Themes: Recovery, hope, positivity, wellness, light in the darkness, a couple of resources
I haven’t done a blog post like this in years. I also hadn’t intended for this to BE a blog post. I spend over an hour and a half crafting a lengthy Youtube comment on Tamron Hall’s video interviewing Camryn Clifford, the content creator behind a million and a half subscribers on Youtube’s channel Cam&Fam, but I had so much to say for her video, no place to put it and decided I’d just leave it under Tamron’s instead.
However, upon crafting it, reading it over and editing it, adding the final touches…. the comment button told me it was too long and that I needed to shorten it.
Granted, it was long. I wrote about 3,000 words and either the channel itself or Youtube just wasn’t about that life. I get it. I understand.
So I went about highlighting and copying a part of it, after I copied the whole thing, just in case any slip of the keyboard happened and I’d lose all my work.
So I did that. I made the comment. Then I went to reply to it.
Except Youtube was all “this reply cannot exist” like a big middle finger to my work and I refreshed the new tab to see why….
My comment was not listed under new.
Visible confusion settled on my face.
But how could this be? Maybe it just hadn’t loaded yet?
So I hit refresh, and refreshed. And refreshed. And nope, whatever happened, whatever Youtube or the channel didn’t like just wiped it clean as if it never even took place (which is strange and hey, maybe it’s possible there’s gonna be a delay of some kind, which I hope not but I guess it’ll have me checking back in later regardless).
Anyways, I decided, “Well, okay then.” and mentioned it on Twitter, pasted it to a Word document and now I’m going to share it here because I wrote it, I spent all that time on it, and why the hell not at this point.
So, here it is:
For some further backstory (and there will be a TL;DR at the end, don’t you worry!) I found out all about this story yesterday at, ironically, a doctor’s appointment for some other physical health issue. It was on TV and the show had spoken about the memoirs of a family generational thing about bipolar I disorder. It was interesting, a bit stigmatizing at parts, but interesting. The next story was about Camryn’s family, her life and her husband’s Landon, untimely death by suicide. It was very moving and awfully sad. I found the video today where she spoke about the suicide in much more detail, which I’m hesitant to share directly here because it does cover explicit details of the suicide, the method and her reaction (which my heart absolutely goes out to her and I want her to know that it wasn’t her fault, she didn’t know and couldn’t have and hindsight is always so much brighter and understandable than the worst thing happening right in the moment, and my wishes go out to her to get through this hard time with the support of her fans, friends and family) which was very sobering and somber and pretty responsible while still be potentially triggering. There are some flaws in it, of course, which I tried to cover in my recanting of my own story and experiences. I’ll see you guys at the end:
Hello to anyone who finds this comment in the forest of other comments. I’d like to add my thoughts and share parts of my story on the matter because Camryn’s main video on the subject was showing disabled comments. The opinions I’ll be sharing are my own and have been carefully laid out in my mind this morning since I watched her main video discussing Landon’s death. Most of my thoughts are backed up by regulations and experiences with suicidality and suicide prevention measures. For now, feel free to skim this comment or if you have the time, read it word for word (which I shall give you a ray of sunshine for!)….
So, as far as myself, I am a mental health advocate deep within the throes of sharing my own story living with mental health conditions across professional and personal endeavors. I’ve been doing advocacy since Mar. 2016 and am still going strong. I’ve lived with OCD on self-harm and suicide obsessions (not genuine intent, rather intrusive thoughts that I feared would equal action even when the last thing I wanted to do was hurt myself), secondary depression, genuine thoughts of hurting myself, Borderline Personality Disorder and most currently trichotillomania (hair-pulling) and dermatillomania (skin-picking). I became involved with advocacy in 2016 through my state’s National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) which is all about sharing stories of recovery, hope and the darkness in order to de-stigmatize these conditions and spread the message that recovery IS possible and better days are ahead and our lives inherently matter. I also used to write publicly about my recovery journey in my university’s newspaper. At the time, I really struggled with my mental health and trying to find peace and freedom and over the course of three years I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation 12 times. The longest I went being hospital free was in 2016 for 9 months. I relapsed and in 2017 was hospitalized a total of 5 times. I’ve made three minor attempts on my life and one moderate one.
