|Posted on September 25, 2019 at 5:05 PM||comments (2)|
One year ago, I faced challenges which seemed to end my future of being a mental health advocate. Where could I volunteer, or be an advocate, if not first where I live? Those involved are well known and highly respected members of the mental health community. Individuals who are not only older and wiser than me, but whose collective reputation and connections far exceed my own. People whose past and present accomplishments dwarf anything I have ever done. Their hard work has helped a small percentage of this community's residents in ways that are priceless.
My "unwanted recovery story" cannot compare.
Yet, before each of the incidents those involved already knew I am a suicide attempt survivor. They knew "(Stigma) harms the 1 in 5 Americans affected by mental health conditions. It shames them into silence. It prevents them from seeking help. And in some cases, it takes lives." NAMI's Cure Stigma PSA Campaign Manifesto. "In 2017, there were an estimated 1,400,000 suicide attempts." AFSP.org Suicide Statistics.
On local social media, I have seen "Not being a part of the solution makes you part of the problem" rhetoric being posted. I disagree. I am part of the solution. NAMI certainly thinks so. My first two Blogs talk about being an advocate while in recovery and what to do if you face discrimination. To persist, on June 20th I self-published a stunning article on anti-bullying that NAMI Submissions had already first considered to publish earlier this year.
Entitled, "It Matters How People Are Treated", does not take a side. It takes a stand. Against youth and adult bullying that affect people every day even to suicide, my article takes a stand when it should. Not next week if you feel like being mean to someone. Not next year because of political differences. Now; when this life matters most. I am not a suicide victim. I am a human being seeking to be a "victor" instead.
Pick a side…
I have. It's called life.
Bullying behavior and stigma continue to affect people much like mental health conditions and suicide symptoms do: regardless of whom you are. In late 2016, I made the conscious decision to face my mental health, because I knew what th;s was like and all the lives at stake. I didn't stop with helping only myself. I accepted the challenges I knew I would face. I chose to help others even though I am still facing th;s worse now than before.
Su;cide is universal.
At the end of each day, suicide should bring most or all of us together with serious determination to resolve it. If you were to ask a suicide attempt or loss survivor just how important life actually is, you should get a very honest answer: life matters. Thanks so incredibly much to NAMI Submissions and Oryx Cohen of the National Empowerment Center, my published writing has helped me endure what I face in my community. Now I can focus on critical issues that need addressed as of yesterday.
"People keep telling survivors to move on. Some do, but not me.
Even if there's a small chance, I owe this to every moment of silence to try."
(adapted from Avengers: Endgame trailer #2).
If at first you do succeed, try, try and do more. Push yourself as far past what you once thought was nothing you could accomplish. Challenge your impossible. Own it: i'mpossible. Reach for the stars. Read my perfectly timed th;rd NAMI Blog to find out more about how suicide prevention is possible and imperative to take seriously.
(click on title for web URL)
|Posted on September 24, 2019 at 2:45 AM||comments (0)|
"You are not alone" has yet to be helpful, because no matter how identifiable someone is my life situation has still remained relatively unchanged. That does not mean I have been sitting here obsessing over negativity with too much time on my hands. You are not alone is a positive form of honest encouragement to share with someone who may be dealing with challenging mental health symptoms. When I encourage others to believe they are not alone in their struggles, I say it with conviction. I am an honest, tell-it-like-it-is kind of person. I would also rather be realistic so I can tailor my encouragement to each person's needs and make a stronger connection. Even while I struggle to hang onto my own life by a bare thread. What makes my experience with mental health more difficult is with how I blend in so well to even my friends around me.
Typically those with my degree of prolonged depression and advanced anxiety symptoms have poor hygiene. I dress well and when volunteering in the community always present a professional, well-kept appearance. I was also raised to be this way. There are people whose mental health inhibits them from functioning or learning to the point of disability. I have a college degree; a Bachelor's of Arts degree in History with a Criminal Justice minor despite having Autism and ADHD. I come from a middle class background and happen to have a roof over my head still because my parents can afford to. This doesn't make me a spoiled rich kid who is lazy when it comes to making career decisions. My appearance, intelligence, functionality, or economic background should not be the basis of judgments.
