A Year Without Robin Williams

By: Alicia M. Blanco

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On August 11th, 2014 I was flying home from a weekend in Arizona. When I landed and connected back to social media, the first thing I saw was “RIP Robin Williams”.. “actor commits suicide” all over my Facebook and Instagram feed. My body went numb. I was in total shock and disbelief.

Like many of you, I felt like I lost a close friend. I grew up watching and loving him and all the beloved characters he brought to life. It was devastating news to come home to, to say the least. Equally devastating is how mental health and suicide is treated and talked about in society. It isn’t until a celebrity commits suicide that society gives this topic any real attention. This needs to change.

It was on that day last year as I was driving home from the airport that I knew I wanted (and needed) to start my blog and dedicate it entirely to mental health, research, awareness and advocacy. I wanted all of the Robin Williamses of the world to know that they were not alone. It was my hope that by reading stories and articles from other people who have similar FEELINGS and experiences with depression (either personally or within their families) that people could begin to feel a sense of community and belonging. I want them to feel acknowledged, seen and heard. I desired my blog to be a place of hope where people could relate, with no filters, no stories of perfection – just pure and raw honesty.

I could sit here and list off all of the numerical statistics that show you how much suicide has increased over the years. But let me just cut to the chase. IT’S BAD. And every year it’s getting worse. Suicide has no specific victim- no group is “safe” from the impulse.  What’s worse, is that although many people give subtle “signs” that they are contemplating suicide, many people leave no sign at all.

The death of Robin Williams greatly impacted us because on the outside it would seem like he was a relatively happy person. (With a sense of humor like his, it seemed impossible not to be happy.) He also had a dream career, lots of money, fame and the respect and admiration of his fans around the world. This is the part that scares me the most – the amount of people living today who seem like happy people on the outside, but who are really deeply in serious trouble. Earlier in the year I reposted the story about Madison Holleran, a girl who appeared to have it all, (based on her social media, that is.) She ended up committing suicide, despite the utterly happily filtered Instagram life she portrayed to the world.

Depression is a silent killer. Unlike other illnesses that are physically visible, depression is something that builds up on the inside of a person’s mind and body and takes over control. It’s manipulative and even has the power to give off the illusion that everything is fine on the outside. It can also trick its victim into being insecure about sharing how they are feeling with someone.

It’s so heartbreaking, even one year later on the anniversary of his death, to accept that he was suffering so deeply, and quietly…And that’s what breaks my heart: Suicide is preventable – and the responsibility is entirely ours. Together we can each participate in changing these statistics. Enough is enough. Suicidal thoughts and attempts wreck the lives of millions every single day, and over 40,000 die from suicide every single year! Robin Williams’ death was just one of the hundreds who took their own lives on that day. What have we done since then?

We need to take a good hard look at the way we treat people. Our actions and our words matter. When we ask someone “how are you doing?” how many of us are genuinely interested in the response? Do we really care how someone is really, truly doing? Do we really believe someone is as happy as their Facebook or Instagram feed suggests? Are we participating in random acts of kindness for our family, friends and even strangers? Are we ourselves slipping into episodes of depression because of how much we compare ourselves to the “picture perfect” lives of others?

We are so “plugged-in” to our phones and computers these days that we have completely disconnected from community and heartfelt communication.

The way we talk about depression and mental health research & advocacy can re-shape the future. It can be as simple as changing the way we use our words; The words we use to talk about suicide; The words used in media to broadcast it; The words used to build someone up, or tear them down; The amount of time we spend using words of affirmation and encouragement. Bullying. Cyber bullying. Racism. Hate. Addressing depression. Make no mistake about it – the words we use matter.

“Our words are the ground note. Words are the least expensive, most valuable tool we have to educate, to turn the tides of public opinion, to affect real change. Let’s stop conversations that destroy lives, start conversations that save lives, and redirect conversations that distract us from what really matters.” – Dese’Rae Stage

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If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-784-2433 or visit save.org

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ESPY’s Highlight – Caitlyn Jenner

by: Alicia M. Blanco

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I wrote an article a while ago about Bruce Jenner- and I got a wave of responses to it. Everything from people who absolutely support and respect the transition, and others who are completely bothered and disgusted by it.

