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I’m Supposed to Be Happy by Kelsey Hoeper

Maybe you’ve been out of college for a while. Let’s say you landed your first “big girl” job, a nice apartment that’s somewhat cheap, and you’ve arrived to this moment in your life when you can afford HBO and organic fruit. Or perhaps you’re a senior in high school—you have a solid GPA, you’ve been accepted into a college of your choice, you work part-time, and you also happen to be a contributing player on the varsity track and field team. You’re the first person in your family to go to college and everyone tells you how proud they are. In both scenarios, you’re extremely happy. How could you not be? But you’re not.

You can be grateful for all the things you have, but still feel that something is missing or gnawing away at you. You may feel nothing when you’re meant to feel great. From the outside, you appear to have everything. Or you’ve worked so incredibly hard to get to where you’re at that it would be a disservice to let anyone see the pain you’re in. Maybe you’ve compared yourself to someone who’s told you they would kill to be in your shoes. But you’re genuinely unhappy and you choose to suffer in silence with no one to see. Why? Because you’re supposed to be happy. At the height of my depression, I was told that it would pass like anything else. I was also told I didn’t have anything to be depressed about.

Whether anyone’s diminished your feelings—your very valid feelings—there is no shame in admitting there’s something stirring within you. Troubles and worries are felt deeply, and it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. We don’t, and shouldn’t, suffer alone or in isolation. Harboring feelings of guilt is not a plan for escape. You may fly under the radar for a little while, but there’s no hiding from yourself. Whatever you feel, it’s real and it’s worthy of your time.

ECroghan

Lizzy Croghan, Elyssa’s Mission blogger

Every year in August, Elyssa’s Mission has an annual event called “A Race to Save Young Lives,” held at Arlington Racecourse. People gather to generously donate to suicide prevention and the SOS Signs of SuicideÒ Prevention Program for middle and high school students. This year was special for me because it was my first time filming the program with my iPhone. I was able to capture everyone’s speeches through film and, in my opinion, the speeches were the best they’ve ever been. The main takeaway message from this year’s event was that the SOS program saves teens’ lives. SOS, however, costs money. The beauty of Elyssa’s Mission is that they fully fund this program in schools throughout Illinois.

One of the speakers, Ed Hood, Principal at Gurrie Middle School, stated that he initially had concerns about bringing suicide prevention programs to his school because he did not want to put the idea of suicide in his students’ heads. Then he realized that teens need to be made aware of the signs of suicide in themselves and their friends.  Ed emphasized how Elyssa’s Mission brought SOS into his school and that the process of educating staff, parents and students worked extremely well. Ed arranged a parent education night to educate families about suicide and depression. The school even provided transportation for parents to attend the session. It was a huge success. Katie Baker (EM staff) presented this parent training on suicide.  Through the parent training and the student SOS program, parents and their teens were able to begin a conversation.  Ed showcased how one family truly benefitted from the SOS program because it opened up a dialogue between the mother and daughter. The mother learned her daughter had attempted suicide, and was subsequently able to get her daughter the proper help that she needed.

Katie Krall, the 2015 Elyssa’s Mission scholarship award recipient, spoke about how she put the ACT (Acknowledge, Care and Tell) technique into use and thereby made a difference in her friend’s life. She spoke about a close friend whom was suffering from depression and exhibiting signs of suicide. Katie was able to notify her friend’s parents and get her friend help. One of the things that stood out for me in Katie’s speech was her praise for Elyssa’s Mission: “I’ve never seen a cause so passionate about saving young teens’ lives.”

Melissa Molitor’s speech was extremely moving. Twelve years ago we weren’t talking about suicide. We didn’t know anything about depression. She spoke about her regret on not doing more in order to help Elyssa. She assumed Elyssa’s parents and therapist knew she was talking about suicide. Looking back, Melissa wishes she been educated on the help-seeking message ACT to be able to help Elyssa when was hurting. She would rather have Elyssa still be mad at her today then have kept Elyssa’s secret to herself.

Lastly, Joanne Meyers, president of Elyssa’s Mission closed the program by stating, “Depression is like cancer it kills. And like any illness we need to know what to do. We need to be educated on depression and suicide so that we can all save lives.” I completely agree with her. Elyssa’s Mission has saved many teens’ lives. It can’t be a topic swept under the rug.

What makes me passionate about Elyssa’s Mission is that they have taken a heavy topic and turned it into a conversation, an important one. This is the only way we can identify those suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts. By bringing suicide prevention programming to schools and their communities, Elyssa’s Mission continues to make a huge impact. I am extremely grateful for Elyssa’s Mission. What I learned is that depression isn’t something that can be swept under the rug. We have to talk about it! That’s the only way to, potentially, save a life.

