Thursday, May 15, 2014


My #SACommits Confessional

[Note: Some language, suicidal ideation, real talk. Also, there is obviously much more to this story, and I hope to write more companion pieces stemming from this post, so please stay tuned!]

Being an extrovert can be a lose-lose personality type.

People often look for you to be the source of energy in a room.
You're expected to be upbeat and bubbly all the time.
But sometimes life happens...

Essentially, when I am too loud, people get annoyed.
And when I’m too quiet, people get worried.

Yet, as an extrovert there are advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages: Outgoing, energetic, positivity, people skills, self- confidence.
Disadvantages: Obnoxious, annoying, selfish, perceived unintelligent, over-commitment.
(Note: These do not apply to all extroverts, obviously.)

I am all of the above.

Me during high school.
I may never grow up.
First, a story of my youth—

In being such a young energetic (ADHD) kid—with hardly a language filter—I alienated myself from a lot of people and said a lot of things to a lot of people I should have never said. I was, and still am, a polarizing person. I recognize that.

And especially while growing up, I didn’t really know how to harness my energy constructively.

So I destroyed things. I smashed windows with rocks, kicked through walls, started fires constantly, and hit golf balls with a baseball bat into traffic. Those are things that I actually did.

And when I ran out of things to destroy, I would turn to myself.
My anger derived from feeling as though no one could relate to what was going on in my head.
And no one reached out to help me.

Counselors told me I needed to “calm down.”
Teachers told me to sit in the hallway so I wouldn’t disrupt the learning of others.
My parents told me I needed to “quit acting out.”

I often made a scene during class because I WANTED HELP!
But I didn’t know how to ask for it.

Instead of asking if I needed help, teachers just sent me to the principal’s office.

I was aware that my obnoxious nature alienated me from many potential peer groups and honestly led to many people thinking I was very immature and idiotic. And that affected me. I genuinely had no idea how to help myself, and I didn’t know how to ask the few close friends I had for help.

This led to me developing a lot of issues with depression.
I felt alone. I would come home, crawl into bed, and cry in my room.
And the destruction issues I had regarding things evolved into harming myself.

Sometimes I just need to let it out.
[Photo: Katy Weaver]
I have attempted suicide twice in my life—the scars of one attempt are now covered with tattoos.

I honestly do not wish to return to those memories, so the exact circumstances will not be referenced, but I need to get that out of the way immediately.

Throughout high school and the early years of college, I harmed myself in various ways of which I hid. Much of this harm was due to multiple aspects of my mind fighting against me.

A lot of this harm was due to my consistent failures with relationships—of which I had little faith until about two years ago.

As I said before, a disadvantage to being an extrovert is that some of us are pretty selfish people. I am selfish. I acknowledge this. And I’ve learned a lot since getting older, but I surely was a terrible person to date because I like being independent. And I also like being selfish. And I feared compromise. However, I also wanted companionship. And I wanted to care for someone. And I didn’t want to be alone. But I do not deal with rejection well.

However, all of this cognitive dissonance led to me having no idea how to support someone else when I couldn’t even handle my own shit. I also overthink everything—if you couldn’t tell.

And when I felt things falling apart I would try to drastically solve all of the problems all at once to fix the relationship. And I always failed. I failed constantly. I would use guilt to manipulate whomever I was with because I didn’t know what else to do. And it was impossible to gain any sort of self confidence in relationships because I knew I would destroy them eventually.

And then I would turn on myself.

Probably the strangest thing about being an extrovert is that I was able to hide a lot of my pain, frustration, and anxiety by forcing myself to be myself—an overly enthusiastic, life of the party, energetic, lover of life. You know, like an extrovert.

But I haven’t always loved life.
I have always had to hide.

I always come back to this image. It's too true.
Writing has always been my most effective way of working through a lot of my depression and anxiety throughout high school and college.

I don’t have to hide when I write.

And if you haven’t noticed, I write a lot.

