Sunday, July 27, 2014

Don't change yourself for anyone else

I've learned that there are people in this world who will criticize you and make you feel like there is something wrong with you. And it's difficult not to start believing them and not to start wondering, "Should I change who I am? Am I really as flawed as this person makes me out to be?"

In my life, I have been guilty of changing who I was for someone else. Trust me, this is not something I am proud of. 

But through this experience, I learned an important lesson. I learned that there will be people who come in to your life and will try to change the person you are and mold you in to the kind of person they think you should be. 

When this happens, you need to know that, in no way is it your fault. Each person in this world is unique, and if someone can't accept the things that make you uniquely you, then it's that person's loss.

So, I challenge you to leave a comment, telling me all the things you love about yourself. And, the next time someone tries to make you feel bad about yourself, remember the things you love about yourself. 

I recently finished watching the show "Sex and the City" all the way through for the first time, and, in the last episode, the character Carrie Bradshaw said, "The most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you that you love, well, that's just fabulous."

That is a quote I need to live by. I need to remember that anyone who doesn't love the me that I love just isn't worth it.

Here are some of the things that I love about myself, and I challenge you to do the same. Stop thinking about the things you don't like about yourself and instead think of the things that you love.

1. I love that I'm not afraid to say what I feel.
2. I love that I help people with their problems and that I care about making others happy.
3. I love that I don't care what strangers think about me. I have no problem dancing in the street or telling jokes that may make some people feel uncomfortable but most people laugh.
4. I love that, when I do love someone, I give my entire heart.
5. I love that I am the kind of person who doesn't give up.
6. I love that I live on my own and that I can take care of myself.
7. I love that I am a hard worker and that having a job I love is more important to me than the amount of money I make.
8. I love that I believe in forever.
9. I love that I am able to use what I've learned in my life to help people with mental illnesses.
10. I love that I am not ashamed to ask for help if I need it.
11. And I especially love that there is no one else in the world exactly like me. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Windsor rapper Kyle Spratt credited for saving the lives of people considering suicide

For those who have lost their lives to suicide, I think if crystal balls existed, they never would have done it.

 If before they died, they could have seen the way their deaths would break the hearts of their family and friends, I really believe they would have changed their minds.

 I wish they could have known beforehand that their parents would never, as long as they live, get over their child's death. Their friends would be devastated. Their children would never heal over being fatherless or motherless. Their partner would always question, "What could I have done differently? Wasn't I enough?"

For anyone who is considering or has ever considered suicide, listen to this song "Suicide Note" by Windsor rapper Kyle Spratt (WARNING: Explicit lyrics). Make sure to listen all the way to the end.
He is being credited for saving the lives of people who were contemplating suicide before listening to this song, the Windsor Star reports.

Spratt's video has attracted more than one million viewers to date. Although it was recorded and posted to YouTube six years ago, it recently received a spike in online viewership. Hundreds of people have contacted him to thank him for his song.

Spratt, 25, sings the song in the perspective of a teenager wanting to kill himself. But, after dying, he gets to see the reactions of his family and friends at his funeral. And then he immediately regrets it.

"They miss me. Man, what a horrible mistake I made. And I can't take it back. It's way too late. If only I could relive my life, I'd remake this song."

He is no stranger to the effects of suicide. The Windsor Star reports that his father killed himself when Pratt was just 9 years old.

 "I know what it’s like to be left behind by a loved one and … I know what it’s like to want to kill yourself,” he told The Windsor Star.

Pratt knows what it's like to feel publicly humiliated. When he was 19 years old, he received national media attention — but not the good kind, like he is now. He stole rapper Eminem's ex-wife's cell phone, hoping it would give him the ability to contact him and get his music out there. And the public painted him as a stalker because of this incident.

Thankfully he didn't decide to let this one mistake end his life.

At the time, I'm sure it was hard to look past it, to see how anything could get better when people he didn't even know were making fun of him.

But he did get past it. The world has forgotten about his past and now he is known for something else entirely.

Because he didn't give up on life, he has helped so many others. He's taken the worst moments in his life and used it for good.

We could all learn a lot from him.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The power of the words 'I'll always love you'

I think there are four magic words that, whenever emotions are running high, can always help.

Those four words are "I'll always love you."

Or variations of those four words (Side note: Of course, only say it if you mean it).

For my parents, they would say to me when I was little, "I'll love you to the end of the numbers."

For my friends, we'll scream out "I love you forever," whenever one of us is feeling down.

And I remember, in high school during one of the hardest times in my life, when life didn't feel worth living anymore, one of my best friends reminded me that I need to live at least until we're little old ladies so we can be neighbors at the nursing home and chase each other around in our pink scooters. And I remember that was one of the things that helped me snap out of it.

Because her saying that showed me that, no matter what happens in my life, she will always be there for me. And to me, that's the greatest gift you can ever give to someone.

