7 Things To Do For A Friend Or Family Member Who Is Depressed And/Or Suicidal

If I were to retrace my steps, the suicidal thoughts and tendencies began for me when I was around 14. I remember writing down my feelings at the time on a sheet of notebook paper and sliding it into a drawer, embarrassed and ashamed. The shame grew exponentially when I found the paper in my mom's purse later. She knew. But she hadn't asked me about it. She was probably terrified and had asked friends or doctors. So that meant other people knew my secret too. That initial feeling of being a human oddity and feeling like everyone was silently judging behind your back was enough to want to feel suicidal all over again. Eventually, I would become very well acquainted with these thoughts. Thoughts of pain being invisible, unbearable, and inescapable. Thoughts of not being able to speak about the pain. Thoughts of not being understood and desperately wanting relief, release, and escape. So, I took to writing, as I am still doing here and now, some 25 years later. 

 

I've been fighting a monster for 25 years. This monster isn't tangible, like a tumor that can be removed. I may not seem outwardly as if I'm physically ill, but some days, I struggle to make it off of my couch because of the physical pain and exhaustion I experience. I have other conditions that exacerbate this one, as if poking the bear in the zoo. I suffer from hormonal and reproductive disorders, as well as unidentified chronic pain. I'm tired. I'm useless. I have trouble keeping jobs because schedules become too demanding. The one that is the most demanding is that I'm also a mother of two sweet angels. My son is pretty low maintenance. Always well behaved, and an indoor gamer kinda kid. My daughter is feral. She is wild just like I was and needs a lot of stimulating and often physical activity. I'm afraid these kids need more than I can give them. At the time of writing, I'm unemployed, which does not suit me well. What they say about idle minds is absolutely true for me. But, I am also with my daughter 24/7. Literally all day, every day. I have no escape. I am a prisoner in my own home, trapped in a mind that has been hijacked by darkness. I am suicidal mostly every day. My friends, it is not good. I love my children more than anything in the world, and the only thing that keeps me alive is their smiling faces. But, there's an ugly side of this that I don't see many others speaking of. I'm trapped in a suicidal existence where I don't want to be here and feel like a burden on everyone around me. But, I could never leave my children motherless. I would never want to leave my family and friends grieving. So, I'm stuck here in purgatory, unable to enjoy life and provide enjoyment to others. 

 

So, why am I writing, other than the obvious catharsis and therapy? Because I know I'm not the only one dealing with this. I have spoken with friends who have what I'd call daily passive suicidal thoughts. It's pretty much always there. It's not that we are actively thinking of morbid ways to off ourselves every day. It's not even about killing one's self at all. It's about constantly wishing the universe will take care of it for you. See, there's a stigma with suicide. People like to make a lot of judgments after someone dies at their own hand. They are called selfish. People don't die by suicide alone, but by the pain that the suicide helps them escape. Unfortunately, you can't just keel over and die of depression. The depression kills your soul, but the rest of you must go on. But, other, more outwardly "sick" diseases like cancer can definitely kill you. Our passive suicidal thoughts include wishing we had cancer or some other visibly obvious terminal illness instead. Our kind don't get meal trains, care baskets, or friends sitting with us while we are infused with life saving drugs. Those drugs may make all of our hair fall out, but maybe then someone would believe that I'm terminally ill. People are allowed to say they are dying of cancer, not that they're dying of depression. Some days, people like me wish to be sick in that way. Because, hell, if I'm gonna be sick and in excruciating pain, crying on my living room floor, asking God or whatever is out there to just take me, I at least want other people to be able to see it and acknowledge it. I want others to understand that it is real and if it goes untreated, it will kill me. I want to be able to call in sick to a job when I need a mental health day, and have that be taken seriously like my life depended on it. But, when I call in to work needing mental health days, people may choose to assume I'm hungover or just don't feel like working and want to spend the day on the couch with gossip magazines and ice cream. That couldn't be farther from the truth! Trust me, I would much rather be healthy and working my ass off. But, when people look at me, they don't see someone who is so sick they are barely clinging to life. They don't see me on the days when I haven't washed my hair for a week or cleaned my house in two weeks because I'm in severe pain and exhausted. They don't see me on the days where I can't handle the stress and I physically hit myself or run my head into a wall. They don't see me on days when I can't walk and have to use a cane to get from the bed to the couch in the morning.

