National Suicide Prevention Week (“NSPW”) is September 8th-14th this year. Each year, the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (“AFSP”), hosts NSPW. One focus of NSPW this year is: Creating A Safety Net.This blog is a little bit about how I created a Safety Net for myself, and why you need one, too.
Why Do You and I Need A Safety Net?
Each of us lives a life in which our experience of living may bring along some challenges. I venture that most would agree that life is not a linear or static journey -neither in a practical or emotional sense. Personally, I have found that this great sweep of things we call “Life,” although a wonderful journey, it has not been one of predictability. While I have enjoyed years of stability and joy, years of happiness, years of feeling inspired, I have also faced years of hard-times, loss, defeat and great suffering.
When I was experiencing the years of hard-times, loss, defeat and suffering, I did not feel like I had anyone, let alone a proverbial Safety Net. For years, I felt alone, like an outcast from my family, like a burden to everyone I met. I felt those ways because I suffered with significant lack of self-worth because I was teased about my looks and that led to me suffering with bulimia and anorexia, body dysmorphia and the depression that often comes along with those things. With those disorders, I was not nourishing my body well at all and that made everything worse for my emotional health. My emotional health was not “health” at all because nothing in my body was properly fed, including my brain and gut. During the time I suffered, any food I put into my body that would normally have nourished it, the diseases destroyed any hope that food had of ever doing its job. To destroy the food, I purged, I drank alcohol in excess, I exercised when I shouldn’t have, I took pills to try and make the food exit my body faster than normal. All of those things created a lack of self-worth within my brain and soul, on a daily basis, for years. Throughout the time I suffered, I typically woke up exhausted with who I was, and I woke up hating myself for the mistakes I had made. On the outside, though, I mostly appeared “fine.” No one else I knew was suffering suicidal thoughts from a ‘diet gone wrong.’ I felt truly and utterly alone.
The Last Time I Planned My Suicide
On June 13, 2002, I had planned to complete suicide. I had left a note behind. I had a plan.
Thank God, my plan was interrupted.
On June 13, 2002, I met three parents who had lost their daughters to eating disorders, one of the daughters having completed suicide. After meeting them, I did not follow-through on my suicide plan. Instead, I began my Final Recovery Process -a process that lasted two long years.
Since I healed, I have not felt the utter-pit-of-the-stomach-aching-aloneness I lived with for 16 years, and I have not considered suicide an option when hard-times have come. One of my recovery-mantras became, “Suicide is not an option.”
What Changed for Me After That Day?
In great part what changed for me after meeting those parents is that: I started treating my body better by nourishing it really well and doing everything I could to rebuild my gut so that my body had a fighting chance to absorb nutrients and heal my brain. I also stopped drinking alcohol in excess because when I drank, I was always more depressed and out of control with my emotions. [Please note that when I say, “in excess,” I was ‘only’ drinking 2-3 glasses of wine at a time-but for me, that was too much. In excess doesn’t always look like a fifth of vodka or a bottle of wine. But the fact is: Alcohol is a depressant whether you’re healthy or not. The chemistry of alcohol interacts with your central nervous system (“CNS”) and depresses it in some way(s). For many, including myself now, the depressing-action of alcohol on the CNS does not result in depressed mood or thoughts. But when you’re malnourished, or dealing with other disorders such as depression or anxiety, alcohol tends to have a negative impact on your brain, even if it might temporarily feel like its alleviating some symptoms].
Aside from ceasing drinking and nourishing myself without compromise, I also started speaking kindly to myself -which was NOT easy because the thoughts I was used to thinking were sad, negative, self-abusing, destructive and dark. To be fair to myself, there was no way to escape negative-thinking when I was undernourished -that is part of why nourishment is so important no matter what you’re suffering with -depression, anxiety, bulimia, etc. Learning to speak kindly to myself was probably the hardest part of my healing -because I hadn’t done so in 16 years. One major influence on this part of my healing became my faith - which I had long abandoned. As I investigated, developed and discerned my faith, I realized how helpful it was to re-training my brain to think kindly towards myself and to others. I began clinging to my faith as I learned how to speak kindly to myself, forgive myself, and forgive others.
I think it is important for you to know that the catalyst for staying alive and recovering was not myself at first, because at first I did not feel worthy of healing. At first, I worked hard to heal for the mom who had lost her daughter to suicide and anorexia, and for the two parents who had lost their daughter to bulimia. Kitty Westin and Ron and Sally George are the names of the parents, and I didn’t want to fly in the face of their pain and that what woke me up to the fact that I needed to change my thoughts before my thoughts directed a final action: suicide. Their pain made me realize that the way I was thinking was not normal or healthy. Their pain made me realize that suicide is final and it leaves behind a pain that is among the most horrible pains a human being can suffer.
In committing to heal for them, I believed that if I kept on nourishing my body well, eventually I would also heal my brain, and then I would reclaim my self-worth, and eventually see my Self as reason enough to heal. Eventually, I did just that -I allowed myself to be worthy enough of healing for my Self. Like you, #IAmNecessary.
The Essence of What I Have Done: I Created A Safety Net.