I have heard plenty of times what not to say to someone who is depressed or going through a tough time. For instance, never ever say, "Just get over it." But what should you say?

In my experience, whether it's with family, friends or the person you want to spend the rest of your life with (if you're lucky enough to have found that person), you can never go wrong saying those words.

I think that's because, if you're feeling down, it always is comforting to know that no matter what happens or no matter how alone you may feel at that moment, you have someone in your life that will stick by your side.

So next time you are with someone who is crying and you don't know what else to say, say those four words. Remind them, although there is so much in this life that is uncertain, you are one part of their life that they never have to worry about wavering.

I know, at least for me, knowing I have that is more important than anything else. And thank you to everyone in my life who has snapped me out of my down-in-the-dumps moments just by saying those words to me.  You've helped me more than you know.

Here are other things, according to Health.com, that you should say to someone who is depressed or sad:

1. I'm here for you. You are not alone in this.

2. You matter. You are important to me.

3. Let me help.

4. You are not going crazy.

5. There is hope.

6. I'll do my best to understand.

7. No matter what happens, you won't drive me away.

8. We'll get through this together.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Advice to singer Lana Del Rey: Dying young is not glamorous

Photographer: Nicole Nodland
I don't know about you, but I hope to someday be a little, wrinkly old lady, sitting on the porch of my house with my future husband by my side, watching my future grandchildren play in the front yard.

Since I only get one chance at this life, I want it to be as long as possible. I don't think there is anything glamorous about dying young. I feel that dying young just means so many missed opportunities.

 But, in a recent interview for The Guardian, singer Lana Del Rey, while talking about her heroes Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse, admits that she sees an early death as glamorous and then goes on to say, "I wish I was dead already."

Ironically, Lana is known for singing the song, "Young and Beautiful," with these lyrics: "Will you still love me when I'm no longer young and beautiful?" It seems to me that she is scared of that time coming — when she is no longer young and beautiful.

Of course, Lana has been criticized for saying this. But I'm not going to criticize her. That's not what the purpose of this blog is. I just wish I could give her a hug and tell her that everything is going to be okay. I wish I could show her that she has such a bright future ahead of her and has the ability to touch so many people's lives.

I understand why she may feel that way. First of all, she lives in a world that, especially for women, glamorizes youth and beauty. On top of that, Lana has had a tough life.

As a teenager, she had drug and alcohol issues and was homeless. On top of that, the media has scrutinized her past — accusing her of being fake — and also scrutinizing her looks — wondering if she's had plastic surgery.

And, in 2012, a hacker accessed much of her personal information on her computer, and released it to the public.

She tells The Guardian that she isn't trying to elicit criticism. She just wants to make music in peace —and she doesn't enjoy being a pop star.

Later, she did say she was tricked into saying this by the reporter, who was talking to her about death before she made the comment. While I do think it's wrong for any reporter to try to illicit a controversial response, still, no matter what they were talking about, it makes me so sad that she would even think, "I wish I was dead already."

This especially struck a cord with Frances Bean, Kurt Cobain's daughter. And rightly so. She knows firsthand that dying young is anything but glamorous. She knows, behind-the-scene, what the results of dying early is — not the construed, idealistic view that dying young means you get a museum exhibit named after you or something.

Frances Bean tweeted, "The death of young musicians isn't something to romanticize. ... I'll never know my father because he died young, and it becomes a desirable feat because people like you think it's 'cool.' Well, it's f**king not. Embrace life, because you only get one life. The people you mentioned wasted that life. Don't be one of those people. You're too talented to waste it away."

I agree with Frances. It means nothing to be able to look "young and beautiful" in a casket. Instead of living your life to the fullest, when you die early, your young body just turns to ash in the ground. Like Frances said — that's just a waste. What good does that do anybody? Does that sound "glamorous" at all to you?

If I could talk to Lana Del Rey, and anyone else who has ever thought about checking out of this life early, this is what I'd want to say:

1. If you don't enjoy your career — like being a pop star — and it makes you dread waking up every morning, then stop doing it! This is your life, no one else's. And life is too short to spend it doing something you hate. You can step out of the spotlight and still make music, or whatever else your passion may be. Your true fans and those who really love you will still follow you and still support you — and the naysayers, well, just screw them!

2. You may think dying early means people will talk highly about you. Yes, people will cry at your funeral, talk about how much they missed you and there may even be articles written about how you died too young. But once your dead, that's it. That's the end. And there's no chance to do anything else with your life or give people even more of a reason to remember you.

3. You have so many people who care about you. For Lana, she has a boyfriend, family and friends who would all be so devastated if she lost her life. If someone I loved died, no matter what age, it would affect me for the rest of my life. And I can say that when you die, so many other's lives would be forever changed — and definitely not for the better. A young death doesn't just affect you but it affects so many others.