So, what happens for the friends and family of someone who lives this type of existence? To be honest, when I see it happening to my friends, I wonder how their partners deal with it. My partner works 12 hour days, so he is barely at home, and when he is, I'm not even sure he knows what to do. So, I'm not a therapist, but here are my suggestions from inside the deep, dark, abyss:

1. Sit with them. If they are responsive to being touched or held, do that. It can help release oxytocin, the love hormone, which can make them feel better. But, not everyone wants to be touched or held in this state, and in fact, each day or instance can be different. Have no expectation. Just be there. Let them lead. Ask if you can hug them or hold their hand, and if not, just keep them company.

2. ‎Dont ask them what's wrong. They might not be able to tell you. Don't ask what you can do to help. They might not know. When they are in the dark hole of despair, they cannot think straight. They don't know what they want or need. Mostly, they just need someone to sit with them until they figure it out, or until the wave passes.

3. ‎When they seem happy and well adjusted and in an upswing, be there for them. This is a good time to say "Hey, just wondering if I can ask you some questions." Chances are, this is the best time to gain some clarity on what they need when they slip away to the dark side. Everyone is different, so asking what their individual needs are is super important. Chances are, they can speak more objectively about their state of mind and needs when things get dark, rather than when they are in the thick of it. It's also a really amazing feeling for someone to acknowledge your illness and feel like you're cared for when it isn't a time of crisis. If you only offer care and help in times of crisis, that's ok, but we often don't want it to get to that to feel loved and cared for. Making an emergency care plan can be a life saver!

4. ‎Make an emergency care box and emergency care plan. Short game and long game. People like us desperately need a lifeline. It is imperative that we have a break from life to process, cry it out, breathe, de-stress, meditate, or whatever it is we need to do to get the weight off of our chest and shoulders. Maybe your friend or family member had trouble taking care of his/herself. Make a healthy meal and bring it to them, no questions asked. Or bring them a gift card to a place where they can pick up a healthy dinner. I often resort to unhealthy options for myself and my kids because I can't physically stand long enough to cook. Make them a box of self care items, complete with a checklist and stay until they check off all items. I recently received a box full of shower goodies from an understanding friend. It meant the world to me! And it made me remember to take care of myself. Sometimes, that's all it takes. Asking your person or spending time with them when they're in the throes of a really bad episode (even though they will fight you to keep you away sometimes) will help you to understand their behaviors and what they need. Some people need a warm bath, some need a journal. Some just need you to take their kids for an afternoon. Ask when they're happy. Chances are, they've never been asked and they've never asked themselves.

5. ‎They can smell fear. Don't be afraid of them. If they know you're freaked out, they'll feel like more of a burden and that'll just make them want to check out even more. They need to know you care and are concerned, but that you're not freaked out if they tell you morbid things like they want to get run over by a train or drive off a bridge. They need to have a safe person that they can say these things to. If you're that person for someone, please know that they are probably not actively seeking out this behavior. They are probably just finding creative ways to say they want to be saved from their pain. They want their pain to be removed, and not by their own accord. If you need to understand this, and how you can make it humorous, listen to "Big Ass Rock" from the musical The Full Monty. But seriously, the less of a burden they feel like, the better! Let them know you are there because you love them and you'd gladly take time out of your day to ensure their love and care. We feel like shitty people, even if we are saints. We just want to know there are people in the world who don't see us this way. That gives us hope and hope makes us want to stick around. 

6. ‎Go to the doctor with them. Tell the doctor you're their person. Get to know their treatment plan. Come up with some backup plans and emergency care plans. Get a few of the doctor's business cards, and keep them in your wallet, home, purse, car. That way, when your friend is having a crisis day, you can do everything in your power to implement the plans you have already discussed together, and if you truly believe your person is in danger of self harm, you can ask them if they'd like you to call their doctor. Sometimes, we won't do it ourselves. Too much shame and it's hard to communicate. It's nice to know that someone is there to help us speak when we can't. Make sure your friend or family member updates their HIPAA forms to include you, if necessary. I include my husband and my mom on all communication and prescription because sometimes I know I'm incapable. Either way, it's nice to know that you have a care team and a plan in place instead of just winging it.

7. ‎The distraction technique. Yes, the same used on toddlers and drunk people. Just talk about something. Start a damn conversation and don't stop. Engage them. Ask them questions. Anything you can do to get their mind off of the darkness. Back to life, back to reality. Don't get too real! No politics or religion. But also, not shitty small talk about the weather. Find some common ground like a TV show or food or friends. Just call them, and if they actually answer, TALK. I'm pretty sure this is the basic technique used by every suicide hotline or chat line I've ever used. They just get your mind off of the bad stuff and you can begin to breathe again. It works. 

