Sky Taylor

@sky_taylor | contributor
Through multiple suicide attempts, living with depression, PTSD, and anxiety for over 10 years now, and having struggled with anorexia and bulimia-- I have a much closer relationship with mental illness than I'd like. But I believe in community and that we need each other. I believe in hope and that better days are ahead. I believe in the kindness of people. And I believe continuing to show up (for yourself and others) when everything is pointing the opposite way, is one of the bravest things a person can do.
Sky Taylor

The Heaviness of My Depression Lifted, but I Still Have Suicidal Thoughts

“Suicidal people don’t want to die, they just want the pain to stop.” I’ve heard that saying countless times, and yet, it’s never really resonated with me. The two have always been synonymous in my mind. The only way for the pain to stop was to die. There was no other choice, no alternative. But did I ever plead for the pain to stop. Curled up in the fetal position, in the corner of my bed, making myself as small as possible. Sheets aside, my sweatshirt sleeves drenched in tears and snot. Arm covering my mouth to stifle my cries as I begged for the pain to stop. The heaviness to lessen. The thoughts to still for just a moment. The intensity to lighten for just a second. There have been so many nights when that darkness swallowed me whole. For over a decade, that daily heaviness consumed me. But recently, since beginning lithium, the suicidal thoughts are less frequent and the heaviness isn’t there. It’s so much lighter. This is exactly what I wanted — what I spent so many nights pleading for. The hope I clung onto so tightly as a lifeline came. And still, I don’t want to be alive. It’s very odd to have felt such heaviness for so many years, and then for that to lift, but the thoughts to remain. Suicidal thoughts and urges without that deep ache in my chest and all-consuming exhaustion in my body don’t make sense to me. Even if I’m not in the pain I was in for so many years, I’m not happy. I’m not enjoying life. And part of that’s on me, I get it — I’m responsible for choosing activities and building my life around things I enjoy. But it’s hard to imagine enjoying anything enough that it would outweigh all the hurt and pain this world brings. The pain has lessened, and yet, I still don’t want to be alive. I don’t want to be here anymore. With the pain or without. But I don’t necessarily want to die, or at least, I don’t want to have to die by suicide. Killing myself scares me. A lot. I wish it didn’t, I wish I had less fear around it, but I’m scared. And that fear has largely been what has kept me alive for so long. I’ve attempted suicide multiple times, but none have resulted in any serious medical concerns. I’m too scared of the more lethal methods of suicide. I’m scared of messing up, of it not working, of the damage I could cause, of people finding me — I have so many fears. I don’t want to kill myself, I just don’t want to live. And yet, I know that fear exists in me for a reason. My therapist would argue that part of me is actually the part of me that wants to live. I don’t know if I buy that, but I know that part of me is the tether that keeps me here, alive. I want to believe I’ll feel happy again someday. I want to believe a dull sense of nothingness or an all-consuming heaviness aren’t the only two things I’ll ever feel. I want to be excited by something, I want to be able to see the future as a world of possibility instead of a lifetime of shackled dread. I suppose I had never stopped to consider what “stability” would feel like, probably because I didn’t believe I would ever make it there. It’s hard for me to tell the difference between feeling numb and feeling “normal” because I don’t know what a “normal” baseline mood feels like. And to feel that, while having suicidal thoughts, is so abnormal to me. I don’t understand it. Is it more dangerous because less feeling is attached? Or less dangerous because of that? Does it delegitimize my experience? It’s so confusing to the point I’d rather take the heaviness back. I’m accustomed to the extreme — the soul-crushing, pounding weight of depression — consuming my days. Not feeling in extreme feels wrong. It feels boring, almost. And I know how much pain I was in, how much I wished that heaviness to lift. I shouldn’t want to go back to that. But that pain is familiar, this is not. I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t have answers or a clear solution. There’s so much unknown, so much confusion. Our struggles may not be the same, but maybe you can relate to the frustration of not understanding what you’re going through, either. So, I’ll leave us both with this quote: “Your struggles are valid whether or not you understand them. Your pain is not any less real without a name.” —TWLOHA Staying alive and continuing to write your story when you don’t want to and don’t understand is brave — and it’s enough. And so are you.

