blood and blisters for the rest of their life, simply because it would make you (another person) feel better. When you think about it, of course that’s not something anyone would want for a loved one. But feeling that there is no way out is also something no one would want for a loved one. One of the hardest things to accept is that someone else’s suicide is not your fault. The layers of complexity continue.

When I was in high school in the early 2000s, we had about one kid a year die by suicide. Another kid would’ve gone to my high school, but he took his life while still in junior high. Kids. While this was post-Columbine, it was before the violent normalization and seemingly general acceptance of mass school shootings and before the internet loomed over every young person, a constant highlight reel produced by their peers. Social media is like a mutant toxicant that’s arrived to plague people in their formative years, a time that’s already painful enough. There is incredible pressure to be or look a certain way, and much of online presence is edited and curated to portray an idealized façade. I am 30 years old and cannot imagine that kind of weight, so I can’t fathom what it’s like to be a 15 year-old today.

While some people with suicidal tendencies are proactive towards death, others are indifferent, not trying to die while also not caring if they, in fact, do. This is different from the fleeting feeling of invincibility that typically couples with adolescence. It’s a step beyond, a matured nonchalance rooted in numbness caused by depression.

Suicide is often discussed in private, hushed tones with tearful words recounting the devastating circumstance of a self-inflicted death of a loved one. When we openly talk about suicide and self-harm, though, we make it okay for people to come out and talk about issues they may be having, which can lead to life-changing help.

While it may sometimes seem suicide may be the only route to relief, it’s simply untrue.

What can you do?

  1. Create community by normalizing the open discussion of thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Delay judgement. Open yourself to people and be receptive to what others have to say. Talk about it!
  2. Call any applicable government representatives to voice your concerns about prioritizing mental health resources and accessibility to the general public.
  3. If you have the means, donate to mental health nonprofit organizations. These orgs often provide resources, community, and solace to those in need and are unable to find elsewhere. At this point in time, these operations are a societal imperative.
  4. This is a bit pointed, but snuggling and talking to beloved pets, especially dogs, lowers BP, is calming, and helps pare down stress. There’s a growing body of research that points to mental comfort of being with your pet. (See: Harvard Health) I often tell my golden retrievers “You bring me so much comfort and joy!” while giving them belly rubs and ear scratches and I don’t know if they know what I’m saying, and I most certainly sound nuts (spoiler: because I am), but it sure does make me feel better.
  5. Always, always remember, if you or someone you know needs help right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

I’ll leave you all with this touching music video. It’s a couple years old, but remains important. Also, Logic looks like Steve Brady. Bonus!


Subscribe at the bottom of Bummed Out Baker to get my mental health musings and recipes emailed to you directly – Follow on Facebook for mental health articles and discussion – Follow on Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild.

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Recipe: Avocado Strawberry Caprese Salad (Gluten-Free + Vegan)

Okay the people who are like “Mmm yes dahling balsamic reduction” as if it’s some kind of delicate culinary masterpiece are FULL OF IT because it was so easy to make. I felt v sophisticated, and you can, too. You can also, like me, dance around the kitchen to Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff, wave around a spatula as a dancing accoutrement, and then hit yourself in the eye with a flying drop of balsamic vinaigrette reduction.*

This salad is perfect for summer in it’s ingredients, of course, but also in it’s simplicity. It’s crunchy, tart, sweet, addicting, and, perhaps most importantly, easy to make.

Ingredients

1/3 c balsamic vinegar
1 c strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 c grape tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, pitted and diced
1/3 c loosely packed basil leaves, chiffonade cut
1 1/2 t olive oil
Himalayan pink salt
 (or regular sea salt) to taste
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 T toasted sesame seeds
1 T chopped pecans

Instructions

  1. Bring vinegar to a simmer over medium heat in a small saucepan, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for ten minutes, uncovered, until it thickens and reduces in volume by about half. Set aside.
  2. Add strawberries, tomatoes, avocado, and basil to a large, shallow bowl for serving.
  3. Drizzle olive oil on salad and gently toss until just coated.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and briefly toss again.
  5. Top with sesame seeds and pecans.
  6. Finally, drizzle all balsamic reduction over the salad.
  7. Serve immediately – best enjoyed fresh!

Serves two.

Look, not everything I make is awesome, so I’m gonna start giving you my honest opinion. Avocado Strawberry Caprese Salad: 10/10

*Just kidding about that last bit, my eyes are fine. But if that did happen, I wouldn’t mind. I’d do it for Donna.

Adapted from Avocado Strawberry Caprese.