When I admit not having much left in my otherwise normal looking life to keep me here, I should not be regarded as a heathen either. Suicide attempt survivor or not. I am being honest and shouldn't be stigmatized no matter how negative I am. When I reach out it isn't because I want to be a pain in your ass, or look its Jim Irion he's got issues. I won't respond or I'll ignore repeated messages he sends on social media. When I don't reach out it is because I am either paranoid of having offended you, feeling guilty for messaging too much, or doubtful that you want to hear about my otherwise under-achieving life. Despite all this, I still have people insist I talk to someone about my feelings. Well, the problem is I have tried and failed. My needs versus someone's happy-go-lucky life. Stalemate.
I suppose the biggest paradox of all is how I live and breathe while people know 'my signs' yet seem oblivious to my mental health. Numerous times in recent weeks I have contemplated, for only moments, what if I just ended my life right now to see who would actually care. It's a shame I couldn't do a 'George Bailey' from It's A Wonderful Life with Clarence the guardian Angel. I despise how people say they wished they'd seen the signs after a person's suicide. I am as close to another attempt as I could ever hate to be. Yet, people all around me know about my mental health and seem I don't know... blissfully ignorant? As I continue to exist under such extreme emotional stress, I can still be a capable advocate because of who I am.
I am sincere. I am considerate. I am compassionate. I am passionate. I am loving. I am forgiving. I am mindful. I am alive. I am also honest.
So, when I say that suicide prevention needs to be taken more seriously I am literally speaking from fresh, first-hand experience. First-hand as in the mere minutes before posting this.
|Posted on September 24, 2019 at 2:45 AM||comments (0)|
One of the scariest things I could admit right now…
…is just how close I feel to letting go.
Make no mistake about both the honesty and reality of my answer. Yes. I honestly do not feel enough is keeping me here invested in my life. Is this a suicide note? No. I've never written one even though that didn't stop my attempt sixteen years ago. Am I trying to be the center of attention? Only for as long as it takes you to read this. How recent are these feelings? Mere minutes ago. Why haven't I gone to the local Crisis Center? They cannot help. Believe me. I've considered it more than once. But Jim! You must. Or at least talk to someone who can help you get through this moment. I've tried but fewer people have reached out to me or who are capable and willing to listen. Most are rightfully busy with their own lives, their own families, children, pets, and hobbies. Some happen to be overwhelmed with their own mental health issues...
Can you see a pattern beginning to emerge?
There are a lot of contradictory facts about my experience which do not fall within common "norms" for mental health. What will really bake your noodle later on is the fact that I could easily keep going. Allow me to demonstrate. My not wanting to go to the Crisis Center is not from being stubborn or resistant. I am an over-thinking person. Therefore, for me many cognitive behavioral therapies often do not work. I simply defeat the purpose by assessing myself and knowing what I feel would help. When I say that Crisis cannot help I am telling the truth. When someone tells me I am not alone I never really feel comforted. When someone tells me not to give up I struggle now to hang on, because I've already given these issues a chance to be resolved.
Oh you will find someone someday only for it to be twenty years later and no special 'someone' at all. How very discouraging.
What may strike you as remarkable is that I am still here within minutes of saying such negative statements. But I am an advocate for positive mental health awareness. I need to be positive whether for myself or anyone who reads my writing. Smile. Things will be alright. Things will be alright when people stop labeling me like everyone else they see. I love to take different points of view in my writing. So, why not take a page from my own advice. Several times my counselor has asked me how I expect to help people if I actually feel so lost. What would I say to myself as a mental health advocate? There are people all around me. People who can and eventually will listen when I need someone to reach out to. However, during the last two weeks, I have stopped messaging people on social media to test what would happen. Few people have reached out to me...
