Surviving This Ocean of Grief

ErinReader Questions2 Comments

We aren't alone in surviving the feelings of grief we struggle withLast week I told my therapist that I feel like I’m just treading water, constantly. It’s so much work to keep my head above the dark ocean beneath me. I see no sandbars I can swim to; I see no ships on the horizon that might come to save me. I just keep moving my arms and legs, and focus on breathing, surviving one more day.

Today a friend phrased a question that fit well with that metaphor. She mentioned doing what she could to stay out of the “ocean of grief.” I told her I would give her water wings for her birthday. Comfortable ones!

I also told her that I’d write her a blog post. Yet now that I’m in front of my computer screen, I don’t know what to say. Do I even have water wings?

Maybe I should have said a life jacket, so she could truly rest from the struggle to keep her head above water. I don’t even have a life jacket to keep myself afloat.

What words can I conjure to make life less of a struggle for any of us, when even I don’t know why I try so hard to keep my head above water?

All I have is my own struggle, my own journey to survival. I too tread water in a vast ocean of grief. It’s all I know.

Sometimes I start to give up. If I lose hope in my heart, I lose my strength to tread water any longer. My arms and legs relax and for a moment I slip under the surface. It feels good to let go and rest. I exhale and let myself sink.

But then, just before darkness comes, my mind wakes up, one with my body, both screaming for air. I kick and flail until I reach the surface again, taking deep gulps of the salty sea air. Oh, oh, AIR!

Without me thinking about it, my arms and legs get back into the rhythm of treading, cycling around me. My body fights to stay alive. My heart keeps beating. I keep sucking in air.

Dear Marnie, our lungs are our water wings. They fight for air even when our minds give up. They fight and fight and fight. When it gets too hard to be so alone in that ocean of grief, focus on breathing. Just breathing.

The current brought us together in an ocean larger than we can see or comprehend. Rest your head on my arm. We’ll take turns.

ErinSurviving This Ocean of Grief

I’m Struggling With My Depression

ErinDay-to-Day Life8 Comments

I'm Struggling With My Depression

Me and Oscar, my pug pal who just moved away

I’m struggling. I need to tell you what’s going on because I think writing about it will help. I’ll follow-up in the next few posts with some of the simple yet effective ways I’m self-nurturing to get through my days, things that might work for you, too.

The first (and honestly most upsetting) recent trigger for my worsened depression is that my downstairs neighbours moved out of my building. I’ll miss my friend Chelsea and her two pets, Oscar the pug and Dublin the cat. I’m someone who really values a stable home, a safe place, and some furry friends.

Chelsea paid me $100 a month to pet sit for her critters and without that extra income I’m in a complete panic. I simply can’t live on $100 less a month since I barely make ends meet as it is.

So I’ve been applying for jobs, which is awkward and discouraging for most people but utterly terrifying for me. I feel so vulnerable and the disappointments of never hearing back from places that I envisioned working for just sends my depression in a downward spiral. My self-esteem is in the toilet.

Three of my most cared about, amazing, close friends are really struggling too. One I’m losing to self-harm and drugs, one is pushing all her friends away, and the other is on the brink of suicide from intolerable emotional and physical pain. Two of those friends live in other cities and I can’t afford to go visit them. If I could, I doubt it would even help. They need more help than I can give. The other friend won’t speak to me for now.

Having close friends suffer when you too are struggling with depression, is nothing short of hell. I am doing all that I can to support them regardless, but I know it’s not enough.

Lastly, in the past week and a half, I swear, my anemia symptoms are taking over my life again. I have no energy at all, can’t stop sleeping, feel weak and cold and grouchy. It turns my depression several shades darker.

Right now, my income relies on my creativity. I need to make more zines and buttons so that I can sell them in my Etsy shop and in the real world. I have to push my work, market it, share it, and keep creating more. So those are my short-term goals to survive the oncoming cold weather and the other stressors I’m dealing with.

Art is one of my main tools in coping with my depression, but on the flip-side, depression makes it hard to create art. Lack of inspiration, energy, and drive has a real cost. When my art is completed, I have to sell it, and sometimes there are no buyers. And then, without necessities, I don’t perform well.

Writing this blog helps me a lot, so I’m determined to keep writing to help me and in turn, help you. It would be ridiculous to stop writing about depression when I’m in the thick of it.

Here’s to never giving up! And to being real about what you’re dealing with. If we aren’t honest about our struggles and what we need, our friends don’t know that we need help.

You can support me through reading my writing, sharing it with your friends, and shopping in my Etsy shop! Or simply hit the donate button on my blog sidebar.