In 2018 the depression came back worse than ever after about two months of stability/symptom free management after having six treatments of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). When that depression hit, everything got very, very dark. I stopped believing that my life was important and that things would get better. I wrote about 7 articles for my paper that were all shrouded in darkness and chronicling how I felt so alone and so worthless and so intent on ending my life. My parents called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and it kicked off my 11th hospitalization and note-worthingly, the first time I ever didn’t ask for help myself. I went in to that hospitalization and came back out feeling no different. I was still intent on my plans and preparing my method, carrying it around everywhere I went on the chance that something would “push me over the edge” and it would all be over with. I felt this immense amount of calm. I was so happy and it felt like I could breathe again for the first time in a long time. I knew I wasn’t going to have to face tomorrow but even with these feelings… I would still question my decision, I would still be ambivalent and wonder “But what if… What if tomorrow everything changed? What if I feel differently in a month or three or a year?” but I was scared. I was scared because I felt in so deep. Like, I had wasted all this time planning my death, going over every excruciating detail, setting up fail safes–ways to reach out in the end just in case I changed my mind–and it was an agonizing process.
The game changed for me when one of the articles I wrote….came off darker and more concerning than I ever thought fully through. My uni called me directly while I was attending a long term day program, and it was a mixture of freaking out thinking I’d have another wellness check waiting for me at home, the chaos that was erupting at school, the fact that some of my peers at the day program were honest about where they were struggling and how that reminded me that /I/ used to do that and it made me wonder if I could do that again (be open and honest about my struggles)…
I wound up talking with my friend from the paper at school the next day and it was really that conversation, that moment of hope shone into the darkness. My friend said how I wasn’t myself and my articles had taken such a dark turn. That normally in all the time before this my articles would shine with hope and positivity but they were lacking in that now. For me, fearing that nobody would notice or nobody would care if I died meant everything so even just having this insight that my friend wanted me to be okay and wanted me to live to see that day meant the world. I decided, after talking with another friend who seemed off around me, that I could either tell them what was happening, go to the counseling center on emergency or I could talk to my day program the next day. I decided I’d wait another moment and the next day I was driven to the day program, for easier phrasing I’ll call it Passages, and at first I was still going to go along with it but then I got a little triggered by something that was said and then I got angry and upset and I was adding another method to my plan and was already planning my exit strategy when in, I think, a group therapy instance it was asked directly if I was safe and I said, “No.” The group leader, who happened to be my clinician on my case, said we would speak privately after.
When she and I did, it was determined I needed to get help right then and there. The thing people don’t always realize is that mental health and especially in cases of suicidal ideation, they are public health emergencies. Just as someone having to go to the ER for a heart attack, the same is true for suicidality or homicidality. There is an excellent acronym for warning signs of suicide from the American Association on Suicide Prevention called: IS PATH WARM? Luckily, over time I had managed to learn when I needed help and when a hospitalization would be more necessary.
I was still afraid. I was afraid to let go of what had become so… comfortable in order to trade it in for a life that felt uncertain to take a risk on. But I did go. I got picked up by ambulance and taken to the ER. I was stripped of my clothing and items. I waited in there for a few hours, was assessed by the crisis team and deemed necessary to be admitted. I honestly don’t remember that much from that instance but I remember the last hospitalization I went through. I remember the weekend psychiatrist made a remark that I found relatable and hilarious when he said, from the hospital previous that had actually decreased my antidepressants, “They kinda fucked you over, didn’t they?” And that’s exactly how it felt. I was hospitalized that last time on Feb. 14th 2018.
Hospitalizations for mental health aren’t like a lot of the movies. There aren’t padded cells and a lot more of the people there are broken internally and just need help and support. Everything is watched and documented and we aren’t allowed laces or belts or strings or spiral bound notebooks and in some places not staples or pens. It all depends on the place. The rules in some places are more strict and in others more relaxed. Sometimes it’s a shit show, other times it’s a moment of restabilization and where the story is just beginning.
I got out of the hospital about a week later. The better days didn’t start right away. But by May 2018 I was recommended to join the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Intensive program at Passages. This meant that (and I should probably mention for anyone who doesn’t know, this day program meant that I’d go three days a week from 9:30a – 2:45p and go to various groups like art therapy, mindfulness, group therapy, DBT therapy groups, goal groups, communications etc.) I would only see a therapist on site at Passages, I would be in the Intensive program for 6-8 months as one cycle and that I’d have to complete homework assignments each week and fill out these things called diary cards that would track my moods and behaviors each day.
I made the decision to enter into it and began it. It was hands down the best decision I ever made. DBT covers four main modules: interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, mindfulness and emotion regulation. Across this time frame I managed to enter my final semester of schooling, I wrote again positivitely and healthily for the newspaper, I ended a codependent friendship I was in (which was so hard but so, so necessary; I didn’t even realize it was codependency until a year later when my friend mentioned they had noticed that pattern, when I told my therapist and family about it and when my family therapist, June, finally said straight up that if I continued with the friendship I was going to wind up back in the hospital, and at the time, I didn’t want that.) I also made the realization with this codependent relationship ending that: “No one and no thing is worth being suicidal over.”