I am experiencing both the effective and ineffective points of view as a mental health 'consumer'.
|Posted on September 6, 2019 at 2:45 AM||comments (0)|
(originally posted on TheMighty.com)
"So many battles waged over the years... and yet, none like this. Am I destined to destroy myself, or can I - can we change who we are and still live? Is th;s fate truly set?"
(adapted from Patrick Stewart, X-Men: Days Of Future Past film)
Unlike before I chose to face my mental health in late 2016, every day since has been an almost daily battle for me. Yes, it is true I made an extra commitment to advocate for awareness. This was also done without anyone to mentor me. So, when I say I am a grassroots mental health advocate I really did start all on my own. All alone. I felt a calling to help people like me because, knowing what th;s is like, I could not live with helping only myself.
Regardless of having chosen to be an advocate, with extra responsibilities and stress, I still had to 'know thyself' too. I needed to reflect on past and present experiences in order to learn from and share them with other people. Mental health recovery takes time. However, I also began to over-think my daily life in ways I had not done before. The passage of time also played a greater role as I turned thirty five, and now soon thirty eight. Not old but I have been around long enough for my symptoms to have had greater consequences.
Because it took me until October 2018 to reach out for full treatment, several of my affected personality traits are tough to address. Not impossible, but still challenging. Sixteen years ago, my suicide attempt bears a striking resemblance to my life today. My days were numbered. I was living on borrowed time. It seemed as if I was on the verge of emotional collapse despite appearing outwardly normal. What about now? Forget seeing my reflection in a mirror every day. Simply letting my mind wander, to think where my high school classmates are compared to me... Too many words for a simple sentence.
Sure I can say I'm still here. Sure I can reassure people they can each overcome their issues. Even suicide ideations, losing a loved one, a dear friend, or themselves having attempted too. Sure I can be honest that not everyone will make it, and offend some people in the process. Heaven forbid. Although I don't have a life-threatening illness, or live in poverty, I can say that still being here is not because I am "privileged", special, or have it easy. I am hard on myself enough as it is. As my counselor describes, I am my own worst bully.
When tomorrow is as fearful as the day that never comes...
...even being only in your late thirties can feel like a death sentence. But I can also tell you something much more unexpected coming from a suicide attempt survivor. Something that isn't clouded by doubt, skin color, gender, political views or voting preferences, not by race, economic background, intelligence or religious beliefs.
Choose a side? I have.
It's called *life*.
|Posted on August 23, 2019 at 2:10 AM||comments (0)|
“Souls and Soulmates”
Poem written by: Jim R. Irion
yet no way to know
they may be thinking of you?
So close yet so far
from that cherished first smile.
What can you possibly do?
No idea at all
who they could be?
You think back
to that Avatar film,
"(She) must also choose me."
You've lived your life.
Too many breaths to count.
Unknown if your lover exists.
Those who haven't found
their significant others,
you know the toll this exacts.
You wonder when.
You weep, then.
So empty and incomplete.
Ever feel as if
your soulmate is within
but just out of reach?
They could be
thinking about you,
writing poems this cute.
Should it be me
I wouldn't have a clue.
I miss every social cue.
Grab the collar of my shirt.
Kiss me you flirt.
I will make breakfast in bed.
If I happen to not
wake up soon enough
I'll buy you flowers instead.
I know how this feels...
Wondering why you are here.
Everyone has found someone.
I know I'm inexperienced.
Too many relationship gaps.
Could I be a father to your children?
Too much going on?
If you're not ready yet
I kinda feel that way too.
Whatever you do,
whomever you choose,
I'll be right here waiting for you.
|Posted on August 20, 2019 at 1:10 AM||comments (0)|
“I Could D;e Tomorrow”
Poem written by: Jim R. Irion
People who do not know what lies
behind these dull brown eyes.
Too preoccupied with your lives,
nor the time to ask me why.