Comments on my posts really help me too! Let’s get through this together. :)

ErinI’m Struggling With My Depression

I Survived High School With Depression

ErinThe Big Picture5 Comments

High school is hard when you have depression but you can survive it because I didI’m sure I don’t need to remind you that school is starting soon for a lot of you. Surviving depression is almost as hard as surviving high school, and doing both at once requires what can feel like superhuman strength.

With your upcoming school days in mind,  I went through a box of photos at my parents’ house last week, as promised. Holy crap, though.

As I flipped through embarrassing photo after embarrassing photo, I thought to myself, “Why on Earth did I say I’d post these pictures on the Internet!?”

Fear ripped at my insides and I suddenly had the urge to burn the pictures I’d found in my parents’ backyard fire pit. I could delete that post where I’d made my promise…right?

Then I realized that DUH, this is why I wanted to post these pictures. Because everyone’s teen years are awkward. No one likes how they look. My teen years were real and they sucked but I survived them. I need to honour my past by giving it the respect it deserves.

So, in addition to honouring my past self, I’m posting these pictures to also emphasize that

a) I was once a teenager and

b) I wasn’t perfect.

Also, one of you commented asking to see some of my art from then, too. So, here goes.

Read More

ErinI Survived High School With Depression

Why Do We Quit the Things We Love When We’re Depressed?

ErinReader Questions12 Comments

Why Do We Quit the Things We Love When We're Depressed?I love it when you, my awesome readers, email me with topic suggestions for my blog posts. This week a reader asked me to write about how hard depression has made it for her to play volleyball, something she normally loves to do.

One of the main symptoms of depression is losing interest in the things we once loved, so this is something probably everyone who has depression can relate to. Why does depression make it hard for us to enjoy the things we love most? Why do we feel like quitting our favourite activities?

Everyone’s experience with depression is unique, so I can’t answer that question definitively, but I can tell you about the reasons I withdrew from the activities I loved when I became really depressed. Maybe some of these examples apply to you too.Read More

ErinWhy Do We Quit the Things We Love When We’re Depressed?

O Captain, My Captain: Robin Williams

ErinNews Stories6 Comments

When Philip Seymour Hoffman died a few months ago, I decided not to blog about it. I didn’t want to be another person on the Internet squawking about this loss of someone I felt like I knew but never did know. And you know where I’m going now: Robin Williams.

Fuck, fuck, fuck. Honest to God, I’d known about Robin Williams’s mental health issues for years but really really looked up to him as someone who had learned to live despite his illnesses. To work with them, instead of against them. But he did, he survived for 63 years. His death doesn’t erase that.

The intensity in which Robin entered each of his thousands of roles (often his characters had several voices or personalities) proved that he felt life as strongly as you can. The darkness of Robin’s roles, you could feel he knew them inside out.

I was born in 1985. Robin shaped my childhood. I grew up quoting Mrs. Doubtfire as if “she” were part of my whole family.

Around the anniversary of my friend’s suicide, a few weeks ago, I rewatched Dead Poet’s Society. I needed something that joined both my pain at the giant losses of life with the spectacular intensity of my love for literature, because literature is sometimes all that keeps me going.

Comedy works too, for coping with life, but not always. Not as well as it should.

And on that note, I’ll stop squawking. I’m just going to stand on my desk.

“O Captain, My Captain.”

ErinO Captain, My Captain: Robin Williams

Me in My Teen Years

ErinLife Events1 Comment

Send me requests about my teen years and I'll post about it this monthWe’re about to hit the mid-mark of August and I know school is suddenly on everyone’s minds again. So, I was thinking of posting about what I was like as a teenager over the next few weeks. Because I have not always been as confident as I appear on this blog. No way.

I hated myself in high school for not fitting in. I hated myself for having depression. I hated everyone around me for appearing so stupidly happy.

High school is kind of the worst, so if you’re heading back there this fall, I am thinking of you. I want to show you that it is possible to survive this weird time in your life because I survived I never thought I would.

Later this week I’ll be headed to my parents’ house so I can access a bunch of old photos that I can scan and upload for my posts! I might even post some art and music from those years. Tell me what you want to see!

So comment here or send me a quick email if you have specific requests around my teen years and I’ll do the best to find pics and stories to post about. And as always, if there’s anything mental-health related that you would like me to blog about, you can let me know about that too. :)

My email: daisiesnbruises@gmail.com

Twitter: @daisiesnbruises

Etsy shop: Scissorkix

There’s more to life than school, but school is a big part of your life for a while. You don’t have to get through it alone!

ErinMe in My Teen Years

Suicide: A Follow Up to Yesterday’s Post

ErinSurvival1 Comment

By talking about suicide we can help others who are struggling. I want to follow up on yesterday’s post, Suicide Brings No Relief to Anyone, because I wrote it with a lot of emotion. Even twelve years after my friend Darlene’s suicide, I still feel angry, scared, guilty, and perplexed by her choice to end her life.