It was such a profound statement that I never could have anticipated would be such a game changer. I went from chronic suicidality to an issue that faded away. I still get urges or I can still get triggered but through DBT and learning the skills and practicing the skills and telling my story and building that life worth living–I don’t ever want to go back to the darkness. And it’s still hard sometimes because my brain likes to glorify those dark thoughts and suicidal ideation was always about fantasizing it in a way for me, I guess like how others would fantasize about sex, I just did it with the ultimate avoidance which was death. Not exactly the healthiest or happiest relationship, by far. But every day I made it closer and closer to being out of the hospital, closer and closer to finding health and happiness and stability, the further away I made it from my struggles.
It took a lot of work. It took a lot of effort. It took a lot of handling pain in a different way than ever before. It took definitely something about signing paper ‘safety contracts’ that always had a great habit of me having that voice in the back of my head saying “I can’t hurt myself because I said I wouldn’t. I meant what I said. I can’t go back.” So I wouldn’t.
I wound up graduating from college. I wound up getting retrained for a few NAMI ventures. I ended the DBT-I in January 2020 and moved on from Passages by June 2020. I got a relief job at a trauma informed residential for youth and, besides NAMI, it’s been my longest standing job (Sep. 2019 – present). I’m so much happier now. With the pandemic hitting in 2020, it was probably the best time for things to go to shit. Because by then I had all the skills, all the time and the effort and the training to be able to handle it in a creative and healthy way.
Sure, I still struggle nowadays with hair pulling and skin picking and avoidance in other ways and procrastination and all of that. But I finally found a life worth living. I spend my days making Youtube videos (though I’m seriously behind in the editing process!!), reading books for fun, blogging, writing fan fiction, journaling and shopping and working.
As of 2021, I’ve been hospital free for 3 years. I know life can be unpredictable and I have come to accept I may need further treatment and support like in a hospital setting in the future. I am wary of it but I know, too, that if I need it, it’s there. I plan to one day become a Certified Peer Specialist and to share my story more through videos, blog posts, public speaking and writing and publishing books. I have SO many dreams. So many things I want to accomplish. It’s been such a hard road here and I’ve faced recovery burnout last year and it still marinates into today at times however I wouldn’t change anything about my journey because it all lead to this moment. I’ve made my mistakes, sure, and I’ve been slow to accept that these times were traumatic, yet how I handle my emotions today is so different than 3 or 4 years ago. Now, stability is my baseline. Now, I’m happy and I’m so grateful that I didn’t end my life. That that didn’t have to happen.
I know suicide, a lot of the time, because of mental health conditions, seems like freedom. But in death, can we truly be free? Because in death, we can’t experience anything really. Nothing good, nothing bad. Just dead. I believe that knowing pain makes appreciating life and the beauty in it–recognizing that it can be absolute shit at times and be so horrible–and still seeing all the beauty in it, that’s life. It’s hard to understand and it’s very difficult to have conversations about suicide.
But we have to have them. Because it matters. Because our lives matter and we’re all interconnected. Sharing suicide methods in those whom have ended their lives isn’t the best and isn’t part of the regulations for suicide prevention programs because it can cause copycat suicides (encourages others to try those types of methods). Being specific about methods is most appropriate in a one to one conversation with treatment teams. Additionally, in the US, people do not “commit suicide”, they die by suicide. They kill themselves. They take their own lives. “Committed suicide” is more like terminology of someone “committing rape, committing murder”, because those are crimes. Suicide, suicide is a public health emergency. And it’s not going away any time soon. All of this social isolation is troubling and mental health systems, the very, very broken systems, are at their wits end and it’s time that reform and true change can happen.
I have no doubt that Camryn sharing her and Landon’s story will help so, so many people out there. I watched her video and it brought me to tears so many times. It’s so, so hard. Landon likely didn’t die, like in most suicide cases, by just ONE thing, it’s almost always a complicated, multiple layered reason. Asking if someone is thinking of hurting themselves or ending their lives will NOT put the idea in their head. It actually can provide so much space to have a conversation, for someone to realize “Hey, you’re not okay and I’m really worried about you. Are you having thoughts of suicide?” because in my experience, I’ve wanted so badly for someone to notice, someone to ask or someone to just say “Hey, I see you. You’re in pain. It’s going to be okay.” And sometimes, maybe even a lot of the time, I didn’t really need advice or platitudes or anything like that. I just needed someone to see it and offer specific ways they could help me or just encourage me to see the hope that I felt so blinded to or to call for the ambulance.