Unfamiliar with mental health.
Inexperienced with how to help.
It's some of those who know better
that have made life a living hell.
People who have been intolerant
of free speech and opinion
have claimed to be anti-stigma,
but exclude me from their agenda.
"Stuff your "all due respect," Jim",
followed by blocked on Facebook.
Oh what bigotry I have been gifted
for just a single election vote.
People who identify as LGBT
have been encouraged to hate me.
Sympathy for his cancer scare.
Let me know what the tests show.
"Message me, say one bad word...
I will contact the law" (on you).
A threat for being compassionate?
He is popular and protected.
I hope he has no cancer, though.
Even if he punches me again in public.
I pitched my anti-bullying article
to another who blocked me on Facebook.
"im not sure this is of any interest
to anyone in the group".
Such ignorance from an LGBT member
bullied on a bus three years ago.
People who are so deeply consumed
by pettiness and bigotry...
What were those subtle "signs" again?
The ones many are late to see?
This intolerance, anger, and hypocrisy
is inexcusable if you ask me.
After all I could die tomorrow,
and would be missed by so many.
Not missed like that. I'm sorry.
As if I do not exist at all.
A cherished several, maybe fifty
if I am lucky and likeable,
would actually miss me when I'm gone.
More than I may ever truly know.
Bless your hearts. I love you all!
You know exactly who you are.
So, this could be a suicide note
to end my pathetic life.
It could easily be one day to live
before I die from a weakened heart.
What if I suffered through addiction,
or struggled with cancer?
I learned from Martin Luther King Jr.
Judge by content of character.
My Dad once taught me:
do not throw stones in someone's path.
One thing I learned from suicide:
all lives matter no matter what.
Can this world still be saved?
Just re-read this poetry.
Share it with those who hate you,
because I care about them too.
I've never believed in my future,
and in fact I still don't.
I am doing what I believe I must do.
I will make it. I have to.
I might not know how to save myself.
If there is a single breath in me
I will not give up on th;s.
Neither will I give up on you.
|Posted on August 18, 2019 at 1:00 AM||comments (0)|
Thanks to Mr. Oryx Cohen, Chief Operating Officer of the National Empowerment Center, on August 9th the NEC was the first formal publisher to accept my article on youth and adult bullying. An article which, earlier this year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) had considered for publication as well. While I cannot thank Mr. Cohen enough, it is not overselling to emphasize the impact bullying has on our society.
Unfortunately, now more than ever.
I am an unknown in the mental health community burdened by the experiences and knowledge of what th;s is like. Much like actor Robert Downey Jr.'s character, Tony Stark, I am also a futurist and with the Advocate personality (INFJ). For the last three years, I had to put employment pursuits on hold because of crippling career indecision. "All these years, I have never been able to choose an occupation without feeling I don't know what to do with my life." Who can relate to that? I have no retirement fund flush with ample preparation contributing funds towards my future. What future? Though, all things considered, not nearly as bad as some even I will admit.
Oh I'm still young being in my late thirties.
To be fair though, consider some of the feelings I have lived with for a decade and a half or more - and - without conventional treatment until last year.
Am I happy? Why am I here? Why am I still here? Do I belong in this life? Am I meant or ever going to find true love? Am I worth it? (I know much more about my diagnoses now, but still) what is wrong with me? Why am I so cursed that I cannot decide on a direction for gainful employment? Most other people have. They have their families, children, and social circles. One of the worst of all is feeling as if I am running out of time. I may potentially be diagnosed with Chronophobia, or the fear of time-related stressors such as New Year's Eve. Perhaps one of the most ironic fears to have as a human being who was born, lives, and eventually will die. It is inescapable.
Yet, here I am. Still. What grips my heart more than all of this intense sorrow is having lived in a world where children younger than age twelve, when my first mental health symptoms emerged, have already taken their own lives. Many of whom have been victims of abuse and bullying that never should have happened in the first place. Let alone as they've grown much older into adulthood. Consider all the facts and circumstances you want. Blame skin color, economic background, who foolishly voted for who. It is unacceptable to go out of your way to be mean to someone else unless it is swiftly followed by the most sincere and honest apology.