Sky Taylor

Emergency Mental Health Services: How 988 Is an Opportunity for Change

While I believe it’s vital we start addressing mental health before it becomes an emergency, we also need a strong system in place for when mental health emergencies do happen. And right now, that system is a mess (to put it nicely). Emergency mental health is something I’m so passionate about because I’ve been through this system plenty of times, and have seen others go through it many more. And while there are incredible workers out there who are just doing the best they can with the resources they’ve been given, in my experience at least, the system has only left me in a worse place from where I started. That being said, the launch of 988 is definitely a step in the right direction for mental health, even if it is long overdue. Come mid-July, the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number will change to the 3-digit number 988 that people will be able to call or text in mental health emergencies. This is a huge undertaking, and while the vision is certainly there, it’s going to take time before 988 becomes the mental health equivalent of 911. So, are we ready? The short answer? No. In a recent study surveying 180 behavioral health program directors across the U.S., over half reported they/their agency had not been involved in strategic planning related to the launch of 988. That’s a startling statistic for a number of reasons, but largely because that survey was done in March 2022, just four months before the launch of 988. It also suggests a lack of communication and coordination among mental health programs at local, state, and federal levels, which will be a key charge for the new hotline. Additionally, the survey reports only 16% had established a budget for the transition and long-term support of 988 as of March 2022. It’s safe to say staffing and funding/budget will be key areas of need. 3 Components to Emergency Mental Health Care In an attempt to provide some direction, the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors has outlined three key components to emergency mental health services. Let’s break them down in context of 988. 1. Having someone to talk to. Obviously. There needs to be someone to pick up the phone and talk with the caller. But that requires having the staff and funding for 24/7 call centers. Right now, centers are already struggling to keep up with demand, which is only expected to increase after the implementation of 988. SAMHSA estimates the volume of calls will more than double (reaching about 7.6 million calls) in the first year. Wait times are so high that abandonment rates among callers (those who disconnect within 30 seconds) have reached an all-time high of 17 percent (1 in 6 calls) with even higher numbers for texters and chatters. Some people don’t even find these hotlines helpful, so ensuring the appropriate training is in place for workers answering the calls is key. The ability to coordinate with existing community services will also help ensure people are able to access care after hanging up. Making sure we have enough appropriately trained people answering these calls in a timely manner calls for a critical increase in staff, training, and funding. 2. Having someone to respond. And not just someone, but the right someone. If there is a need for someone to go out and respond to the call, there needs to be a plan in place for who will be responding. Is it a police officer? In some jurisdictions, there simply won’t be the option of anyone else. Are they trained in emergency mental health? Will they receive training? Can we send a mental health worker out instead? Is there a mobile crisis team? Who responds to these calls is absolutely pivotal. If untrained police officers are the ones responding, this becomes no different than calling 911, and often results in an increase in the criminalization of mental illness (which is the last thing we need right now). I mean, think about it. You’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, you’re scared, you’ve been debating reaching out to someone or calling a hotline for the last hour. You finally decide to. A bit later, there’s a knock on your door. It’s a police officer. They ask if you can step outside for a chat. Never mind the slew of questions you’re going to get asked by everyone inside (if you get to even go back in). They tell you someone’s called and they’re worried about your safety. This isn’t the first time this has happened. You know better than to tell the truth, you’ve done that before. It just landed you waiting in a hospital, stripped of everything you have, alone, staring at a blank wall until someone is finally able to see you, and even then, you don’t get the care you need. So, why would you be honest? You tell them what they want to hear until they clear you. You go back inside as everyone stares or tries to act normal despite what just happened. Now that’s in your profile/record, great. But there’s no use in worrying about that right now, because all this started from feelings of intense suicidality, which, are now even worse given that interaction. So to recap, you’re feeling worse than you were to begin with, probably feel like you can’t talk to anyone about it ever again, and you now have to deal with the consequences of all this. That’s happened to me more times than I can count. And that’s the best-case scenario. I’ve talked to people who have been taken away with handcuffs in the back of cop cars. I’ve heard of people who were told by police officers not to call unless they already attempted suicide, and if they called again, they’d be taken to jail. Executive Director of CIT International (a crisis training program for police-based crisis intervention) Ron Burno says it best: “We have to challenge the belief that mental health crisis services must come in a police car.” In short, having the appropriate people responding is absolutely critical. 3. Having a place to go. This third piece is so important. If there is nowhere to take people, they often end up in jail or in an emergency room where they could be waiting for days before being seen or transferred. The solution to the mental health crisis is not as simple as hospitalizing everyone who seems suicidal. If that worked, it would’ve worked by now. There have to be options available for care. And we have to be able to communicate and coordinate those options between 988 workers, the community, first responders, etc. A Few More Implications Cost If you don’t really care about mental health at all (which, if you’ve made it this far, probably isn’t you), the financials alone should be enough cause for concern. Though numbers vary, Thomas Insel, former director of the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), estimates mental illness costs the U.S. at least $444 billion a year — about 1/3 going to medical care, and the majority coming from the cost of lost productivity and disability payments. Insel says, “The way we pay for mental health today is the most expensive way possible.” Those numbers speak for themselves. If we’re able to get 988 right (with time), not only will lives be saved, but wallets too. 911 to 988 Figuring this out might be tricky at first, but the better collaboration 911 and 988 are able to have with each other, the better chances people have of accessing the right type of care. If someone calls 911 in a mental health emergency, their ability to transfer that call over to 988 could very well be lifesaving. A Hopeful Look Forward The implementation of 988 is huge. And while there are definitely components of this that need more help, this is an incredible opportunity for the U.S. to make 988 a turning point in mental health care. We have an opportunity to shift our response to emergency mental health and rethink/rework our systems to truly provide care for individuals. By no means do I think this will be easy or smooth, but that’s OK. 911 becoming what it is didn’t happen overnight, and we can’t expect 988 to either. But the chance for change 988 is bringing is an exciting one. Let’s make sure we take the time to get it right.