 

I hope this helps. I honestly don't know what to do for myself when I'm in this situation, but it has been happening more frequently to me because of my hormones. It's much easier to tell people what I wish I had for care. When I'm depressed and suicidal, that's not something that's easy to tell friends. I often don't answer texts, calls, or messages because I don't know what to say. I'm beginning to let people know I'm having a crisis day and will get back with them as soon as the smoke clears. I feel a lot of guilt. I know I'm a shitty mother, a shitty daughter, a shitty wife, a shitty sister, a shitty friend. I beat myself up very hard for that more than anyone will ever know. It's very hard for me to care for others when I need so much help myself. I keep thinking maybe once I'm not drowning or treading water, I'll be able to take better care of my friends and family. But it's been 25 years, and I'm still struggling. When you grow up with depression as a teenager, you think you'll either be cured at some point, or one day you'll snap and put yourself out of your misery. I honestly never thought I'd live to see age 40. But here we are. And I have no plan. I guess its great that I'm still alive but I feel lost in a world I never planned or expected to be a part of. I feel like I'll always be picking up the pieces and playing catch up with all of the other normal people who had a plan and goals. Maybe that is the next step. Make some goals. Try and succeed. Maybe if I have a plan, I'll get there. Maybe if I feel supported and know I have a team to fall back on, the darkness won't stay so long. So, if you have a friend who is suicidal or even just depressed, talk to them. See how much of this you may be able to apply together. It could save a life.

 

Speaking of saving lives, I'm gonna drop the suicide talk line and text line here. I prefer text because sometimes it's just too hard to vocalize your issues when you're hysterically crying. Sometimes the words are too difficult to say but you're thinking them.

 

National Suicide Hotline +18002738255

Crisis text line 741741

Spring Cleaning: Ayurvedic Digestion Reset

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Season changes are great times to cleanse, aren't they? Especially spring. Spring is all about renewal and rebirth. What better way to feel great than to get your diet back on track. Did someone say DIET?? Don't freak out. I'm not talking about a restrictive experience, just diet in the sense of it just being what you already eat or would like to be eating. If I'm being honest, I get anxiety at the mention of the word. I've been on a low carb, high fat diet recently, but there are some parts of every "diet" that are just not in alignment with my beliefs and goals. I refuse to believe that eating lard, cream, and bacon fat are good for my body. That's just me speaking as someone who is certified in Ayurvedic Nutrition and Yoga Therapy, Nutritional Therapy and Culinary Nutrition. I've decided the only diet I want to follow is one where I eat beautiful and colorful food, preferably locally sourced, that is nutrient dense and mostly plants.  But, when you haven't been eating properly, your digestion and your gut need to be repaired in order to properly absorb the nutrients on your food. Most nutrient absorption happens in the intestines, or 'gut.' If your digestive system has been compromised by excess toxins and inflammatory agents like sugar, white flour, processed foods, medications, etc. you may be suffering from leaky gut. Leaky gut means your intestines have been damaged and have become so permeable that food particles may seep out into the body and bloodstream, causing systemic inflammation and possibly even chronic illness and pain. If you're not digesting food, undigested particles sit in the gut and slow down your metabolism, so you may also start to gain weight. One of the signs that this might be the case is also the appearance of eczema or dermatitis. But, these can all be repaired, and springtime is the perfect time to reset your whole entire digestive system. But HOW??

First off, chew. Chew a lot. When you chew, enzymes are released to start helping with breaking down that food. So don't forget this! Then, of course, your stomach should help as well, by further breaking down your food before it even gets to the gut. When we are talking about resetting digestion, I like to do things by Ayurvedic principles. Ayurveda is the health system that is often referred to as the Sister Science of yoga. It is an accessible way for us to balance whatever state we are in mentally, emotionally, and physically. Ayurveda also teaches us to anticipate changes in ourselves and our constitution with each season. Traditionally, the seasonal cleanse is very in depth. (I'll save that for later, but search up Panchakarma if you're curious.) Long story short, Ayurvedic reset requires foods that are easily digested, so there is a traditional dish called Kitchari (or kichadi, kitchadi, kichdi) that is eaten for cleansing purposes that is composed of two main ingredients: rice and beans. Not just any rice and beans, but specific ones that won't have you farting all day for the duration of your cleanse! Halleloo! What is traditionally used is long grain white rice and split mung dal. 