Whether or not you agree with what’s happening here, I think its important to acknowledge that the world we live in today is so much more diverse than its ever been before. I’m actually pretty excited to be living during such a unique time period as this.

Last night at the ESPYs, Caitlyn Jenner was presented with the Arthur Ashe award for COURAGE. Her acceptance speech obviously made me super emotional and I wanted to defend her today as I’m seeing a lot of people posting about how undeserving she is of such a prestigious award.

To me, courage comes in all different forms. From our military and armed forces who bravely defend our country day in and day out, to the kid at school who bravely defends his classmate being bullied – courage can be seen in many different ways.

Personally, I find Caitlyn’s story to be incredibly courageous and her award, completely deserved.

Imagine living your life with a miserable state of mind, just like Bruce was doing. Bruce hid behind a façade of masculinity and athleticism in order to distract him from his inner most thoughts – that he was actually a she. Imagine spending over six decades with a secret such as this and then, under a magnifying glass, making the very brave decision to open up to the entire WORLD about it.

Taking on an entirely new identity while the world watches, criticizes, ridicules, judges, and follows your every step has to be traumatic. And it takes major courage to do it anyway. My friend Terri said it perfectly today. She told me:

“every advance we ever make in this country starts with one person standing up and willing to take a beating from the public to shine a light on their cause—racism, women’s rights, gay rights and now transgenderism…”

Spot on, Terri.

It starts with one.

One person to stand up for what they believe in; Or one person to open up about their stories. Being relatable, approachable and vulnerable is courageous – Its being human in the most authentic form and not pretending everything is so damn perfect all of the time.

Caitlyn is doing it for the benefit of her own inner happiness and also for the countless others living today who struggle with gender identity.

Don’t tell me that’s not courageous.

(And I can’t even hate on her look last night either. Versace! HELLO! WERK, honey.)

My wish is that we can all live in a more accepting world. Why is it that when something good happens, (someone winning an award, for example) there has to be soooooo many people to instantly criticize it and find the problems with it instead? It’s almost depressing to open up my social media and see all the hate. It hasn’t even been 24 hours, people! I just want this to be a world where everyone can just be themselves and not feel sorry about it.

With that being said, I also want this to be a world where we can all respect each others varying opinions. What a boring world this would be if we all were on the same exact page about everything. So I’m not over here suggesting we all suppress our opinions on what’s going on in society, but rather, I am encouraging more love and kindness. That’s it. The old rule is “if you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” But I would like to change that because I realize we shouldn’t subscribe to saying nothing at all. It’s just HOW YOU SAY IT that can make an impact…

I think we are here in this world to help each other out. And if you can’t help someone, just please, don’t hurt them.

[REPOSTED] Split Image

by Kate Fagan
ESPN

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In the amazingly written original article by Kate Fagan, we are introduced to Madison Holleran, a girl who appeared to have it all, (based on her social media, that is.) The article is so compelling that I had to repost it below.

Click here to read the full story about a girl who took her own life despite the happily filtered instagram life she portrayed to the world.

It really resonates with why I started The Wave in the first place. When Robin Williams committed suicide last year, I knew it was time for me to enter the blogsphere. There are so many beauty blogs out there, but not enough blogs talking about the tough stuff, like suicide.

How many people out there are silently suffering with issues of mental health, depression, contemplations of suicide…and yet are hiding behind the filters of social media pressures and image comparisons, completely pretending that they are fine and happy? Are you living your life unfiltered?

Thank you Kate Fagan for writing such a phenomenal piece that I hope reaches the masses and brings awareness to this issue.

Please [REPOST] this blog on your social media accounts. You never know who it can save!

Share with espnW:

How much do you filter your real self on social? Join the conversation by tagging @espnW and using #LifeUnfiltered when you post your photo and story on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Madison Holleran’s friends share their unfiltered life stories
Five of Madison Holleran’s friends remove the filter — literally and metaphorically — from their social media accounts to disclose their true feelings during the shared moments in their lives.

Original post and content by Kate Fagan of ESPNw.

8 Things I Learned From Bruce Jenner

by: Alicia M. Blanco

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17 million people watched the two hour interview with Diane Sawyer – many with fascination and curiosity, others with disgust and confusion. I’m know I’m late, but I just watched it myself and I wanted to share my thoughts.  As most of you know, I am a Christian woman, however, my thoughts on this matter may not align with Christianity at all. In fact, most of my opinions on controversial issues don’t really line up with Christianity, but thats a different topic for a different day.