Sky Taylor

'This Is Us' Gives Insight Into Alzheimer's Disease From 3 Generations

“This Is Us” has never been one to shy away from tough conversations. From Randall’s anxiety, Kevin’s addiction, Jack’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Kate’s body image and fertility struggles, Toby’s depression, to everyone’s grief — this show has tackled a lot (and then some). And after six years, millions of fans sat down Tuesday night for the last time to watch the Pearsons close out their story. The final season has largely focused on Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) Alzheimer’s and how both her and the family have been navigating it. There have been so many storylines that have hit me, but this one was different. My grandmother moved in with my family when I was 8 or 9. Her husband (my grandfather) had passed away and her Alzheimer’s was starting to get worse. At least in the beginning, she still knew who we were. As time passed, we eventually had to put her in a home — and every week without fail we’d visit and have lunch with her. It continued every week until she passed. I watched the progression of Alzheimer’s all the way through. It is a brutal, brutal disease for everyone involved. Most of the time when you follow a story, you experience it with the main character. Watching this plot unfold, I was experiencing it through the generation of grandchildren — Randall, Kate, and Kevin’s kids. My mother and her sisters are Randall, Kate, and Kevin. Miguel/Jack is who my grandfather was when he was alive. And then there’s Rebecca. Seeing what it was like for her gave me insight into what it may have been like for my grandmother. How frustrating it must have been at times, how scary. And it gave me a lot of empathy for my parents. Raising three kids while taking care of your mother who doesn’t remember you — while working full-time? I can’t imagine. I wish I had had that same empathy as a kid. I could see how hard it was for my mother, but I could never really understand. And I still can’t, but I can see it much more clearly now. To see Randall, Kate, and Kevin struggle with their mother’s disease — struggle to make decisions on her care, struggle to accept what was happening, struggle to truly see her — I can only begin to imagine what my mother and her sisters went through. “This Is Us” gives us the beauty of perspectives from three generations. And for diseases as complex as Alzheimer’s, to have that many points of view — to be able to see it from that many sides — is something special. And of course, Dan Fogelman being who he is, did it great justice. I don’t think I’ve seen another TV show that tackles Alzheimer’s. In terms of popular entertainment, “The Notebook” is the first thing that comes to mind, but I can’t think of much else. And more than that, from my experience at least, “This Is Us” got it right. Even down to the toy pet Kate got for Rebecca, talking about how it can improve the mood of those with dementia. I remember the lifelike pet dog my grandmother had and how much she loved it. This show has been a true gift to its viewers. We share a special bond. Once you’ve shed that many tears together and have had your mind blown by Dan Fogelman’s writing that many times — you’re connected. You just are. And what a beautiful second family this is. I have yet to finish grieving the loss of this truly wonderful show, but in the words of our beloved William (Ron Cephas Jones): “The way I see it, if something makes you sad when it ends, it must have been pretty wonderful when it was happening. Truth be told, I always felt it a bit lazy to just think of the world as sad, because so much of it is. Because everything ends. Everything dies. But if you step back, if you step back and look at the whole picture — if you’re brave enough to allow yourself the gift of a really wide perspective — if you do that, you’ll see that the end is not sad. It’s just the start of the next incredibly beautiful thing.”