Subscribe at the bottom of Bummed Out Baker to get my mental health musings and recipes emailed to you directly – Follow on Facebook for mental health articles and discussion – Follow on Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Depression Lies to You

Coming at you live from a blue day, and my head is heavy, literally and figuratively. I was doing the dishes and had to rest my forehead against the cabinet above the sink, like some broken weeble wobble that toppled over and got stuck sideways. My rubber glove’d hands worked away, and I imagine it all would’ve looked pretty comical had anyone walked in.

I keep thinking about how I should be writing to work on my thesis, but can’t bring myself to do it. I’ve got a litany of to dos, and just… cannot. It’s an inability, not a lack of willingness, something that’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced mental illness, but I am doing my best.

Here goes…

DEPRESSION: Some days I am plagued by a feeling of worthlessness. I become certain that things will never get better and everything is a downward spiral from here. Nothing sounds appealing, and my inaction builds an internal tension and a self-doubt that often leads to self-hatred. When I try to pull myself up and out of my slump and fail, my mind bottoms out and I fall further downward, mentally. I hate myself even more. I clam up, don’t want to talk, shuffle around too exhausted to pick up my feet, and would do anything for it to be acceptable for me to just go back to sleep. I become convicted that this is it, this is who I am, a big ole bump on a log and a burden to my loved ones. What’s the point?

damn you, isolation foot
source

Despite feeling the way I do, life keeps moving with or without me. Time and responsibilities don’t stop because I woke up mentally paralyzed. There is no pause button, so I push through, go through motions, and do the very best I can until the cloud lifts. It always lifts, I just never know when it will – sometimes hours, sometimes months. The unpredictability is troubling and hard to plan around which is, frankly, a big part of my apprehension about becoming a parent. How could I subject a child to this? I know deep down that depression lies, so when I’m in the thick of it, like now, I try to remember that these toxic thoughts are not true. The thoughts exist, but they’re not substantive.

My commitment to be open about mental illness on Bummed Out Baker is important to me, and I hope it helps someone either understand what a loved one is going through or feel less alone if you yourself are going through it. I’m game to die on the hill of destigmatization, which also means I will possibly never be hired anywhere else, ever again. The idea is such a bummer that I have to laugh, internally of course, because turning up the sides of my mouth today feels impossible.

In between writing the above paragraphs I had to break to rest my head on my palm, my temple on my fist, or just completely collapse on my arms on the desk until I could pull myself up again. Depression is nonsensical, physically exhausting, dramatic, and infuriating. It’s also sort of funny, but only because if I couldn’t laugh about it, I don’t know if I’d survive.

Written on Monday, May 13, 2019.


Subscribe at the bottom of Bummed Out Baker to get my mental health musings and recipes emailed to you directly – Follow on Facebook for mental health articles and discussion – Follow on Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Recipe: Kale / Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad (Gluten-Free + Paleo + Vegan)

Hello people, I hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend. This week’s recipe is a healthy take on a classic Caesar salad packed with protein, iron, omegas 3 and 6, and some iodine. It’s not complicated, but it does require either a food processor or blender to make the crumble and dressing. It works great as a main dish or as a side with some Italian food! Enjoy.

Ingredients

1/2 c raw almonds

1/4 c + 1 1/2 t hulled hemp seeds

3 T nutritional yeast
2 t paprika

Himalayan pink salt
 (or regular sea salt) to taste
1/2 avocado, pitted and peeled

1 garlic clove

2 T + 1/3 c olive oil

2 T fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 T dijon mustard


1 1/2 t chia seeds

1/2 t dulse granules*
fresh ground pepper to taste
2 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced or shredded
5 oz container baby kale

Lemon wedges for serving


*Dulse is a red seaweed that kind of tastes like… bacon. It’s a great source of iodine. This is the kind I use.

clockwise from top: chia seeds, paprika, dulse granules, Himalayan pink salt, freshly ground pepper
hulled hemp seeds

Instructions

  1. In a food processor or small blender, pulse almonds
, 1/4 c hulled hemp seeds
, 2 T nutritional yeast, paprika
, and sea salt 
until mixture resembles fine crumbs.
  2. Transfer crumble to a small bowl, set aside, and wipe out food processor.
  3. In food processor, puree 1 1/2 t hulled hemp seeds
, 1 T nutritional yeast, 1/2 avocado, garlic
, 2 T olive oil
, 2 T lemon juice
, 1 1/2 T dijon mustard
, 
1 1/2 t chia seeds
, 1/2 t dulse granules, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper.
  4. Transfer dressing to a small bowl, set aside, and rinse out food processor. I promise this is the last time.
  5. Preheat oven to 450°F. In a large bowl, toss brussels sprouts with 1/3 c olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Spread brussels sprouts on two rimmed baking sheets and roast for about ten minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  6. In a large bowl, toss brussels sprouts with kale, dressing, and crumble.
  7. Serve with lemon wedges.
crumble
dressing
rinsed, trimmed, and ready to roll
crisp in some places, still tender in others is what you’re going for

Serves 4-6.