I also want to acknowledge that when someone is suicidal, they most often aren’t thinking about how much their death will hurt others. Before each of my suicide attempts, I felt like my emotions were screaming at me. I felt so hopeless I could not stand it. I felt so afraid that I literally couldn’t reach out to a friend for help. I really did think the world would be better off without me because I didn’t matter at all.

I felt like a drowning person surrounded by mirrors. Each second my thoughts screamed SAVE ME I felt my reflection staring back at me. There were no lifeboats in sight, only my own frightened eyes.

What breaks my heart the most about Darlene’s suicide is that she had attempted suicide many times before. She had reached out for help in the past, but found that help inadequate. She needed more help than she could find.

Each of my suicide attempts almost killed me; I have been blessed with second, third, and fourth chances at life. So many chances, actually, that I can’t put a number on them. I want to use this current “extra” chance at life to bridge life and death together. I can speak up and Darlene can’t. I want to speak for both of us.

Whenever I post about suicide, I feel like Harry Potter saying the name, “Voldemort.” In those books, everyone around Harry calls Voldemort “he who should not be named” or “The Dark Lord” or some other euphemism. By saying the word “suicide” I’m naming something that many many people do not want to hear, but not naming the issue won’t make it go away. Leaving an issue in the dark helps no one. We live in a day and age where communication is easier and faster than any other time in history. We talk about cancer, despite the pain associated with it. Suicide shouldn’t be different.

Remember that suicide is complex and everyone’s struggle is unique. If you think a friend might be struggling, do not hesitate to ask them if they think about suicide. You won’t put the idea in their head! The idea is already there. By bringing up the topic of suicide, you give permission to your friend to talk about their thoughts.

No matter how alone you feel, it is not too late for help to come, I promise you. You need to stay alive to get that help. Please do.

Visit my Help page for resources to help you or a loved one who is experiencing suicidal feelings.

ErinSuicide: A Follow Up to Yesterday’s Post

Suicide Brings No Relief to Anyone

ErinSurvival7 Comments

My friend committed suicide 12 years ago today and suicide brought her no relief because she isn't around to feel it. **This post may be triggering because I talk openly about suicide. Visit my Help page for resources to help you or a loved one who is experiencing suicidal feelings.** Twelve years ago today my friend Darlene committed suicide. It was violent and horrible. I knew she was suicidal that night, but she had always taken herself to the hospital when she’d felt impulsive in the past. I was seventeen and didn’t know what to do to help her; I thought she’d be okay. I left her to go to my first job, serving ice cream. I left her alone. I was the last person to see her alive, except perhaps the train conductor, though he saw her too late. Darlene’s funeral made me feel the full impact of her decision. Her friends and family stood around me in a speechless cloud of disbelief. The hole she had left in the lives of those who loved her was bigger than she’d ever imagined it could be. I felt this screaming pit of quicksand-like terror well up inside me. I saw how Darlene had not ended her pain, she had multiplied it and passed it on to everyone she’d ever met. I’m not that different now, twelve years later. I still think about suicide a lot. I still struggle, still question my place in this world. Depression still has a firm grip on me, yet I keep going. I have faith in something better than this. I know that there is a chance that things can get better. When someone commits suicide, they give up their chance of ever feeling better. Darlene never felt relief from her decision to end her life. She never will feel relief. If she’d stayed alive, she could have had decades upon decades of change. Moments of sunshine on her face. Hours of laughter. She loved music, but now she’ll never hear her favourite songs again. If I could go back in time to tell her something to give her hope, I would tell her this: None of us have our shit figured out. None of us are immune to pain. We are all on this planet, lost together. We are never as alone as we feel. We are all here together to help each other live. You would have felt the sun on your face. You would have enjoyed another cigarette. You might even have quit smoking, like you talked about. You would have had long talks on your balcony with me. You wouldn’t have been alone. But Darlene is gone so I can’t ever tell her those things. I’ll tell you: If you think the planet really would be better without you, then you wouldn’t have been born in the first place. I’m serious. You are here because you are meant to be. This world needs you, even if you can’t see it. We fucking need YOU. Yes, life sucks sometimes, even a lot of the time, but it isn’t hopeless, I promise. Every single day things have the potential of getting better. They will get better. Pain hurts so much because the opposite, joy and love, are out there too. When I get happy now, as rare as it is, I feel it deeper than most people. I feel it in its full intensity because I know what it’s like to be in excruciating pain. Joy is a gift. Even if I only get to experience it a handful of times in my life, I want to squeeze every drop from it. It is real. The things that stress me out matter, but they aren’t everything. Yes, I’m broke. Yes, I’m in pain, but dammit, the sun is out today. I am breathing. I can run if I want to. I can hide under the covers and snuggle with my dog. I can eat fresh chocolate. I can laugh. I can cry. No emotion lasts forever. Last night I read a new comment on my How to Survive the Impulse to Hurt Yourself post:

“Thank you so much for this. I Googled ‘Help me’ and this came up. I have been fighting with not hurting myself for so long and tonight I decided to give up. I couldn’t cry and wanted to hurt myself badly. Reading this though helped me let go. The tears came and I feel so much calmer. Thank you. You quite literally saved me tonight. Thank you.”