Here are 8 things I learned from the Bruce Jenner interview:

1. ) God makes no mistakes. –  I realize how controversial this statement is, concerning his big reveal, (and en lieu of Christianity and all) but I firmly believe Bruce was designed by our creator for this VERY unique and specific purpose. We all are. I think his purpose was to open our hearts and minds. It’s to shock us. Can we still be the loving and accepting human beings we claim to be to someone if they live a completely different lifestyle than we are ‘comfortable’ with? Will we gossip and complain behind the backs of others who live differently than us? God is very intentional and we are all placed in this world with tremendous purpose. Even the tough stuff is meant to shape us and inspire others.

2.) This interview was bigger than the Olympics. – “I was very proud of you when you stood at that podium in Montreal. I never thought I could be more proud of you, but I’m learning I can be.” These are the words of Bruce’s mother following the news of his decision to come out with his secret. His son Brandon was quoted saying, “I saw a sense of bravery that, for all your previous accomplishments, I think far exceeds all of them.” He was referencing his fathers Olympic success in 1976 but made it clear that it’s his bravery to be honest that deserves our respect and admiration even more. He was America’s superhero then, and i’m hoping he can be treated just the same today.

3.) Kanye West doesn’t suck all the time. – Let’s face it. Kanye isn’t exactly everybody’s cup of tea. But I caught myself smiling with his thoughts on the matter. “He said to Kim, ‘Look, I can be married to the most beautiful woman in the world, and I am. I can have the most beautiful little daughter in the world; I have that. But I’m nothing if I can’t be me.” FACT. WE ARE NOTHING IF WE CAN’T BE TRUE TO OURSELVES- no matter how annoying or controversial that person might be. Cough.

4.) Suicide is a very REAL consideration for many… and that’s scary as hell. – As he looked back at his many encounters with the paparazzi he revealed how he contemplated suicide very recently. We live in a world where suicide seems like the only way out of humiliation, insecurity, confusion, anger, pain and everything else in between. This is why it’s SO imperative to always be kind to everyone you encounter. You never know what someone is going through and how one more thing can push them over the edge and trigger suicide.  “Fix society, please.” These were the closing words in an transgender teen’s suicide note she left just before taking her life.

5.) Being a transgender does not mean you have a mental illness. –  Many people link homosexuality, bisexuality, and the entire trans-community with mental illness. I find this incredibly ignorant and offensive. I can’t stand it when people try to belittle or disesteem different lifestyles as an illness.

6.) Be yourself – and do it ASAP. – Bruce spent six decades covering up his secret because he didn’t want to disappoint anyone. Imagine how miserable that must’ve been! To live a dark, private and tortured life is not really living at all. I am happy for him now that he can start living his life as he truly desires, but mannnnnn, (no pun intended)… I can’t imagine spending over sixty years with such a consuming secret- and all out of fear of what others will think. I think that says a lot about the judgmental world we live in- that someone would rather spend most of their life in secrecy and misery than to be themselves out of fear of being judged. That’s tragic. How can we change that?

7.) Open hearts and open minds can change lives. – Bruce asked that people have “open minds and open hearts” as they hear his story. Have compassion and embrace change with an open and receptive spirit.  Ex-wife, Linda Thompson Instagrammed images of her ex-husband after the interview premiere along with the caption, “Once a champion of Olympian magnitude…now a champion for those who share the struggle to just be who they are. #compassion #acceptance #tolerance #education #evolution #kindness #inclusion #freedom #peace.” It’s incredibly admirable and courageous to open up on such a large stage and equally admirable and courageous to have an open heart and open mind in a world full of haterade.

8.) Kindness is vital for one’s health. –  Being kind to yourself is just as important as it is to exhibit kindness onto others. Bruce’s story proves that by not being kind to yourself, it’s basically like slowly killing yourself. I truly feel that kindness has tremendous power. It’s like magic. It can make things disappear, like hatred, insecurity, and even suicide. I believe good energy can also help cancel out problems in medical statistics too. The kinder we are, the better this world will be..and the healthier this world will be, too. I envision a world where people are living their authentic lives. Happier people. Less fear, more courage. Less lying, more honesty. Less judgement, more acceptance.  Physically I just feel better when I am being a better person and contributing to society. And I know for damn sure that I feel like a million bucks when people are kind to me, too. Life is just so much more pleasant and runs more smoothly as I attract and manifest this goodness. I have so much more energy to do things (like work out) and it doesn’t feel like I have to force myself to get going everyday. It’s pretty amazing how much kindness can truly change everything.