White rice?? Whyyyyyyy??? Aren't you a nutrition person, Mandy!?? Yes, let me explain. Well, for starters white rice has been dehusked. Brown rice is more nutritionally sound, but the husk of the whole grain is more difficult to digest, especially when we are talking about an already compromised digestion. The husk can actually irritate the intestinal walls and cause gas or indigestion. Same goes for the split mung dal, or yellow lentils. They are dehusked when they are split, and this makes them easier to cook and easier to digest. When digestion is healthy and  strong, you may see this dish on the dinner table with whole grains like millet, quinoa, or brown rice. But for cleansing, we get to be basic. White rice and split lentils.

From a nutrient standpoint, rice and beans might not seem super special. But they actually are! They are actually full of nutrients and vitamins and fiber and hey also help us stretch out the absorption of sugar. When you put them together, this magical combo makes a complete protein! What does that even mean?? There are 20 amino acids that combine to make the protein your body needs. There are ten of these that your body can make itself, but the other ten have to come from food. Those latter ten are called essential amino acids. If you eat animal protein, great. Meat contains all ten, making it a "complete protein." But what if you're on a plant based diet? Well, you have to combine plant foods to create complete proteins. Guess which ones are the most popular? Yep. Rice and beans. This magical combo helps keep blood sugar stable, which is sometimes any issue during an attempted cleanse. Lentils are also naturally high in chromium which helps regulate blood sugar as well. Winning!

I'll give you a basic recipe, I promise! But one more bonus. Kitchari can be customized to your individual needs for your predominant constitution! But, it's basically great for everyone including the sick, elderly, and children. If you're not vegan or vegetarian, you could make it with bone broth, which contains l-glutamine to help strengthen and repair gut lining! So much winning, it is ridiculous!!

All this to say, Kitchari is delicious, good for everyone, gut healing, and a great way to give your digestive system a break. That way, it can repair and begin to accept nutrients and beneficial bacterial colonies (watch for the next post to be about this!) and we'll be well on our way to boosting our immune systems and speeding up our metabolism! Our gut is connected to our brain, so we will also see improved cognitive function and more happiness! More on that to come. Now, here's the recipe:

This is a basic recipe, which would be all you would eat for the duration of your cleanse. This is the base, and depending on your individual needs for your predominant constitution (dosha), you may add different veggies and spices to bring yourself back to optimal balance. For example, my current dosha is kapha. I have a sluggish metabolism right now and add in warming spices to help speed up my digestion like cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger, and cardamom. I would also add veggies that are recommended for balancing kapha dosha. But you can customize it for you! We also make it with ghee (clarified butter) which has awesome halth benefits too!

1 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup Split mung dal
3 tbsp ghee
3 tsp Kitchari spice mix (I use Banyan Botanicals but you could make your own)
6 cups water, bone broth, or stock

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Place a medium sized pot over medium-low heat. Add the ghee. When it is warmed thoroughly, add the spice mix and stir. Let this cook for a few minutes to develop flavor until you begin to hear the mustard seeds pop. Then add the rice and dal, giving a stir to coat in the ghee and spices. Let these toast up for a minute or so, then add your liquid. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low, cover and let simmer for 30-45 min., stirring occasionally. Add additional spices during this time. This should be like a stew consistency when finished. If you're adding veg, add the crunchy ones that take the longest to cook first. Leafier ones, add right before serving. 

If you'd like to figure out your dosha, or what you can add to the recipe for balancing your dosha, please reach out! I'm happy to help!

Happy cleansing!

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Spring Cleaning: Makeup and Brushes 101

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Inspired by a friend's Facebook post asking about makeup brush cleansing, I decided to write about it! I never want to come off as preachy, but I saw some really bad advice that could ruin brushes. We spent a good plenty of money on makeup and brushes, so longevity is important for everyone. But, if you are a professional makeup artist, it is even more important because it's your livelyhood at stake. Either way, we all have more than likely use our products and brushes every day, whether on multiple faces or just our own. So, taking proper care of these is paramount to keep bacteria at bay, thus resulting in cleaner skin with less occurrence of breakouts! 

Think of it like a circle, or cycle. First, we start with clean skin. When I go on a makeup job, I bring Alcone Make-Off Wipes to cleanse the skin, first and foremost. I need a good, clean canvas, but I also want to make sure my client has less dirt, oil, and dead skin on their face that might contaminate my brushes. I depend on my brushes and sponges to do their job properly, and if they are gunky or greasy with residual product, their efficacy is decreased. This can result in the makeup changing it's texture in the packaging and on the face! We definitely don't want that. So, clean face first. Of course, I would ideally like to give each client a full facial first, but we don't always have time for that. Of course, it is preferred to use your favorite cleanser. But, Make-Off Wipes are perfect for traveling or if you play sports or go to the gym, and I always have them in my kit to ensure clean skin before application. I like to do the eyes first, and if there's any fallout umderneath, these make for an easy swipe of cleanup and I can proceed with the rest of the face. Also of note: I do use other products after the cleanser that I know will not affect the texture of the makeup or grease up my brushes. But that's a story or video for another day!