Kelsey photo

Kelsey Hoeper, Elyssa’s Mission Volunteer

Let me first start by listing a few things I’ve seen/heard/read in the last 24 hours:

•More than 2,300 shootings took place in the city of Chicago in the last year.
•In anger, a man intentionally lit an apartment complex on fire, killing three young girls and leaving behind a devastated mother and father.
•Funding continues to dwindle for much-needed services in the areas of substance abuse, domestic violence, adequate housing, homelessness, sexual assault and more.
•Campus sexual assault cases continue to rise—especially during what reporters have been calling “the red zone”—the time between the start of the semester through Thanksgiving break, with freshmen women being particularly vulnerable.
•A friend posted on his Facebook wall with this one sentence: “I look around me and I don’t know where I am anymore…..”

We live in a chaotic world. Nothing is promised to us, nothing can be predicted. We see these images on our televisions and phone screens, of grieving mothers, abandoned children, black and smoky skies. We feel the initial sting. We empathize as much as we can, but then we are transported back into the center of our lives: sipping our lattes, doing homework, paying the bills, grocery shopping for our families, having sleepovers with our friends. I don’t blame them. I do it, too. In fact, we all do. We live for normalcy, even if it lasts for only a few moments. Nevertheless, we often feel hopeless. We think about our futures, and the futures of our children. It is not surprising that people of all ages feel this weight, and we are left wondering, what can we do? What can we do to ease the strain?

Get involved
You can find incredible fulfilment in helping others, whether it’s through tutoring, mentoring, or simply taking time out of your day to spend time with someone. At the end of the day, every single one of us wants to feel worthwhile, valuable and a part of something bigger than ourselves. We need love and acceptance. We need to know that others care for us.

Be “going somewhere”
Find a path that speaks to you. Follow a vision that leads. This path doesn’t need to go straight. There can be changes along the way. Embrace the journey.

Be thankful
Take the time to count your blessings, no matter how small they are.

Take care of yourself
Self-care is the best thing you can do for yourself. It keeps you clear-headed, alert and motivated. You can do more for others when you pay attention to your personal well-being.

Challenge yourself
If you’re upset and angry, channel that into something good. Find a cause that speaks to you. Help change laws; change what needs to be changed. Move outside of yourself.

Be with and be for those around you
We need each other. We are all that we have. You are all you will ever be.

Kelsey Hoeper, Elyssa's Mission Volunteer

Kelsey Hoeper,
Elyssa’s Mission Volunteer

Kelsey Hoeper is an Elyssa’s Mission Volunteer. Kelsey explores the wisdom that she would share with her younger self if she were there to coach her. Her beautiful and sensitive insight moves us to consider changing the story we tell ourselves to a more positive and loving one.

If only we could actually do this—travel back in time to meet our younger selves. We would be able to warn ourselves about the boy who would break our heart, decide against dropping $100 on something we don’t need and stepping in the way of someone headed for self-destruction. Maybe even keep someone’s secret (about a crush) longer than a week because when you’re 10 years old, two weeks can be an eternity.

I can think of many things I wish I could have done differently. Things I wish I would have said and otherwise kept to myself. But most of all, I wish I could have taught myself to think differently. I wish I had told myself repeatedly that I was smart, talented, creative and strong. That I was worthy of good things and that people would grow to love me if I let them. Instead I told myself I was ugly, too short, not skinny enough, friendless and painfully awkward. This wasn’t always my thought pattern, but it certainly dominated a lot of my self-talk. I wish 24-year-old me could get ice cream with my 11-year old self. We wouldn’t talk about calories; we would just enjoy the living earth, wind and fire out of our whipped cream and hot fudge. I wish we could go swimming together and pretend we were mermaids. I’d tell younger me that I was a natural-born swimmer; that the water could be a sanctuary when I wanted to escape. We wouldn’t talk about my body in a swimsuit. We would just play. Own it, girl. Every day.

Well, we can’t go back in time. None of us. Our younger selves are now just past versions of us. A book in the making, an unfinished painting. But luckily for us, those pieces of our former selves are still with us. We grew from those versions. We’re here because of them. So please do yourself a favor: tell yourself how worthy you are. If you’re going by a scale, you’re at a 10. No—a 20! Please tell yourself that you deserve good things. You deserve to join the rest of us, and you have the power to go your own way. Fight for what you want. Settle and fall into peace with this current version of you. Make positive changes. Try new things. Explore the version of you that’s ready to burst onto the scene.

Lizzy Croghan,  Elyssa’s Mission blogger

Lizzy Croghan,
Elyssa’s Mission blogger

Lizzy Croghan regularly blogs for Elyssa’s Mission sharing her insightful and sincere perspectives.