Congrats Bruzer! In all my years of watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians (guilty pleasure) I never knew it was you who had the best “reality TV” story of them all. You go girl.

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What’s Hott and What’s Not

by: Rikayah Crawford

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The girl that you see to your left in the picture was a bit chubby, insecure, and did not understand her inner beauty. That’s the girl who tried to take her own life.

The confident young woman you see to the right is the exact opposite. In that picture I understand that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I now understand the love I have for myself from within overflows into my outward appearance. Loving yourself is what’s hot. But obsessing over your appearance is not.

The world we live in today has shattered the authentic meaning of self-esteem and confidence. It has been dismantled by the misconceptions from the media, peers, celebrities (and really good filters.) The theory of “what’s hot and what’s not” has invaded the impressionable minds of young girls. As a result, many young women have referred to self-esteem as “feeling good” about themselves while others equate esteem to arrogance, conceit and egotism.  Damned if we do and damned if we don’t take a selfie!

Often times we embody the reflections and opinions of those around us.  It’d be nice if there was an instruction manual for how to overcome the tough times and judgments of others. In my life I’ve had lots of those tough times- hardships in my relationships, insecurities around other women, and ultimately the contemplation of committing suicide.

There was a moment in my life when I hit rock bottom due to the overwhelming insecurities I felt about the way I looked and interacted with others.  I had allowed the opinions of others about me to become my reality. Worst of all, I had blamed every problem and insecurity on myself. I was so hard on myself. Every day I struggled to look in the mirror.

It was the morning after the night I attempted to take my own life that I realized that I wanted more for my life than so much attention to be on my physical reflection.  And it was clear I survived that dark night for a purpose.

If I wanted to be successful, it had to begin with the renewing of my mind and making changes from within rather than analyzing so much about my exterior.

My parents always told me, “Rikayah, every gift that God has blessed you with and everything that you go through is not only for you but for you to share with someone else.” I didn’t see it at the time, but now I see how my story can help other women who might be able to relate to body image, depression and suicide.

By surrounding myself around positive and uplifting people and focusing on my inner beauty it enabled me to pick myself back up and begin again. As a result of focusing on my inner self, the rest of me started to transform, too. Today I love the skin i’m in, without a filter, without comparing myself to others, and truthfully without giving a damn about what others think.

Even though I have endured some heavy stuff in the short time God has granted me, I know I have a purpose and I plan to live out. If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, please encourage them to seek help TODAY. It’s never too late to transform your mind.

The Suicide Letter From My Past

by: Dominique Garrett

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Dear Dominique, 16, a mess,

Its been a while now…since you sat on that kitchen floor wanting to end your life.

Its been a while since you thought there was no way out. I wish I could’ve held you tight on those nights when at just 16 years old you believed life couldn’t get any better. I wish I could’ve put my hand on your chest and stopped the pain and depression that you carried.

I know that a history of mistreatment, both physically and emotionally, has left you scared, but…please hold on. Right now you don’t understand. Right now you’re looking for answers, but if told you it will take some time…would you hold on?

I promise that I will be waiting for you…and you will smile again!

I know right now in this very moment you can’t comprehend certain things – like why your brother gets more love and attention than you, or why everyone in the world tells you that you’re so strong, but they really have no idea…I promise you I get it.

You wish that for once someone would wrap their arms around you and say it’ll be ok, cause right now you’re 16 and you don’t know all the answers.  You’ve had to grow up so fast because being a kid just wasn’t in your cards.  You raised yourself emotionally…and yet you did it wrong, but its ok.

I am here to tell you that you will be ok one day soon…and that even though you feel like ending it right now, it will get better, so please don’t let go right now!

Life never moves forward without leaving behind a lesson.

When doubt fills your mind remember that you are going through this to build you UP, not to break you down. One day you won’t need anyone’s validation. One day the past will only be that…the past.