That beats a million days underground. In my choice to live I can help people. I can make their lives easier, and in turn, they make my life easier. Yesterday was a really hard day for me but man, that comment, it just made me feel so thankful to be alive. Darlene, you have no idea what you’re missing. Your death taught me just how much I want to fucking live. I wish I could share it with you.  

Visit my Help page for resources to help you or a loved one who is experiencing suicidal feelings.

ErinSuicide Brings No Relief to Anyone

Art Show Inspiration

ErinLocal Events, Uncategorized6 Comments

indigoloveMy critical writer voice gets louder and harsher as the dates pile up between my entries on Daisies and Bruises. The less I write, the more ideas I have, and the more I reprimand myself for not writing.

There are so many rules I’m learning about writing an effective blog, but sometimes I feel like the most important part of writing a blog is simply allowing yourself to be human. Make mistakes. Connect with people, not Google stats.

Here’s a human story for you:

I was so inspired to make art last week that I tried breaking into my apartment after I locked myself out.

I live on the second floor. After buzzing my neighbours in my building to no avail, marching to my sister’s empty apartment and back, my desperate eyes glimpsed a lifeless ladder at the side of my house. It was unsturdy as fuck (see me letting go of my writer rules here!) but I laughed out loud and then climbed up the side of my house. Well, I went up the ladder halfway and then went down. Then I went back up and stood, half-hanging from my window ledge.

Digby barked at me from below, indignant that I’d simply tied his leash to a pipe and dared to reach heights I’d never reached at before.

I seriously considered ripping my window screen apart with my fingernails, but then stopped myself. I knew that would only ensure a night full of mosquitoes feeding on my flesh as I collaged past my bedtime.

So I climbed down and interrupted my intensely busy work-at-home neighbours.

“Sorry!” I whispered. “I tried breaking into my apartment and it didn’t work!”

I showed off my blackened palms and arms. Who knew the side of a house could be so dirty?

They let me take their portable phone outside (so not to interrupt their clients) and I called my dad to come to my rescue.

Here’s the outcome of that night:

 

KnowHope by Erin Schulthies

These pieces are going to be in a gallery starting tomorrow and lasting until August 2nd.

Please come for the reception this Friday at 7:30, at the Westland Gallery’s Square Foot Show! I’ll be there, as well as a bunch of rad local artists. It’s going to be awesome!

What can you do to express yourself today instead of self-destructing? I never ever thought my art would hang in a gallery but I’ve lived to see the day come. What are you living for? Take a baby step in that direction today, right now. Life is waiting.

Love Erin

ErinArt Show Inspiration

PTSD and Canada Day Fireworks Don’t Mix

ErinSymptoms and Side-Effects1 Comment

PTSD and Canada Day Fireworks Don't Mix

Excuse the crappy art due to me trembling in fear.

Fireworks are being set off all around my apartment and I am freaking jumping out of my skin. They echo against buildings and I feel like my walls are exploding with the sound.

It’s Canada Day, aka Canada’s birthday, and so I knew fireworks were in order for tonight. I didn’t know someone would be setting them off in my parking lot.

My startle response varies in intensity depending on the day, but on bad days even the sound of a bird tweeting will make me jump. I think I had too much caffeine today, so my anxiety is through the roof. Post-traumatic stress disorder and caffeine do not mix well. PTSD and fireworks do not mix well. I had to take some Ativan tonight to keep from having a heart attack with every explosion tonight. It hasn’t helped much.

Call me a party pooper, but I don’t see how setting off explosions is celebratory in our culture. Playing with fire is danger every day of the year, no matter whose birthday it is. We’re scared of this shit for a reason. I’m scared of this shit for a reason!

I honestly don’t know how war veterans get through nights like these. I have the utmost respect for them.

Now the fireworks seem to have ceased, but there are sirens going off in every direction as police, the fire department, and ambulances all rush off to clean up the mess of stupid human beings.

Next year, I’m getting earplugs and taking cover in the basement.

 

ErinPTSD and Canada Day Fireworks Don’t Mix