4. Think of your goals for the future. Write down your reasons to live and all the things you want to do or see before you die. Remember, if you died today, you wouldn't have to chance to do these things.

5. Most importantly, reach out to others. Don't keep this feeling inside (which is one good thing Lana did. At least she didn't hide how she feels and now, others can help her). Don't be ashamed to seek professional help. A psychiatrist or counselor can help you with your feelings of not wanting to be alive anymore.

6. If the desire to hurt yourself is more than you can bear, make sure you're not alone, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911.

Monday, June 23, 2014

How to help someone with symptoms of bipolar disorder — even if they don't want help

Photo by RaChil of the Cwafty Blog
Think about your highest high. No, I’m not talking about drugs. I’m talking about high on life.

Do you remember what it felt like? To feel like everything was going right in your life. Where you didn’t even want to go to sleep because you felt so good, and your cheeks hurt from smiling so much.

Now, imagine your lowest low. We’ve all had them. When all you wanted to do was cry and sleep — wishing that you could numb the pain. And you couldn’t help but think to yourself, “Will this ever get better?” — maybe even questioning your will to live.

Now picture that a big, blue genie approaches you. And he says, “Remember your lowest low? I can erase that feeling forever.”

You smile. “Sign me up!” you exclaim.

But then the genie wags a finger at you. “Not so fast,” he says. “There’s a catch. Remember how you feel during your highest high? If you give up your lowest low, that’s what I want in return. You will also never feel your highest high.”

What would you say? Would you give up the bad feeling — even if it meant giving up the good feeling as well?

This is sort of a look into the decision a person with bipolar disorder is faced with. Except their highest high and lowest low feel even more extreme than it is for the average person. I think, for those with bipolar, it is the hardest for them to seek help. Because although medicine can help their depression to go away – it can also take away their “manic” stage.

Bipolar disorder affects more than 10 million Americans. It is marked by stages of mania — elevated mood and excessive energy — and depression. A person diagnosed with bipolar disorder could cycle back and forth between the two stages multiple times a week — or months at a time.

PsychCentral reports that, often times, people with bipolar disorder will seek out treatment during their depressive stage and then stop taking the medicine during their manic stage — thinking they are better.

But, often times, when someone stops taking the medication because they miss their “manic stage” or because they think they’re better, they are even more likely to self medicate with drugs and alcohol when the depression stage returns.

I decided to write about bipolar disorder after a woman sent me an email after reading my blog for the first time (one of the nicest emails I’ve ever received, by the way). She told me that, late last year, her daughter’s friend killed himself. He was in his early 20s when he died. She told me that he demonstrated the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Which is why no one ever knew anything was wrong — because they only saw him during the manic stage when he was loud, extroverted and very happy. She told me that she thinks her daughter’s friend used alcohol to cope with the pain and that he was drunk upon taking his life.

While the manic stage may feel great, this man’s story showed me that the depression stage can kill you. As many as one in five people with bipolar disorder take their lives, according to statistics. This is even higher than the number of people diagnosed with depression who take their lives, which is about one in seven.

Since bipolar disorder is more difficult to detect than depression disorder, how can you tell if a friend has the disease? Someone going through the mania stage often talk a mile a minute, sleep very little and are hyperactive, reports HelpGuide.org. But the mania stage isn’t always fun and games. People during this stage are also more likely to gamble, engage in inappropriate sexual activities, and become impulsive and easily angry or irritable. They are also more likely to have unpredictable mood swings.

HelpGuide reports that some of the common symptoms of bipolar depression are feeling hopeless and worthless, loss of energy, concentration and memory problems and thoughts of death or suicide.

If you or someone you know has these symptoms, get them professional help immediately.

If a person refuses help, remind them that they are not alone and give them this piece of wise advice by HelpGuide — “If you’re reluctant to seek treatment because you like the way you feel when you’re manic, remember that the energy and euphoria come with a price. Mania and hypomania often turn destructive, hurting you and the people around you.”

Also, let them know that treatment doesn't always mean medicine.

If you don’t want to take medicine, talk to your doctor about natural treatment options. Regular exercise, getting to bed earlier, a diet of nutrient-dense foods and eating fatty fish at least two times a week could decrease some of your bipolar symptoms. View more natural treatment ideas on WebMD.

But, let me stress again, it is imperative to go to a doctor if you think you may have bipolar disorder or if you suspect someone else may have it. Even if you don't want to take medication, a doctor can discuss other options with you. But bipolar is a lifelong disease — and just "living" with bipolar could have very dangerous consequences for both yourself and for others. And I don't want there to be any more people taking their lives because of the disorder because they didn't get help.

Monday, June 9, 2014

In memory of a Pontiac man who died last week, sign a petition to remove a website mocking his death

** Click here to sign a petition on change.org to try and remove a racist website, mocking Malcolm Robert Fairley's death. Almost 30,000 people have signed so far. **

I believe that you can't choose who you fall in love with.