So just close your eyes and trust in your future… you will be a light for others.

I promise to always keep that light on for you…even now in this moment I am trying to be a light in a dark place.

You’re stronger than you think.

With love,

Dominique, 27 years old, a message

Enough

by: Brittany Winston

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“Brittany get up, you need to go run.” This is how most of my mornings started off at 5:15am when my mother would wake me up and make me go for a run before school. On the weekends it was 5:00am to go hiking. Being a child and teenager, I would grumble in my head and be so exasperated at these early morning wakeups, but it was more than the early wakeup times that upset me.

The reason she woke me up so early everyday was so that I wouldn’t become “fat”.

I was always told that I had a predisposition to be heavy and if I didn’t “stay on top of it” I would be overweight. From the moment I hit puberty I developed hips, thighs and a booty even though I was a runner and extremely active. I was taught that my curves weren’t beautiful and that I shouldn’t want to have a big butt or hips. So much focus was on my appearance.

When I was in high school I didn’t realize the effect my “outer beauty” was having on my confidence and personality. I retreated more and more into a shell of self-doubt and low self-esteem because of my curves. I never felt that I was enough; pretty enough, thin enough, tall enough (all I was focusing on what my outer beauty traits.) And when it came to boys, it was even worse. Anytime I received any attention from a guy I always thought
to myself, “why me, what does he SEE?”

I didn’t stop to think of the other non-physical attributes and traits I had to offer someone.

I made poor decisions on how far I went with a boy because I thought it was the only way to keep him around. I told myself, “he can’t really want me. I’m not skinny and I’m not that pretty. If I don’t do this, he will leave me.”

I was constantly starving for physical attention and outer acceptance.

When I started college it got even worse because I started to get a lot of consistent attention for my outer “looks and figure”, and it hit me like a ton of bricks in the worst way. I didn’t know what was going on. I still had the internal feeling of “why me, I’m not enough.”

Yet still, I flourished in a totally superficial way.

I dated men with money and status, I partied and I made it appear as though I was thoroughly and genuinely enjoying my life. I looked happy from the outside, but I was empty and depressed on the inside. There were so many times I cried myself to sleep at night but then would go to work and school with a smile on my face pretending I was okay.

Actually, I even started losing weight because the depression stopped me from mustering up the energy to eat!

I didn’t run anymore because I associated it with punishment, I drank too much and when I did eat, I ate like crap. Plain and simple, I wasn’t happy and everywhere that I was looking for happiness was on the OUTSIDE – and it was superficial and empty, no matter how much attention I received.

Desperate for a cure to my depression, I made an abrupt move across the country and changed my surroundings entirely. But still, the depression continued to haunt me.

I considered ending my life.

But then my moment of clarity came when I realized I didn’t care what people thought about the way I LOOKED, and that my INNER BEAUTY was more than enough to deserve all this love and attention.

I realized I had a lot to love from within! I love that I have an awesome sense of humor, I’m quirky, I love to read and travel the world – and I can think of no better place to spend a warm day than outside soaking in the sun and enjoying nature. I think these are just a few of the many things that make me pretty darn amazing on the INSIDE, and that’s where it counts.

Through first mastering the art of self-acceptance and inner healing, I began to embrace, accept and LOVE my outer beauty too! Living in the south helped me appreciate my body type, so I even began to do plus size modeling! I love being a plus size model because I pray some little girl or woman will see me and realize there is more than one type of physical beauty. I hope it helps lead others to healing and loving themselves just as they are and not comparing themselves to images in magazines and billboards. It is so disheartening to see what society and media does to little girls from an early age… just like it did to me. So much is based on OUTER BEAUTY and it’s an unattainable standard of beauty and body image. It makes me want to cry.

Naturally, I still need to remind myself every now and then that there’s so much more to life than having the “perfect body.” Beauty fades and no two women are just alike on the outside anyways. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Depression has no stereotype on who it attacks. And despite working in a stereotypically “superficial industry”, I’ve learned so much about self-love and self-worth from so many women I’ve encountered.

We should all be a team and help one another to remember what’s most important in life – and that’s inner happiness and inner beauty.

“A woman’s beauty should be that of [her] inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” Peter 3:4

Today, I know that I am ENOUGH. And that’s worth being alive for.