PMDD is classified as a severe extension of PMS and causes abnormal mood swings. Statistics say 5 out of 100 women have it. The most common age range for the onset of PMDD is late 20s through mid-30s. Symptoms of PMDD emerge 10 days before a woman’s menstruation begins and include depression, anxiety, insomnia and difficulty concentrating (Ewens, Hannah). Alarmingly, 15% of women with PMDD attempt suicide (Thielen, Jacqueline).

Although there is no known cure for PMDD, treatments which can alleviate the symptoms include antidepressants, birth control, herbal remedies and diet changes. One can also exercise and drink less caffeine to reduce symptoms of PMDD.

While I don’t have PMDD, I do have bad PMS. During ovulation, I am hormonal, unbalanced, prone to tears and very irritable. All the demons I am currently battling such as having no job and living at home (or whatever my demons at the time may be as they are always changing) become exasperated during my PMS. When I do finally menstruate, I feel relief that perhaps I am not going insane. I wanted to write this article to speak on behalf of those with PMDD and bad PMS that can trigger depression. I wanted to let them know that during their time of the month when they feel like they are losing it, they are not alone. My advice to those who suffer from bad PMS like I do would be to exercise daily and drink less caffeine. . .and realize it is simply your body and hormones playing mind games with you.

Sources

  1. Thielen, Jacqueline. “PMDD” http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premenstrual-syndrome/expert-answers/pmdd/faq-20058315 Accessed April 21, 2016.
  1. Ewens, Hannah. “Living with PMS That Makes You Want To Die” https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/living-with-pms-that-makes-you-want-to-die Published Sep 2015. Accessed April 21, 2016.
Kelsey Hoeper, Elyssa's Mission Volunteer

Kelsey Hoeper,
Elyssa’s Mission Volunteer

Kelsey Hoeper is an Elyssa’s Mission Volunteer. Kelsey shares her moving account on the loss of her friend who died by suicide. She provides powerful and sensitive insight on the important roles that education and awareness play in the prevention of suicide.

“I love and miss you so much. It pains me to know I can’t drive over or call you on the phone. Multiple times a day I stop what I’m doing, desperately wishing you were with me. I love you. I’ll always need you. Keep me close, my dear. I keep you close.” 

A friend of mine, I’ll refer to him as “David,” was last seen with some of his friends and co-workers at his favorite local bar. He had a gorgeous smile. The kind of smile that radiates, entering into his eyes. Forged by fire, softened by his gentle manner. It was easy to see why so many people loved him.

The night of his death, David’s mother called friends and family members letting them know the kind of news humans can hardly bear to hear. I’ve heard it’s a wave of emptiness, a hollow feeling that replaces large quantities of the “you” that was there only seconds beforehand. I’ve heard others feel it in their chests. Others feel it behind their eyes—shifting lenses. (I pray you never have to feel this way.)

That night, one of my friends called me. She was crying and saying his name over and over. She disclosed she never detected the level of his depression, the sheer height of his pain. I helped her disperse her self-guilt. I told her that guilt isn’t meant to pool inside you. Loving someone so fiercely, it feels holy. I told my friend, because you loved him, there is no reason for guilt.

The same night of David’s death, his Facebook page became a shrine. Friends and family members let their pain and love be known. Many of David’s closest friends did not know the depth of his pain and anxiety. From the outside, you would have met a vibrant young man with talent and spark. Upon closer look, you might have seen a side of him that was stoic, contemplative and internally bound. He could be outgoing and loud, and also settle down into himself. A young man who had a talent with words. An artist in his own right. There was so much left for him to give. So many places he had yet to tap into it and swim around.

It’s been less than a year since David’s death. We don’t dare to use the words “moving on.” It’s still too fresh for many people. I will never be one to negate the feelings of others or put mine in comparison to those of a mother, a father, a son, a grandmother. I do not have the eyes of a mother. I do not harbor the special moments living inside David’s parents and best friends. I have no right to access them. Those belong to certain people—the luckiest of people.

We are unable to stay in one place—there is too much around us, too many people that need us and love us. For that reason, “moving on” is something we say to others and something we often hope for ourselves. David’s Facebook page is an example of people moving on while taking David with them. They acknowledge his presence without him being there. They tell David about their job promotion, a new baby, a new house. How amazing. There is a before and there is an after, and we live and exist in both.

This story is an important one because detection isn’t always easy or on the surface. It can go unnoticed, and not because you are a bad parent or a bad friend. It goes unnoticed because some of those who internally struggle are the valedictorians. The star athletes. The vibrant, outgoing class clowns. Mental illness does not know age, income, the level of education, where you live. It can live inside someone like David. Someone everyone knew and loved. This is why Elyssa’s Mission is so crucial. The education and awareness offered by the Mission might be the very thing needed to bring someone back from their own depths. To bring them to the surface once again.

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