Sky Taylor

Alternatives to the ER If You Feel Unsafe With Suicidal Thoughts

“Can you keep yourself safe today?” What happens when the answer to that question is no? When someone with suicidal thoughts says, “Actually, I’m not sure I can keep myself safe.” Or, “I actually don’t feel safe right now.” What do you do then — whether you’re the person feeling unsafe or someone else is telling you they don’t feel safe? Do you call 911? Go to the hospital? I’m betting that’s what most people would say. And that is absolutely necessary in some cases, I don’t want to dismiss that. I’ve had to go the ER, and there were times that was the best call. But there have been plenty of times I’ve not wanted to go, and have been able to work with my therapist or providers on alternative options. Of course, if someone wants to go to the hospital — by all means, go. But I know one of the most common reasons people are scared to speak up about their suicidal thoughts, is fear of hospitalization or fear of the police showing up at their door. For people of color, this fear is often heightened by the inherent danger calling the police poses. Similarly, for people with medical trauma, the idea of going to a hospital can be too triggering to entertain. There are so many legitimate reasons people choose to stay silent about their suicidal thoughts. So, what else can you do? I think there are a few options. 1. Call a crisis line. While this might seem like common sense, people can be so alarmed by a confession of suicidal thoughts and feelings of unsafety, they jump straight to 911. Crisis counselors on the other ends of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Crisis Text Line, and other hotlines are trained on how to help someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. They will go through a risk assessment and help determine what the best next step is. That being said, I know some people don’t like hotlines, or maybe you did call a crisis line and you’re still feeling somewhat unsafe, or there’s a long wait time on the line. I think there are still a couple more options. Note: Many hotlines have chat-based options if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone (shout-out to my all my peeps with phone anxiety). 2. Remove any means to carry out suicide. If someone has thoughts of suicide, the next natural question is, “Do you have a plan?” If someone says yes to this, that does not automatically make them a danger to themselves. People who live with chronic suicidal thoughts sometimes have generic plans they always keep in the back of their mind. That doesn’t make them an immediate danger to themselves. Someone might have an idea of what they might do. That doesn’t make them an immediate danger to themselves. If someone tells you they do have a plan (and they tell you what that plan is), the next question is if they have the means to carry out that plan. Do they have access to whatever they plan to use? Are they planning to obtain access? If they do have access, are they able to remove it from their environment? Or have someone else remove it? Is there somewhere they can go where they don’t have access? Are they willing to give it to someone? Do they have intent? In my opinion, that’s one of the most important steps to ensuring safety, (crisis lines will also likely go through these same questions with you). If a person can’t remove means and/or promise to stay safe (and there is intent), then yes, I think that’s when hospitalization needs to come into the conversation. Note: I recognize these are not easy things to do. Having to ask someone to pick up or take things from me so I stay safe and alive — those are some of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had. But I’m so thankful I have people in my life who are willing to do that for me. 3. Ensure the person with suicidal thoughts is not alone. If someone who is suicidal doesn’t know if they feel safe or not, they should not be alone. Period. I recognize this is easier said than done. Confessing suicidal thoughts to someone itself is hard. Admitting you don’t feel completely safe can be even harder. Having to then ask someone to stay with you, or if you can stay with them, can feel like all too much. Feelings of isolation, being a burden, and thoughts people would be better without you often come with suicidal thoughts. If that’s the mindset someone is in, reaching out can be terrifying. But I’ve found, at least in my life, being around people is one of the most important things when I’m in that space. It’s often the last thing I want, but the thing I need most. If I’m with someone or around people, I can’t hurt myself. The mere presence of another person who feels safe, can be everything — in my life, it’s been life-saving. It’s not about having the right words, or saying the right things. It’s just about being there, even if it’s in silence. Not being alone doesn’t have to look like calling someone and asking them to come over, either. For me, sometimes that means going to a coffee shop or walking around a grocery store. Just a place where there are other people around. Note: Your well-being and safety come first. If you cannot be there for the person — for whatever reason that may be, that’s OK. Helping them figure out other options can be just as meaningful. 4. Call a therapist or a mobile crisis resource. Depending on the therapist, some will let you text or call them if you’re feeling unsafe. Having a professional who understands that person’s suicidal thoughts and behaviors can be a great resource if they are available. If they’re not, check and see if the area has a mobile crisis team. This is typically a local team of social workers, peer advocates, nurses, etc. who provide free face-to-face crisis intervention services. This can be a good option if the individual needs more professional support, but does not want to go to a hospital. A mobile crisis team can work with the person who is suicidal to provide crisis care and help determine next steps. And again, if someone wants to go to the hospital or feels like they need to call 911 — do that! I just want people to know there are other options sometimes. There are ways to get creative. Fear of hospitalization shouldn’t be the thing that keeps someone from reaching out. Because even though conversations around suicide are increasing, there is still such a lack of understanding around it. Personally, I have an immense fear of telling someone I don’t feel safe — admitting that feels like I’m asking for police to show up at my door. But there are people who understand. There are people who are willing to listen and take the time to understand. There are people who want to be there. Let them. At the end of the day, your safety is the most important thing. You don’t have to do this by yourself. You don’t have to feel like isolation is your only option because you’re scared of what might happen if you speak up. Reach out, advocate for yourself, let people be there for you. You’re worth fighting for, whether you believe that right now or not.