I don’t think suicide is ever the solution (particularly in terms of mental health conditions). I think suicide is a permanent action to a temporary crisis. I think it’s important to know that not everyone’s experiences are the same, that it has to be adjusted and tailored to the person in question. For instance, telling me how much people would be in pain if I ended my life only made me feel shittier and more like I should do that. Telling me I had so much to live for invalidated that I was in pain NOW and that I couldn’t cope with it NOW. Mentioning different types of methods or saying how certain things would or would not kill me also wasn’t helpful.
We could spend all day wondering what would have happened differently, that’s the horrible pain left behind on suicide survivors (which are the people left behind from a loved one’s suicide, not suicide attempt survivors themselves). We could spend agonizing time wondering about things that just didn’t play out in this reality. Again, there’s so many factors involved. Had I said something else, had I mentioned this, had I been faster or quicker or… these are the unanswered questions. They will carry pain and hurt for a long time. Even when dealing with a friend in crisis, it’s so, so important to take care of yourself, too. Think of the water pitcher, we can’t pour from an empty cup. You have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can put on others. The NSPL is available for anyone struggling with ideation, their friends and family, and others who just need some support or someone to bounce ideas off of. I’ve used the hotline on my phone and over chat many times and if it wasn’t always super helpful, I found it to be helpful to at least be a starting point.
Overall, if there is life, there is hope. I wish for Camryn’s story to help anyone else out there. I wish for Landon to rest a little easier. I wish for those who were fans of them to find not so much closure (grief never ends, it’s an ongoing and changed relationship) but acceptance of the untimely death and to learn how important it is to tell people you love them and you appreciate them or just say a kind word or thought to them. Additionally, I’d like to thank anyone who managed to read this far. Honestly, I didn’t really expect to say this much but that’s how it wound up rolling. I will leave a TL;DR at the very end. I hope that if you’re struggling out there, that you know one day you’ll be okay again. That you’re not alone. That your life really matters. And you’re worthy of this life and you were born strong enough to live it. If anyone needs to speak to a hotline, you could use the US one if you’re here at 1800 273 TALK (8255) or Google your local hotlines in whichever country you’re from. Thank you so, so much for reading. I don’t expect this to make it super far, yet I feel more peace now too. In loving memory of Landon Clifford, who was taken too soon and didn’t get to see, like so many others killed, that there were better days right ahead. For all those grieving, I am with you in spirit and I am sending as much healing and bright light as I can. Be well and above all, stay safe. XXX
TL;DR: This video sums up my experiences with mental health conditions and suicidality and then you can skip to Paragraph #6. I know it’s a lot. I don’t fault you for not reading. Take care out there. xxx 🖤🖤🖤🖤
And that is all that I wanted to say. If you can spare a moment, send a prayer to Camryn and her family–her two young daughters, her loss of Landon, and his family and her own family going forwards. May she find hope and blessings in her future endeavors as she continues to share her story of also living with depression and anxiety, sharing on a large platform her story, his story (that he can no longer tell) and more. She has begun a nonprofit organization in his memory and will be doing a podcast about it too. May everyone find peace, on this plane and the next.
Thank you so much for reading all of my words.
Landon, I didn’t know you before. I only heard of you yesterday. But it feels like I knew you. I would have liked to get to know you. I’m so sorry you were in so much pain. I remember the feeling. It is so, so hard to bear alone. I wish things could have gone as differently for you as they had for me. And I knew, and took some odd comfort in the idea in my recovery and my journey of life and dealing with suicidal thoughts, that some people live to tell the tale and some don’t. And was I going to be the person to tell my story myself or was I going to be one of those that didn’t make it? That choice, ultimately, was my own (which is not to say things couldn’t have stopped me like an ambulance, a hospitalization, worries, etc.) whether I took my life or I took the cards I was dealt and played the hand differently. I wish you could have gotten that chance. I’m sorry that you didn’t. Rest in Peace.
And may all of you else out there find hope and comfort soon. Please take care of yourselves and strive to be the best human out there possible. We all need more love and appreciation. And if we wait too long, sometimes we never get the chance to show it. A difficult truth, indeed.
Relevantly, The Overnight (Out of the Darkness) walk for suicide prevention and for those survivors of attempts or loved ones dying is coming up virtually online in June 2021. If you’d like to join there is a $20 sign up fee and a fundraiser for the event. I believe it occurs on a Saturday. I’ve left the link above. Take care everyone.