I have kept journals for as long as I can remember.
I wrote for myself and it was the best sort of therapy.

Many of my notebooks and journals are no more.
I often destroy them once they fill up because the simple act of having written out my words is enough for me.
I have no need to keep those words.

However, since I love words and I love writing, I decided to become an English major, which was the best and worst thing to happen to me.

I kept journaling through college, but it took a different shape.
I would compete with my classmates in a way that was unnecessary. I wanted to impress my professors. I wanted to challenge my classmates by writing about REAL LIFE. And honestly, I think some of the tactics I tried were doing more harm than good for my credibility as a writer. I mean, I thought I was a good writer.

And it only led to great amounts of anxiety.

Why the fuck am I not getting As on these stories?
How did they get a better grade on this paper than me?
I poured my heart into this story!
I thought I was a good writer.
How do they write more vividly?!
What do I need to write to impress you?!

These thoughts would race through my head whenever I received a grade on a paper or a story.
I knew I was a good writer, but I wasn’t seeing the results.
I thought I was a good writer.
I felt as though I was failing at being a writer, just as I was failing at relationships at the same time and writing about those failed relationships as a form of therapy.

It became a vicious cycle.
I thought I was a good writer.
I thought I was a good writer.
I thought I was a good writer.
But I kept feeling I wasn’t good enough.

I would go days without eating—obsessing over being a better writer.
When I didn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and when I couldn’t sleep, I would obsess over how it was impossible for me to ever reach the level of my classmates, and I certainly wouldn’t reach the level of the writers I admired. After all, I thought I was a good writer.

It was vicious cycle on top of vicious cycle.
I thought I was a good writer.
I thought I was a good writer.
I thought I was a good writer.
But I kept feeling I wasn’t good enough.

This unnecessary competition that only happened in my head went on for at least three years.
It made me a mess of feelings and anxiety.


There are many reasons I didn’t continue pursuing writing as a career.

My anxiety toward a life full of failure and rejection was a major factor.
It also had to do with another element—alcohol.

I used to drink constantly when I wrote.

From a photo shoot for my first EP last May.
It was a transformational experience.
[Photo: Luke Wenker.]
Now, for starters, I didn’t drink alcohol until I was 21.
That’s right. I waited.
And when I started drinking, I HATED IT!

However, it just so happened that my 21st birthday and ending a nearly two-year relationship closely coincided. So I developed a taste for beer quickly as I found that it helped me repress the feelings I still very much had for the partner who left me.

My second suicide attempt actually occurred shortly after that relationship ended. And my motivations were purely fueled by alcohol. I felt like a failure again. I was so sure that this relationship was it for me, but I was wrong. My trust and faith in relationships was destroyed. I had no idea how to process this pain, so I drank. And I was so new to drinking that I didn’t know my limits, so I wound up making a poor decision while under the influence of alcohol.

I never thought of myself as having a problem in comparison to how much I saw others drink—but the point of this is not comparison. While I may not have had issues with drinking to excess, I personally struggled with the reasons for why I was drinking to begin with.

I drank to not feel pain.
I drank to fall asleep at night when my mind kept me awake.
I drank to ignore my depression—to lessen my anxiety about writing, about life, about relationships.

I was actually an RA at this time. And I was pretty good at hiding my depression around my residents because I ignore whatever issues I was dealing with in order to help them with their issues. And that only made things worse for me. I was taking in a lot of emotions and not letting any of mine out constructively. Except through drinking.

And of course I didn’t want anyone to think of it as an actual issue, so I’d often sneak alcohol into my room—like my underage residents would do. I was ashamed. I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I was struggling with a hidden drinking problem.

The issue only perpetuated further when I was teaching high school English. I would read so many stories of students struggling with the realities of their own lives, which made it more difficult for me to process my own life. So I drank. Every night I would come home, decompress, drink, grade, drink, and sleep.