Sky Taylor

When Being Shamed for Social Anxiety Worsens Suicidal Thoughts

Every day, I’m more and more convinced the world was not created for people with social anxiety. My introversion and fear of social situations have always been the things I’ve hated most about myself. I’ve had social anxiety for as long as I can remember — I just wasn’t diagnosed until years later. But it’s something that birthed shame in me at a very young age. That shame took root, and as the years passed, it continued to grow, blossoming into a thick web of tangled thorns that poked, prodded, and bound me. Piano recitals haunted me. Making friends became harder and harder the older I got. Walking into a room felt like the end of the world. Crowds gave me panic attacks. Seeing extended family brought an anxiety like no other. Phone calls felt like I was holding a bomb in my hand. Interviews were recipes for disasters. The word “networking” was enough to send me crawling into a hole. Happy celebrations like weddings became battlegrounds, trying to dodge bullets and fires from every side. But the worst part of all those things was how alone in them I felt. It felt like no one else was struggling. It appeared to be so effortless for everyone around me, and I hated that I was the outlier. I was the one “bringing down the mood.” I was the one who “couldn’t just be happy for someone else.” I was the one who was “rude” because I didn’t talk enough. I was the one people “just didn’t understand.” I was made to feel like there was something fundamentally wrong with me because I struggled in social situations. I was shamed for it, blamed for it, laughed at for it, punished for it, yelled at for it, judged for it — it’s no wonder I hate that part of myself; I was taught to hate it. There has never been acceptance or understanding from my family when it comes to that. I was scolded after a vacation for not being more sociable, and was told even my aunt had commented on my lack of interaction. It was clear my mother was embarrassed by my behavior. At a wedding, my parents made a comment about how often I was going to the bathroom to “hide out,” laughing at me. Being around so many people at a wedding is hard enough for me, add in people trying to get me to dance which is my literal worst nightmare — I was barely holding it together. I had panic attacks and breakdowns throughout the night, and the restroom was the only place I could be alone to gather myself. Whenever I express disinterest in family events with extended family, I’m always met with, “I don’t know why you act like that. They’re family. Everyone else is close with each other, why do you have to make things so difficult?” So, when my brother proposed to his fiancé and talk of the wedding began, I felt absolute dread. And then deep guilt for feeling dread. I’m happy for my brother and his fiancé, truly I am. But the idea of being in a wedding brings on a level of stress and anxiety I can’t begin to explain. Out of politeness, I was asked to be a bridesmaid, and of course had to say yes. It was a thoughtful gesture and it’s nice that she wanted to include me. But I don’t know her that well. I don’t know any of her family. None of her friends. Having to go to a bridal shower, bachelorette party, take pictures, and celebrate a wedding with people I’ve never met — my immediate reaction was suicidal thoughts. I told myself it was fine, I wouldn’t be alive by the time the wedding came around. But now, the wedding is days away. I’ve fought with my parents endlessly the last few weeks. I’ve been more suicidal than ever, to the point hospitalization has been brought up to me multiple times. I hate that I have so much dread toward this — that I genuinely believe dying is better than being in a wedding — I mean, who thinks like that? That’s terrible. But that’s anxiety. My anxiety becomes so overwhelming, I can’t entertain the thought of living through it. The shame that comes with that makes me believe people are better off without me anyways. Now there won’t be a need to worry about someone “bringing down the mood.” There won’t be a need to feel embarrassed by me if I’m not here. Being made to feel shame for something over which I have very little control, is devastating, especially when it comes from my own family. But a friend reminded me of something important today. She said, “You know there are so many people around you who do understand and who would literally never ever shame you. You have an entire chosen family outside of them who will do absolutely whatever they can to support you.” And she’s right. My family may not understand, and I still don’t know how I’m going to get through this wedding, but at the end of the day, I know I’m not alone. I know there are people in my corner, I know there are people who have my back, people who do understand me. People who aren’t embarrassed by me, and instead of shaming me, provide safe spaces for me instead. And that’s what I’m choosing to hold onto today.

Sky Taylor

Suicide Method Trigger Warning for 'The Girl From Plainville'