Next in the cycle is freshly cleaned and sanitized brushes. Makeup artists have to be very careful with this, often cleaning between each client. If you're using your own makeup on your own face, does this apply to you too? My short answer is yes. My take on it is, if you have oily or acne prone skin, then absolutely yes. Please try to wash your brushes with a light, alcohol-free (alcohol can dry out natural fiber brushes) brush cleaner spray after each use. You could run the risk of transferring the oil and acne bacteria to other areas of the face, other makeup products, and other surfaces your brushes touches. This can create a recurring breakout cycle you may be otherwise unaware of.  If you have dry skin, you may not have as much oil to spread around, but you may have dead skin that sloughs off and will contaminate your brushes and makeup. Not exactly as dangerous, but just slightly gross. My suggestion is to lightly cleanse your brushes daily by spraying your cleaner on to a towel or paper towel. The reason for this is that you never want to spray directly on to the bristles or submerge your brushes beyond the bristles. If you do, it can loosen the glue and separate the metal piece that holds the brush head on to the handle piece (ferrule is the name for this piece).  It can also strip the paint off if you have wooden handles, which is annoying and unsightly for professionals. So, spray a few spritzes on the  towel and use a back and forth paint stroke through the product with your brush until it looks clean. Or, if you choose to submerge in a gentle brush shampoo, don't dip past the tip! Then, once a week (or more for the pros), you'll want to use a solid bar cleanser made specifically for brushes. This is going to be a deeper clean, which is very important if you are using oil or wax based foundations and concealers that can gunk up your brushes. Spray cleaners are fine between colors or applications, but a deep clean is necessary to really get the deep dirt and pigment out. I love Come Clean, which is a solid bar brush cleaner designed by the London Brush Co. for LimeLife by Alcone. I love this one because it is made with young coconut milk (not oil!) and tea tree essential oil which is antibacterial and antifungal. That makes it ok as far as home sanitation, but MUA's have to do a few more steps for proper sanitation in a professional setting. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard for client safety, so submerging in a hospital grade disinfectant is a must! UV sanitizers are great after this to further sanitize and keep the brushes dry and decontaminated. Then, store in your clean and sanitized makeup brush roll or case. Yes, you must clean this too! Disinfectant wipes like Barbicide or Cavicide are great for quick clean up of your kit and maximum pathogen fighting power! Hmmm, so...what about beauty blenders? These are super porous and can harbor lots of bacteria (like your dish sponge, ew). They can be cleaned with the Come Clean solid cleanser as well. I suggest every day or couple of days for personal use, then replace after 3-4 months. Avoid harsh soaps, or your blender sponge will begin to disintegrate, leaving an uneven texture and giving you an uneven application. Brushes extra gunky?? Use the spray cleaner first, then go for a dip in the solid cleanser. Double duty! Oh, and one last thing. Tweezers! Don't forget to clean these after every use to avoid bacterial build up. Using dirty tools and implements (see also: comedone extractors, nail clippers, etc) can lead to nasty bacterial infections like MRSA. Don't skip this step!! (And pros, I'm sure you know to decontaminate, sanitize, and sterilize your implements after every use.) 

The next phase in the cycle is cleaning your actual makeup. Wait...what?? You can do that? Yes, you absolutely can. Most makeup artists don't double dip in many of their products, opting instead for spatulas to dip into product and transfer to a palette and/or back of the hand before application. Unfortunately, using brushes with certain products and reusing, is a bit unavoidable. Take eyeshadow, for instance, or bronzers, blushes, and other pressed powders. In this case, you can't spray with cleansers because they'll compromise the quality, color, and texture of your product. But, you can spray with isopropyl alcohol (or surgical spirits in the UK) of 70% or above. I prefer the 90%, but I'm extra. You want something that can lightly sanitize, evaporate quickly and not muddy up your gorgeous palettes!  Make sure to take a cotton swab and clean up the nooks and crannies in between colors too. You can also do this with lipsticks, lipliners, eyeliners, and anything pressed. Don't forget caps and lids!

And now, we return to the beginning of the cycle, and if you've done everything right, the ending result should be... You guessed it! Clean skin. No bacteria. It is pretty simple and worth the time to prevent the spread of bacteria. And, ultimately, your skin and the flawless appearance of your makeup will show it. 

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