And it doesn't matter the other person's race or gender.

Yet there are people in this world who, for some reason, feel like it's their responsibility to condemn others for who they love.

Iliana Leonicia Ortiz had the worst week of her life last week when her boyfriend and father of her child, Malcolm Robert Fairley, died at only 21 years old from accidentally drowning in Stony Creek Lake. And the week was only made worse when some people, instead of sending her sympathy, judged her.

In the midst of her almost unbearable grieving, Iliana also had to deal with something she never expected — people making hateful comments about her for dating a black man.

It's bad enough for people to degrade others for the color of their skin when they are alive. But to do this when the other person is dead is cruel and downright cowardly.

I know that I usually focus on writing about people who died from suicide. I want to stress that Fairley's death was an accident — it was not a suicide. But I wanted to make an exception and write about him because I wanted to help stand up for someone who can no longer defend himself.


One of Iliana's best friends, Nana Schlak, shared a racist website with me that posted the story I wrote in The Macomb Daily and The Oakland Press about Malcolm in its forum.

Malcolm is called an N-word countless times by users and, even worse, people on the site call him "worthless" and that his death was a "miraculous blessing."

They mock his girlfriend as well and call their baby a "zebra." (Side note: I think their family is beautiful. And it makes me sick that people would say these things.)

Iliana and most of her friends have already seen this website. Could you even imagine, while in the midst of mourning the loss of the love of your life, to stumble across something like this?

Comments on The Oakland Press' website, which have since been deleted, were almost as bad as this — predicting Malcolm, if alive, would not be there for his child either  — solely basing this on the fact that he is black.

I know there is a stereotype against black men abandoning their children. But there are bad people in the world of every color. That doesn't mean everyone of that race is like that though. And Malcolm was definitely not like that.

 Nana said, "There's a difference between who they called 'N***ers' and black people. There are people who are low-lives and drug dealers. Then there are the decent black people — the smart ones — like Malcolm."

"I don't understand how they can say stuff like that about people when they don't know them — and the comments they were making about an innocent child who can't defend himself."

Nana said she knows the people who made that website have freedom of speech but she is hoping they will get enough pressure from the community to shut them down.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I wish Maddie Yates would have known that life gets better

Photo from YouTube
Some of my favorite movies, I almost turned off in the beginning when I first started watching them.

For instance, the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" took me two separate times to get through the beginning of the film because it was so strange and I was so confused. But once I got through the first half, I was in love with it. And now it is in my top 10 list of favorite movies.

No matter how much I don't like the beginning of a movie, I always try to get through it with hope that the ending will make it worth it.

The same thing with life. No matter how bad of a day I have, I trudge through with the hope that tomorrow will be better.

But Maddie Yates of Louisville, Ky. didn't agree with me.

She lived by a quote by stand-up comedian Doug Stanhope — “Life is like a movie. If you’ve sat through more than half of it and it’s sucked every second so far, it probably isn’t gonna get great right at the end and make it all worthwhile. None should blame you for walking out early.”

But I disagree wholeheartedly. This doesn't always happen in the movies. And, even more importantly, this isn't true in life.

But Yates, a student at Louisville Male High School, took this quote literally and, since she didn't like the beginning of her life, decided to end it early.

In April, Yates killed herself after posting a video on YouTube, saying, “I’m doing literally the whole world a favor. … But I love you, and I’m sorry. And I really, really love you."

Yates did not have the same perception of her life that others did. Shortly after she lost her life to suicide, one of her friends, Adam VanRude (@AVanrude) posted on Twitter, "No Maddie it wasn't a favor at all. You meant the absolute world to me."

Yates declared herself "not a good person." But this isn't true. She changed the lives of many young adults by posting videos on YouTube touting the importance of acceptance.

In one nine-minute video, she said, "Everyone gets in a dark place some time in life. But, whenever you do, just ... (know) you’re not alone I guess. When you’re in high school the only thing you can do is just accept yourself."

I wish, before she decided to kill herself, she remembered that lesson she taught to hundreds of others. I wish she would have remembered that she isn't alone either. I wish she would have realized that, just because the beginning of her life wasn't what she wanted it to be, that she had so much promise for the remainder of her life. 

If she would have decided to live, she could have touched so many more lives. No, none of us know what tomorrow may bring just like, whenever we walk into a movie theater, we don't know what the ending of the film will be like.

For me, personally, the second half of my life so far has been a lot better than the first half. I am so glad that, during the hard times, I didn't check out early because I never would have known what my life had in store for me.

And I really wish the world could have seen what life had in store for Maddie Yates too. I'm sure it would have been wonderful.

I wish she would have known, like I have learned in my life, that many times, the "ending" makes all the hard times worth it.