On March 29, 2022, Hulu released the first episode of its eight-episode limited series “The Girl From Plainville,” a dramatized docuseries that tells the real-life story of Michelle Carter (played by Elle Fanning), a teenager who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III (played by Colton Ryan), died by suicide. If the name Michelle Carter sounds familiar, that’s probably because her case drew national attention. Thousands of text messages between Carter and Roy revealed that Carter had encouraged and even urged Roy to take his life. I n the end, Carter’s case was the first to hold a person responsible for another’s suicide. The TV adaptation provides pre- and post-show content trigger warnings for “subject matter related to mental health and suicide” along with contact information for the Crisis Text Line and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I was happy to see those reiterated throughout the series. And while it could be assumed people who are watching are familiar with the case — I still think it needed more detailed trigger warnings for a few of the episodes. As a general rule of thumb, suicide safety guidelines state that depictions of suicide should avoid showing or describing specific suicide methods . Of course, I understand that line gets blurry when it comes to real-life events. From the first episode, the method Roy used to kill himself is revealed — rather understandably so. It was a large part of the case and it’s not surprising they included it. Later, it is revealed Roy had previously attempted suicide. That attempt is shown in episode four, and talked about throughout the series. In my opinion, if you’re going to show a suicide attempt, that should be explicitly stated in the pre-show content warnings. There’s a difference between “this program shows subject matter related to mental health and suicide,” and “this program shows graphic depictions of suicide.” Talking about suicide and showing a suicide attempt are two vastly different situations, and call for two different responses. As soon as you include a method — especially when showing it, but also when talking about it — you’re informing someone of a way they can kill themselves. And yes, I’ve heard the reactions a statement like that can get: “If they’re really suicidal, they’ll find a way.” “It’s nothing they haven’t heard before.” “You’re being dramatic.” But I’ve been the person on the other side of that screen, desperately suicidal. And when I think about the methods I’ve used to attempt suicide and the methods I’ve contemplated — when I trace them back to where I first learned about them, it’s almost always a TV show or movie. Would I have figured something out without having seen those? Yes, probably. But did watching something that flat-out gave me a way to end my life help? No. And was it triggering as hell? Yes. I suppose knowing how intensely I’ve been struggling with suicidal thoughts lately, I should have known better than to watch a show surrounding a case about suicide. That’s on me. But I didn’t think I would be seeing depictions of suicide and hearing about methods at length. Would a content warning that explained that have stopped me from watching? I don’t know, but that’s not the point. If I did decide to watch, I would have at least known what I was signing up for and could have planned any self-care around that appropriately. Content warnings are important, “13 Reasons Why” sparked that much-needed conversation, and I’m thankful for that. But frankly, that’s not enough. If the warnings don’t really tell you what they’re warning you about — that’s not helpful. If a suicide method is shown, that needs to be addressed past “the following program shows subject matter related to mental health and suicide.” And I’m not solely calling out “The Girl From Plainville” — that’s true of so many shows and movies . I know there’s a line between “spoiling” a story and informing an audience, but when it’s possible someone’s life could be at risk — there is no line, in my opinion. People’s lives are more important than any TV show or movie. So, if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, have attempted suicide, or lost someone to suicide, I would suggest skipping this particular docuseries or watching it with someone who can support you . Your safety and mental health is more important than anything else.

Sky Taylor

Do I Still Deserve Help for My Mental Health If I Can Work?

Yes, I hold a full-time job. Yes, I graduated college. Yes, I pay my bills. Yes, I have good friends and support. But yes, I also have depression . And yes, I think about suicide every single day. I have for years. No, you can’t see any scars, but yes, I have them. There’s a reason I wear long sleeves. I’ve been “managing” my depression and suicidal thoughts for over a decade now. I’m in therapy, I’m on medication — “doing the work,” or whatever you want to call it. But I haven’t been OK in a long time. I’ve always respected the heck out of people who take time away from work or school to focus on their mental health or receive treatment. When I talk to people who are able to make that decision for themselves, my first thought is, “Wow. That’s amazing! Power to you, I’m so proud of you.” And my second thought is, “I could never do that.” Not because I think I’m “better” than them, God no. It’s not that I don’t need a break or need more intensive treatment — I don’t think it’s “normal” to think about killing yourself to the extent I do every day. I don’t think going days without washing my hair or changing my clothes is healthy by any means. It’s probably not a great sign I’m isolating more. Crying myself to sleep because all I want is to die isn’t ideal. But, I’m managing, right? The lines on my arm might beg to disagree… But how could I walk away from my job to put my mental health first? What about insurance? What about paying rent? What would I do about my parents? How can I just leave a job? What if it’s not waiting for me when I come back? What will people think? No one will ever look at me the same. What if I waste all this money on a program that ends up hurting me more than helping me? Wouldn’t be the first time. What if I’m overreacting and I’m actually fine? Who am I kidding, thinking I can take a few weeks off and do a partial hospitalization program (PHP)? I’ve been working this long while dealing with my depression , suicidal thoughts , post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and an eating disorder . Isn’t that proof I don’t need this? Or don’t deserve this? OK, let’s pause and rewind a second, because no, these aren’t hypothetical questions. I hit a low on New Year’s that led me to ask a friend to take me to the hospital (that’s a story for another time). While I didn’t end up choosing to stay inpatient, the plan was to do a PHP or intensive outpatient program (IOP) after. I had reached my limit. There was no more coping. I couldn’t do it anymore. The thought of going back to work and continuing at the rate I was going was impossible to entertain. I was done. And if I had access to something I could have used to die, there’s a decent chance I would’ve taken it. But, let’s be real: This is the American health care system we’re talking about. I didn’t leave the hospital that day and start a program the next. It’s been almost three weeks trying to set this up, and it’ll be at least one more before I finally start the program. I’m grateful I have access to care at all, don’t get me wrong, but going three weeks after hitting a low like that waiting for treatment has been hard. And yet, I’ve been working. I talked to my HR department about taking time off to do the program, and the assumption was I would just work until then. I don’t think either of us thought it would be this long. Working the last few weeks has felt like absolute hell on top of everything else going on in my life right now, though. And while my boss knows the gist of the situation, he doesn’t seem to register the fact that between when I told him I was taking leave for more intensive medical treatment, to the time that treatment starts — I didn’t automatically get better. I’m not operating at 100% right now. And while everyone else in the company (who knows) has been understanding, it’s tough when the boss you work with every day doesn’t seem to be. (OK, my work rant is over, sorry.) The point is, though PHP is for people who are struggling to function and need more support, I’ve also been working. Does that mean I don’t need the treatment? Does it mean I don’t deserve to do it? Am I “crazy” for doing this? I’ve certainly felt it at times. But, I don’t think ability or inability to work is a great qualifier for needing support or not. I certainly wouldn’t ever question anyone else who decided they needed more intensive treatment but was working in-between. Because you never know what else is going on. Just because someone seems like they’re “high functioning” despite their mental illness , doesn’t mean they are. Functioning is incredibly subjective, and while our society may equate working to functioning, I call BS. Everyone deserves to receive the care they need. If you’re hurting, you’re hurting. That’s it. You don’t need to justify or explain it. You’re worthy of help simply because you’re human. And I write this just as much as a reminder to myself as I do to all of you. So, if you’re thinking about asking for help but feel unsure if what you’re experiencing is “bad enough,” take the step. I’m taking it right here with you.

