Trigger warning: this post has a dark theme of depression, suicide.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor am I an expert in suicide and depression. Rather, I am offering support, resources, and a listening ear.
Today is a sad day. As some of you know, I work in a school with kids from Pre-K through 12th grade. This morning, I found out that one of our students committed suicide and though I didn’t know her well, I still feel immense sadness. Sadness for her, her family, her friends – and for my colleagues whose kids were in the same grade as her. How do you talk to your teenager about this? I can’t imagine having to tell my kid that her friend killed herself, something that some of my colleagues had to do this morning.
I get it. As a kid, I had deep deep feelings of angst, even way beyond what I think was normal. There were moments that I felt like there was no hope and the dread was endless. My teenage years felt like an eternity. The days felt unbearable. There wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. There wasn’t a means of escape, I felt trapped. All the time. Many times, these feelings were unexplainable. There were no words to accurately explain the deep sadness and anxiety. Sometimes, I could swear that I could feel physical pain from it.
The adults in my life didn’t seem approachable or kind. Mostly, they were figures of authority, there to do their job. I often clashed with my parents – hardcore. My parents weren’t the kind to talk to me and nurture my social, emotional and mental health. My teachers were just my teachers. I didn’t feel like I could confide in them, nor did I feel like they were invested in me.
So to the kids that feel this kind of dread – that there isn’t a way out, that the sadness and darkness are neverending, the feelings of hopelessness that consume you, or that nobody understands and that there is just noone:
THERE IS. There is someone who will listen and who will understand. There is a light at the end of this dark tiny suffocating tunnel. And to the teenagers who are feeling this way: I have been there. Though the adults in your life may not admit this, they too, have been there. I’m one of those adults. It gets better, I promise. That dark cloud that follows you won’t be there forever. Take a moment, breathe.
Find someone and talk to them. If you can’t, here are some free resources:
National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
This is an anonymous and confidential crisis helpline. The people on the line will just listen. And if talking is not your thing, here is a link to their chat. Yes! You can chat with them! This resource is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
For NYC Residents
NYC Well, 24/7 free and confidential service that connects you with the appropriate counselors. They have phone, chat and texting features. Yes! You can text them!
Even in the wee hours of this night, when you feel that there is nobody to talk to, there is someone waiting to talk to you. So to that, I say, I’m here. I’ve been there. I see you, I hear you.
If you need a listening ear or just need to vent, you can email me, I promise I will respond sooner than later. I’m no professional, but I will listen. If you want to know more about me or feel like seeing way too many pictures of my dogs and ice cream, follow me on instagram.
Looking for some solitary ways to help center your racing mind? Read more about Mindfulness below.
What is Mindfulness?
Well, to me, it means that I’m centered. I’m doing something that makes me aware of my present self. If you’re looking for something more legit, here’s what Mindfulness.org says:
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
There has been a push at my job for mindfulness and using a 2-3 minute mindfulness activity before starting a class or meeting in order for kids (and adults) to center themselves from having just transitioned from one class to another.
Truth be told, I hate participating in these activities in a group setting. I feel way too self-conscious and anxious, the opposite of the goal. I often opt out of them or show up later to a meeting just so I don’t have to participate. However, I do love doing these things at home or alone in my office. Below are two mindful activities that I like to do alone.
Here’s a quick and helpful breathing exercise to ground yourself. Skip to 1:30 to get right to the breathing exercise. Here’s another breathing exercise strategy called triangle breathing. You get the idea, right? There are plenty of videos on YouTube to help you center yourself. See: breathing exercises, yoga, mindfulness.
Coloring is such a mindful activity. It is also something that I like to do when I feel like I need to unplug and gather my thoughts. There are so many free coloring pages online, like these. Johanna Basford is one of my favorite coloring book illustrators. I have the Secret Garden coloring book and it is my go-to!
I also love these drawing techniques. The repetitiveness is calming. Speaking of repetitive and calming, I also very much like to do linocut printing, which is a printing method using a sheet of linoleum, in which a subtractive cutting method is used to take away the parts of linoleum where you want to leave the white of the page, and keep the parts you want to be inked! Cool, huh?
Take a Walk
I’m not into exercise at all, but sometimes, all I need is some sunshine. Or fresh air. Or fresh damp air. Sometimes, I like the way the rain hits me. On these walks, I almost always go with my dog. Sometimes with headphones and great playlist, sometimes just in quiet. Sometimes, I have a place in mind that I’d like to walk to and sometimes, I just walk where my dog takes me. Once, he led me to the lake at a teeny tiny park. It was almost like he knew that that’s what I needed.