I wasn’t happy. I wasn't healthy. I wasn't me.
I felt I was destroying myself.

I struggled to go in to teach every day because I felt as though I couldn’t actually connect with my students because I was losing track of who I was as a person.

The interesting thing is that during all of this, when I would talk to friends about drinking, many of them would say, “Oh, but you hardly drink—”

And in my head, I would reply, “Yeah, that you know of.”
Even if I tried to explain the extent to which drinking was a private activity for me, I know that many of my friends would have never understood. 

So I kept it hidden.

Sometimes life is dirty.
[Photo: Luke Wenker.]
After a few years of what turned out to be meaningless “romantic relationships” that ultimately destroyed trust in myself and relationships in general—for various reasons, many of which are my fault. I own that. Alas, while I was being reckless with my body, I recognized that I didn’t like who I was becoming, so I reached out for help for the first time in my life by going to Oregon State University’s Counseling and Psychological Services.

I maintained going to counseling while I was an RA, stopped for a few months, and then continued during my student body presidency, and concluded counseling through being a high school teacher.

Counseling really helped me put a lot of things into perspective. And it helped me conceptualize a lot of my feelings within the larger social constructs that have led to my inability to properly communicate all of the thoughts, fears, frustrations, and denials going on inside my head. I needed to be able to share these thoughts and have someone help me process.

In many ways, I am who I am today because I asked for help.

Being able to talk with someone about my issues and process my depression and anxiety was incredibly necessary for me. I was able to develop better self-control, a better sense of self, and a better sense of identity.

As of today I am over 22 months sober and I have no intent to pick up a drink again. I don’t like who I am when I drink and I certainly do not like the feeling of being out of control of my body or my decision making.

And as I reflect on so many past experiences, there are a few things to take away from this post:

- Sure, extroverts may appear to be fine on the outside.
But that does not mean they are fine on the inside.

- As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned how to ask for help.
It takes time for most people. And it is always okay to ask for help.

- Many depression and suicide attempts during college stem from relationships ending.
Being able to acknowledge these situations as valid struggles for our students is important.

- Students want help and we need to know how to acknowledge signs and ideations before they turn into larger issues. Because I have struggled in so many ways with depression and anxiety, I know firsthand the realities of feeling like no one is there for you—like you are alone.

- No one should ever feel alone.

In many ways, I am who I am today because I asked for help.

I was recently talking on the phone to my mother and twice she said, “I feel like I’ve failed you, son.” To which, I replied, “No, mom—society has failed me.”

Society has failed all men.
Men should not be afraid to come forward with their emotions.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone—even though I needed to do so.

Ultimately, my reason in sharing such detailed information about my experiences with depression and anxiety is simply that men do not want to talk about this. And the only way I was able to get help was by reaching out to a specialist.

Men cannot hide their mental health issues any longer.

We MUST create brave space for men to feel comfortable to share the reality of what it is like to deal with mental health issues. Otherwise men will continue to repress their feelings & will perpetuate the statistics proving that four times as many men commit suicide than women.

This is our chance to create change and create a brave and caring community in which men are comfortable with their emotions to open up. Otherwise, men will continue to feel as though they won't be taken seriously when coming forward with ACTUAL issues.

Never tell a man they are being dramatic when they bring up issues regarding mental health. THAT is the harmful stigma at play that makes it nearly impossible for men to share in the first place. This takes reaching out to young men early in their schooling and not trying to lump children into these useless boxes of ADHD just because teachers are too lazy to actually sit down and talk with a student.

I wanted help when I was growing up but no one knew how or was willing to help me.

Society has failed men long enough. It is time to turn the tables and show men that it is important to ask for help. Our culture must eliminate stigma that men who share their emotions are weak or feminine.

Mental illness stigma harms everyone.

To the friends who may know these stories and were there to support me, I thank you. Your care means the world to me. I know I am not alone anymore.

I hope this post resonates in some way.
Be well.


PS: Hi Tat.