What It's Like to Be Suicidal Even When 'Things Got Better'

I have a good life. In fact, I have a great life. I look around at everything I’ve been able to do in my short 26 rotations around the sun and go, “Damn, I did that.” I have friends who are supportive, consistent, and honest. I’m fully convinced I have the best mother on earth. My job is fulfilling (and I’m not just saying that my boss will probably read this) and I look forward to logging in every day. Every day I’m surrounded by beauty and love and I wake up knowing the illicit privilege I have to live a good life. And still, I’d rather be dead. It’s not that I’m actively suicidal. I’m aware that I live with chronic suicidal ideation as a result of my mental conditions. Wanting to un-alive myself is almost as “normal” and “natural” as breathing or wondering if I turned the coffee pot off when I leave the house. When you first start experiencing suicidal ideation and you voice it, you get hit with “Hang on! It gets better,” and they’re not wrong because it did. I’m weight restored in my eating disorder. I’ve marginally healed from a lot of childhood abuse. I’ve reclaimed my body, time, and mind from the vice grip of bullshit I’ve had to endure in life. It got better. And yet, I’d still rather be dead. I’m waiting for the moment where something so spectacular happens where I’m happy I’m still here. I want to look back at my actively suicidal periods and say “Wow! I’m thrilled that I’m still here and I made it out of that darkness, because now I get to experience this.” I’m waiting for an up so high, that my lowest of lows is overshadowed by pure joy and bliss, but it hasn’t happened and I don’t know if it will. Sure, when you’re dead you don’t get to experience the good, but you’d also not have to experience the bad either and that’s more tempting than my bed after a night out socializing with people I don’t really care about in places I don’t like. I don’t hate my life. I love my life. I adore the life I have created from the ground up. I feel blessed to live in this skin and look like me, think like me, and to be me. All my dreams are coming true, but there seems to be a cap on my happiness, because lingering in the back of my mind is the constant whisper of my suicidality. I’m safe. I’m not going to do it, and I mean that. I’m here to stay. There’s more people for me to love, places to go, and simply life to live. However, my confession remains the same. There’s more life to live, and I hope there comes a day where that actually excites me .