I don’t think I realized it at the time, but what I was doing during my two-years of healing was creating a Safety Net. In doing so, I cast off the feeling of being alone and the darkness that once veiled my thoughts, spirit, self and Life. Eventually, I healed from not only the eating disorder and severe dislike of my looks and body, but I also healed from feeling depressed and thinking that suicide was ever an option. That is a very humbling thing to write, and it is not lost on me just how lucky and blessed I am that I am one of the fortunate ones to have found hope and survived. If the day before June 13, 2002 you had told me that I would one day be loved, alive with joy in my heart, would wake with a smile on my face, would not be depressed, would repair my relationship with my family, would have friends, would have faith restored, not feel suicidal ever again, and would love my face and body in their natural shape, I never would have believed you. The amount of work that goes into healing from and eating disorder and the accompanying depression, and from thoughts of suicide, is something I cannot quantify. But now 15-years on the other side of healing, I can honestly say it is the hardest work I have ever done in my life. And that is partly why I deserved a Safety Net - so that while I was healing, I could have support that would uphold me when I could not hold up myself through the hardest times of recovering, through the disbelief that I ever could feel better.
We All Deserve A Safety Net - And None of Us Is an Exception To That. Meaning: YOU, Too, Deserve A Safety Net
No matter how long you have suffered, how hopeless you feel today or tomorrow, you deserve to begin weaving your net today. While it may take time to fully craft your Safety Net, what is truly important is that you begin the journey of weaving it today. Your life is meant to be a great sweep of things, but without YOU, there can be no great sweep, and without you, the world would be less-than –less than beautiful, less than amazing, less than inspired. Why? Because even if you don’t feel it today, you DO have much to offer this world. You deserve to feel that your life matters and that #YouAreNecessary! Having a Safety Net can help you to support you while you heal and to maintain your emotional and physical, spiritual and relational well-being for the long haul.
Since June 2002, My Life Has Been Anything but Predictable
I have been through highs and lows since I chose to stay alive…Highs as great as cheering with Kitty Westin while we witnessed the Federal bill named in memory of her daughter Anna pass in the Senate, and lows as low as suffering two miscarriages, one after another, and the loss of a relationship following. The highs have increased my joy, hope and humility and the lows have reminded me that no matter how far removed I am from the darkness I once suffered, I still deserve and need a Safety Net to remind me that when the low-times of life come, I am not alone, I am loved, and I will be OK. The same goes for you –you are not only your low life-moments and in fact, your low moments can be used to further good in this world.
After the Suffering
So much has changed in my life since I healed. One is that I was fortunate enough to work on Capitol Hill and help further the cause of eating disorders at the federal level. I also met a woman named Lisa Kantor. Lisa, as many of you know, is one of the founding partners of Kantor & Kantor, LLP. For the last decade or so, Lisa has dedicated a majority of her practice to eating disorder cases by helping people when insurance denies benefits for treatment. Although Lisa is one of the smartest and kindest people I have ever met, that does not make the work she does an easy task. Despite this, Lisa has continued to help as many as possible who find themselves in the horrible predicament of needing help when insurance says, “No you don’t, you’re not sick enough.” Somehow, I was given the blessing of becoming a part of the Kantor & Kantor team in 2012. Since then, I have had the privilege to work for and alongside not only Lisa, but a team of attorneys and staff who have taken up the cause of eating disorders, most of whom never knew a thing about eating disorders until Lisa’s first case. Now referred to as the “Health Team,” they work with a mission to help those who have been unjustly denied by insurance. When insurance fails, Lisa and the Health Team have become a piece of the Safety Net for many. At Kantor & Kantor, we also have a Disability Team, of which I am now somehow lucky enough to be a part of, and we work to be the Safety Net for those whose disability benefits are unjustly denied.
I Mention Kantor & Kantor Not Because I Am Paid to Do So
I mention the firm in this blog because of two reasons. One, because if you need help with accessing your benefits, you deserve to know that there is a Safety Net of attorneys and staff here to help you. We offer no-cost evaluations and we work on contingency only -so please do not let fear of being able to afford an attorney deter you from contacting us (our contact info is at the end of this blog).
The second reason I mention the firm in this blog is more personal. When I was suffering, I could not afford treatment after insurance denied me saying, literally, that I was one pound over-weight for needing treatment. Their slap-in-the-face denial was one of the reasons I started seriously considering suicide, because it made me feel unworthy of deserving help. When I was living in that darkness, I never thought that one day I might be seen as worthy enough to work with a team of people dedicated to helping those who suffer, many in similar ways to how I once suffered. I want YOU to know that life can, and does, get better - and it is humbly amazing when it does. But that doesn’t mean you toss out your Safety Net!
My life, despite hard times, is stable now. My thoughts are healthy and balanced. I’m well-nourished in body, mind and spirit. And yet, I still have a Safety Net because, even though my emotions are no longer devoid of happiness and a source of suffering, I have come to be a firm believer that God did not put us on this Earth alone for a reason: because we need one another, in good times and bad. You are needed. You may not feel that today, but I urge you to just hold on and have hope. Do not give up. Please do not consider suicide an option for yourself. Completing suicide would snuff out your unique light, your being, your essence, the joy you have to offer and all that just might feel better once you heal.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help today –you deserve to live. Here are a few resources:
- App: https://my3app.org/
- Call: 800-273-TALK (8255)
- Live chat: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
- Call: 911
If you need help with insurance –please contact us for a free evaluation of your case.