I know not where my life will take me in the dreaded next '10 years from now'. Yet, I recognize a problem I can do something about. Not for me. For everyone else but me. I feel a great sense of responsibility. So, I am taking the pieces of my life, of my heart and soul that are left, pressing my feet into the ground, and motioning with my right hand to bring it on. Standing alone on the battered hill near the end of the film, Avengers: Endgame, Captain America knew he stood no chance. Yet, as I quoted in my first NAMI Blog, "I can do this all day."
Whatever ;t takes.
My article on youth and adult bullying does not take a side. It takes a stand. Against youth and adult bullying that affect people every day even to suicide, it takes a stand now when your lives matter most. It matters how people are treated started here, but it will not end here because Mr. Oryx Cohen has been the first to give it a chance. Hopefully, the first of many.
To my credit of having watched so many cartoons as a kid, I created an inspiring Success Kid meme demonstrating my unabashed gratitude for Mr. Cohen's decision to republish my article. And, no less, under their Trauma section. Upon receiving this meme, he decided to share it on the NEC Facebook page as well. When tomorrow is as fearful as the day that never comes, opportunities like these are what make me possible.
Thank you, Oryx and the National Empowerment Center. Thank you very much.
Alas, I am a nobody no more.
|Posted on August 15, 2019 at 4:10 PM||comments (0)|
(edited; previously posted on TheMighty.com)
After I started accomplishing nationally published writing since October 11, 2018, one thought in particular has stood out more in my mind.
Why do ;t?
Why risk my professional reputation in this County when, for one, I have not settled on a career yet? Neither do I have a job (career anxiety/indecision is my biggest problem). If I out too much information, I might not be able to obtain gainful employment because employers could discover my work and frown upon the writing. If this were to happen, the resulting stigma could ruin my chances of getting a job. It may already have...
Why risk my personal reputation in this volunteer/community when any potential backlash or discrimination could also affect my employability? Most volunteer communities typically include any number of community leaders such as local government, non-profit organizations, and people working in the specific field they volunteer for. With any mistakes or social missteps I make, trivial opposition to my background such as political views or election voting, any one single community leader could easily disrupt my ability to be an advocate. And much worse...
Why risk my specific mental health when, in late 2016, I hadn't even reached out for conventional treatment options yet. Personally, I am late to having the bulk of my mental health issues diagnosed and formally treated. At the time, I had no one to turn to for guidance either. I could have easily put myself at great risk without the safety net of helpful modern mental health treatment.
Why risk alienating people that I need the most outside of formal treatment: friends and family? In my situation, the top two by far are my Mom and Dad with whom I still happen to live. Mental health is not widely accepted, or fully understood, by enough people yet. By pursuing diagnosis and treatment, or especially advocating about it publicly, I risk stigma from people I care about and need to be supportive of me. Imagine someone as close to you as a best friend, parent or guardian, who turns their back on you because of your mental health...
Why do ;t?
Why do any of th;s?
Well... The answers may seem as simple as th;s is worth it, or all of you who read this (and millions more) deserve and need a strong voice for awareness and advocacy. Believe me; the drive to help others can be powerful. I also happen to have the Advocate personality type (INFJ), which makes me more driven to help others. Additionally, I am an empath who perceives and processes emotions from others much more than an average person. I am driven to do more for helping people while I also feel much of their pain along with my own. There is no one simple answer.
Our lives, our struggles, and very much so our mental health issues, are a journey we must undertake with great care. Please, do not wait any longer than you have to for pursuing or discovering the right, affordable treatment options you feel you need.
There will always be someone in your lives somewhere to help guide you along your way. Always. If not, look up to me. I started without anyone to turn to. Now, I seek to fill that void by lighting the way for others.