Sky Taylor

Holiday Traditions With Friends Help When I’m Suicidal at Christmas

December 2013 I’m on Christmas break. My parents are once again angry with me for no reason. They take my phone, isolating me from any support and connection I have. After I’m finally able to escape to my room, thoughts of hurting myself become louder and louder. I try to cope in a healthy way instead of being self-destructive, and leave to go for a walk in the snow. They stop me. They tell me I am not allowed, and I must stay in the house for “family traditions.” I swallow my hurt, pain, tears, and tell myself to keep it together until tonight, when I can break down once everyone is asleep. December 2015 It’s Christmas Eve. My family is downstairs, playing games and laughing. I should be down there with them, I know. I have about 10 minutes until I get a knock on my door. I don’t want to be alive. As bad as school can be, being at home deepens my depression exponentially. As tears fall down my face, my soul aches for escape. I reach for something to self-harm with, desperate to let the pain out any way I can. The clock is ticking. I hear footsteps. I wipe my face, take a breath, swallow the suicidal thoughts , and go downstairs. December 2017 As summer winds down and it starts to get cold for the first time again, a renewed hope washes over me. I decorate for the holiday season excitedly, watch Christmas movies, and people see a side of me that doesn’t often come out. I dread going back to my parents’ for winter break, but I’m thankful to be in college, to finally be in a place I don’t feel trapped anymore. The depression and suicidal thoughts are still here, but I’m thankful for the family I’ve found in the friends I’ve made. We turn on my favorite holiday movie, “Elf,” order Chinese food, and enjoy each other’s company. I go to bed with a full heart, not knowing this would become a holiday tradition in our friend group for years to come. Last Week I don’t know what’s going on, but this is the worst I’ve felt in a long time. I should be happy. I love this time of year. But instead of Christmas carols stuck in my head, thoughts of suicide run on loop. I can’t imagine living another moment, I feel like I’m losing hope by the second. I start looking for ways I can end my life, and fear begins to rise up in me. I consider going to a hospital, but my past experiences keep me from following through. All I can think about is dying, and I’m not sure I’ll make it to tomorrow morning. I drive to a friend’s, knowing as long as I’m sitting in a room with someone else, I can’t hurt myself. When I feel safe enough to drive, I go home. I pacify the suicidal thoughts with self-harm, though I know it won’t help long-term. Right now, I don’t care, though. I turn off the lights, and eventually fall asleep, hoping I won’t wake up. A Few Days Ago I just got home from helping decorate the church for Christmas, and I’m feeling the Christmas spirit. My roommates and I go pick out a Christmas tree, and bring it home. A few friends come over, and we head to a Christmas festival, filled with games, activities, food, fun, and a trail of lights through a corn maze. I haven’t had this much fun in ages. When we get home, feeling merry and bright, we raise a glass (or two) and celebrate being together. There’s a knock on the door and our Chinese food arrives. We turn on the best Christmas movie of all time (“Elf,” of course), and my heart feels full. We play games until the wee hours of the morning, and as I head to bed, I take a moment to capture this feeling. The holiday season has always felt conflicting to me. I love the buildup, I love the reason for the season, I love decorating, and I love holiday cheer. But at the same time, my suicidal thoughts worsen and the depression still runs deep. The actual day of Christmas Eve and the ones to follow are difficult for me, as I return to my parents’ and I am surrounded by family once again. I see friends enjoying holiday traditions with their families, and I feel sad. And then I feel guilty for feeling sad because I know on paper, it looks like nothing is wrong. But that’s why beginning traditions of my own, with my chosen family, means so much to me. I hold it so close. Yes, I love “Elf” (probably more than anyone you’ll ever meet) and I do love Chinese takeout. But, it’s so much more than that to me. It’s recreating memories. It’s life-giving time spent with people who genuinely refresh my soul. It’s a reminder to me there is still good here, and I don’t have to be confined to what I grew up with. It’s hope and joy — and isn’t that what the Christmas season is all about? Most importantly though, it keeps me going. For the weeks like last week, and the nights spent feeling trapped, remembering these moments keep me alive.

Mae

To the Person I Hurt When My Depression Left Me Desperate for Support

To my mentor, supporter, second family, You were there for me for the worst. You saw me when I was hurting, when I was shattered in a thousand pieces, and you helped put my life back together. You supported me when I was isolated from my family, when I didn’t have friends, and I put so much on my shoulders that my world started crumbling. You opened your family to me, let me get to know your loved ones, and everyone accepted me, flaws and all. I took it in, I was overwhelmed. I let you in and took it too far. I know I was wrong in how I used social media. I know I was wrong to tie you into that social media use. I understand why you had to set those boundaries. However, I carry a lot of shame around my actions and I don’t ever think I expressed that to you. I wish I could sit down with you and tell you how sorry I am for abusing your trust. I wish I could say to you that I never intended to hurt with my actions. I never intended to make you feel like I was crying out for help to solely get your attention, because you could not help me at a second’s notice. I never intended that. I didn’t know how drastic my actions had become on social media and that was me being naïve. I did not understand social media and I felt the consequences of my actions. I feel as if things never recovered. You never regained the trust in me you had in the beginning. I feel like you see me in a different light, and that hurts. I have changed and I don’t think I was given a chance to show that change. Yes, I did move across the country so distance did factor into the relationship. Yet, I feel like I kept putting in the effort and it wasn’t reciprocated. I sent gifts and texts and letters and cards, often to no response or acknowledgement of receipt. Even now, I put forth an effort and it feels like it falls on deaf ears. I know I made mistakes — I’m not perfect and in my struggle, I didn’t know what else to do or who to turn to. Yet, I don’t know, it feels like I’ve lost somebody important from my life, especially as time goes on. It doesn’t feel like it will ever be the same anymore and that makes me sad. It hurts. You were like family. You were the first person to accept me as me. And now, it feels like we have gone our separate ways. Were you just meant to be a season in my life? Or was this meant to last longer? You have supported me from afar and I appreciate it. I guess it just doesn’t feel the same anymore. Things are said and they turn into empty promises. I don’t know where things stand anymore. I guess, even through all the pain and hurt and frustration I caused you, I got lost in the mix. I hope you can look past what happened and see I am growing, I am changing, and I am stronger. I wish you could trust me like you did before. And not having that trust hurts. It feels like I lost my family. Wishing for old times and missing you, Mae