Adapted from Kale–and–Brussels Sprout Caesar Salad
.


Subscribe at the bottom of Bummed Out Baker to get my mental health musings and recipes emailed to you directly – Follow on Facebook for mental health articles and discussion – Follow on Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Compassion Fatigue and Hyper-Empathy

Rick is annoyed that I’m self-diagnosing myself again, but I can’t help it. I was listening to a podcast* while getting ready for bed the other night when I burst out of the bathroom to enthusiastically announce my discovery to Rick: “Hey! I have compassion fatigue and hyper-empathy!” Did I mention I get into bed about 1:00am? Poor Rick, all he wanted was to fall asleep listening to inspiring football stories on YouTube. I just get so excited when I gain language for something I’ve been experiencing and unable to accurately put into words for years, especially as a writer. It was like the time I discovered “dual diagnosis” and “co-occurrence” to describe mental illness + addiction. Revelatory.

This study discusses compassion fatigue due to the overwhelming nature of social problems that leads to burnout. It’s from 1996 and is still relevant. The fact that this is a thing shouldn’t be surprising, taking into account the stressful existence of a 24-hour news cycle. Something else that will likely be to no one’s surprise: compassion fatigue is often experienced by social workers, hospice workers, nurses, and psychiatrists. Guess what I’m talking about next week with my psych?! Cause now I’m worried about him.

I worry about government corruption, our oceans and forests, people without quality / accessible medical care, those assholes at Texas A&M who give golden retrievers M.S. so they can do tests on them, violence against women all over the world, whether people next to me are comfortable and me thinking Did I hurt their feelings? over and over, whether the person on the subway next to me has enough personal space and then arranging myself so none of my belongings are in it**, whales in captivity not getting to swim long distances with their family members, the whale pup at SeaWorld who got taken away from its mom who then just sank to the bottom of her tank and audibly cried for days, whether the man running the newsstand downstairs is happy, the time I saw $20 fall out of someone’s pocket in high school and instead of returning it I kept it and now imagine them not eating for days because of me, racial justice and reparations, the guy in front of the subway stairs who’s leg is rotting off (so I called 911), gay people who aren’t included or treated with respect while I get to go off and marry Rick no problem and am even celebrated for it, hurting the feelings of the employees at Jersey Mike’s when I parked in front of their store only to walk next door to the taco shop, that time ten years ago when my dad called me because he hadn’t talked to me that day and I responded “Do we have to talk every day?”, gentle pigs and cows getting shot in the head for unnecessary human food, forgetting to send a gift or thank you note, not saying thank you enough in general, whether or not my parents are okay, whether or not my parents know how grateful I am, whether or not my golden retrievers are dehydrated or hungry or hot or sad or in pain because they can’t talk and tell me, whether I’ve signed enough petitions and done enough to effect policy change, it goes on and on and on.

I worry about people, animals, our planet, and whether I’ve upset anyone CON. STANT. LY. Like a tick, I feel the overwhelming need to interject to apologize or explain long after everyone’s forgotten about what I’m even talking about. I cannot focus until I clear the air of things perhaps only taking place in my brain.

My parents joke that I sleep so much because I’m emotionally exhausted at the end of each day. I chew through mouth guards, subconsciously toiling away about all the problems in the world, real or imagined. To remedy, I try not to feel bad about having a cocktail and turning my brain off to watch Real Housewives of Atlanta and Beverly Hills. In the podcast* they call this type of activity “babysitting your brain.” You know, just let my brain sit over there for a while. Meanwhile I’ll be over here, strong cape cod in hand, in case it needs me.

Fun fact: hyper-empathy and compassion fatigue can be linked to borderline personality disorder. 🎶 Learn something new every daAaAaAy 🎶

Does anyone else suffer from hyper-empathy or compassion fatigue? Do tell. Revisiting all of my pet worries was extremely tiring to write, so I’m gonna go sleep for three days straight, now.


*Listen to “Too Much Empathy” from the podcast Stuff Mom Never Told You here.

**The other day I sat on the subway and the man next to me elbowed me twice in the side and, without looking at me, said “move over, you got all that space.” There were several inches between us, our bodies weren’t touching, and someone else’s stuff was on the other side of me. I am so conscious of other people’s space that I went home and burst into tears and told Rick I’d never be enough. Poor Rick 2: Electric Boogaloo.


Subscribe at the bottom of Bummed Out Baker to get my mental health musings and recipes emailed to you directly – Follow on Facebook for mental health articles and discussion – Follow on Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.