Worth. Every. Single. Smile.
|Posted on August 15, 2019 at 4:05 PM||comments (0)|
(previously posted on TheMighty.com)
From time to time, you are likely to hear common phrases of positive encouragement, see or participate in mental health events that really connect with you on a personal level. Someone could say you are not alone in what you face with your specific issues. They would be correct, honest and certainly sincere. Taking each step of an AFSP-sponsored Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide awareness may provide just the right amount of hope you need at that precious moment. Being around so many people in such a positive atmosphere can help heal in a very effective way.
But what about those days, those moments where it is difficult for anyone to make you feel strong enough no matter what is said or done?
What about those complicated mental health issues? The ones that are difficult to address or talk about, if you happen to have anyone you can genuinely talk to?
Feeling driven to help others as a mental health advocate, but you only just started your mental health recovery or perhaps only recently actual treatment. You have no one to reach out to for guidance or help. When you do, you reach out to the members of the volunteer community only for some of those mental health professionals and volunteers to stigmatize or discriminate against you. Suicidal thoughts but not actually being suicidal. Or a close friend who has passed away because of addiction yet what they did was their fault.
How do you cope with issues like these?
There are experiences we deal with which are not always going to be easy to overcome. Neither will they seem to be resolved when we want or need them to. There are those of us who feel like we have to try twice as hard compared to others around us. To not see through positive comments as if they are not truthful or honest.
To be honest, 'you are not alone' has never really helped me. Why? Maybe it is because one of my dominant traits is to over-think most things. The 'I can get through this' mindset I took in years past now feels like a lie. Every time someone says everything will work out for me I find myself in disbelief. Why? I feel so much anxiety from diagnosable Chronophobia (fear of time-related stressors; New Year's Eve) yet my physical health is reasonably good. Wow. Wait... What? There is a fear of time? Who the heck has that?
What do you do if your feelings or mental health issues fall between the cracks of what is easier to cope with?
When I started my mental health advocacy website nearly three years ago, I came up with a quote to describe how to deal with such challenging situations. "Discovering tomorrow's future starts by discussing yesterday and today." (my words). In simple terms, the key to these issues is to discuss them. Talk about them with your family doctor, an agency that offers case management who can help get you financial assistance and guidance towards treatment, or your counselor.
Talk about these challenging topics amongst friends, family, and loved ones who are acceptant and understanding of your mental health needs. Doing so will help you better understand what to do, why you act or feel the way you do, what treatment options may help better than what you've been doing. I had been seeing my counselor for seven months when she figured out one of my basic problems with anxiety and depression. Not long after, she suggested I be assessed for Autism Spectrum Disorder.
I am about to be diagnosed for the first time with Autism. We wouldn't have reached this level of understanding about my challenging symptoms if we had not discussed every bit of what I experience. And believe me; even my Psychiatrist has said I don't fit the normal parameters for diagnosis and treatment. Nothing like a highly experienced mental health professional telling you that you are unique in ways you might kid about with your friends. I'm cool with that. Every day I seek to own that uniqueness about myself, too.
As a mental health advocate, thanks to NAMI Submissions since last October I am very lucky to have had my writing published nationally. For you because difficult mental health issues, such as what I live with or have seen others struggling from, are not just a bull whose horns I want to grab. You are not alone doesn't help everyone feel positive about themselves. Coming together in groups for treatment or volunteer work doesn't always make people feel stronger about themselves.
That is a problem I not only know too well, but feel I can focus on with a purpose and make a difference that matters. Who feels suicidal thoughts but aren't suicidal? I do, for one. These challenging topics to address are some of the most important issues with mental health. So, if I am lucky again, be sure to check back here in case TheMighty does choose to republish my writing. I have plenty more in store and a renewed passion to talk about stuff that is difficult for people to talk about. After all...
"Discovering tomorrow's future starts by discussing yesterday and today."
And there is no time like the present.
Pardon the pun...