Feel good about yourself

I’ve always felt self-conscious about my body.

You hear the term “skinny-shaming” and think, “there’s no way someone is being ridiculed for how small they are”. But think about it, in both real life and in movies you hear people being called “small fry” or “shrimp”. For me, it’s about the size of my middle, not my height.

Going to a private school, I wore uniforms every day for 12 out of 13 years there. Give or take a few weeks for out of uniform days across that period. Having a uniform meant I didn’t have to really learn how to dress my body or what shape my body would be. My closet was significantly emptier than friends who went to a public school. I had my uniforms, dresses for going to the theater or out to dinner or church, pants for the same, and a lot of t-shirts and shorts. Of course there’s a little more than just that, but I don’t think I would describe it as a full wardrobe. I didn’t ever learn what the shape of my body was or what fit me best or why; I didn’t quite learn to accept or know my body.

Wearing that uniform was my security. It was boxy on everyone; for the longest time they were a heavy wool/polyester navy jumper. My freshman year of high school we changed to a lighter plaid fabric for the jumpers, and they were definitely more form fitting and feminine-cut. As I grew vertically I didn’t grow much horizontally. My mom was a smaller lady, my sister is small too, so was my mom’s grandmother. I was used to the size of my body. But once we switched to those new jumpers, we were all growing differently and more noticeably. A few friends would comment on the size of my waist. “You look anorexic. Are you anorexic? Eat, Madelon, eat!” Well, I was eating. I was always eating. However, I wasn’t eating full meals, I was eating snacks periodically throughout the day. A granola bar between classes, a “full” lunch at the cafeteria, another granola bar before sports practice, a “dinner” with mom at home. Small portions, but I would eat throughout the day.


For a long time in Fort Worth, teenagers and the college girls have been wearing t-shirts that are a size too large for their body. I was wearing large t-shirts when my body was barely a medium. The reasonings you’d hear were always along the lines of “it’s comfortable.” It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I really realized I wasn’t wearing these large t-shirts because of that reason. Don’t get me wrong, it was comfortable, but just as I had bought a jumper for high school that was a size too large, I bought t-shirts that were too large. All to hide the smallness of my waist. I was hiding to avoid the “are you eating enough?” questions or the comments like “man I wish I was your size.”

I decided I had enough by sophomore year of college. I really saw myself in a mirror for the first time and had the revelation that it really looked like I was wearing a bag on my body. My body did look like I wasn’t eating enough in comparison to how large this t-shirt that enveloped me was. I realized my self-worth that I hadn’t before. I was starting to get comfortable in my own skin and accept myself for who I was.

I had spent the majority of high school accepting myself for who I was psychologically that I didn’t pay attention to my outer self. Of course I was self conscious of acne, but I knew that was normal, teenage stuff. I had been at the Excel center here in Fort Worth for two or three weeks of my senior year of high school working on who I was mentally and getting my depression in check. I had been posting in this social hub of mental wellness I created since I left the Excel center, trying to help others be confident in themselves.


Every Christmas, my parents gave my sister and I three gifts on Christmas Eve after we would get come from the 11:00 service at church. Three gifts because that’s what Jesus got. But instead of gold, frankincense and myrrh, we received an ornament, pajamas and a book. The Christmas of my senior year, my mom gave me a book titled You’re Already Amazing: Embracing Who You Are, Becoming All God Created You to Be by Holley Gerth. This book made me realize that my insecurities with myself were definitely showing. Of course your mom knows you better than anyone, but it made me really look at myself and think about how I was treating myself. A change was needed. I stopped wearing these oversized t-shirts because all along I had been lying to myself about why I was wearing them to cover up an underlying problem. It was a long time coming, but it really took some introspection and learning about myself to realize how long it had been happening.

Feel good about yourself. Learn about yourself. Spend time with yourself. The more you learn about yourself, the better you’ll be able to take care of yourself.

Posted on May 11, 2017 .

Jordan Made Everything Better

To commemorate Jordan's life 5 years after her death, we have been posting a series of blogs every day for the past few days. This 11th piece was written by Adam, Jordan's uncle. 

Every Thanksgiving we organize activities (like sudoku sprints and the cousins catastrophe circus), and if there is no snow, touch football. Jordan was always a key organizational force and leader of activities.

I remember one Thanksgiving when the Cirincione's were in Boston celebrating at cousin Vinny's, so we invited them to Krasnow field in Newton, for an epic battle.  Jordan kicked us into gear with headbands, armbands and a fight song, and we lined up, chanting along the driveway like warriors as our cousins rolled in. It was awesome.

A simple example but my point is this - Jordan made everything better.

- Adam Grossman

Posted on April 4, 2017 .


To commemorate Jordan's life 5 years after her death, we have been posting a series of blogs every day for the past few days. This 10th piece was written by Will, Jordan's friend. 

jordan. i can’t believe it’s been five years. the other night candice asked me what gift i felt you had given me. i told her, but i realized that i have never told you. and i want to tell you.

i spent almost every night sleeping in candice’s bed the month after you died. in the mornings i would walk downstairs and find strangers cooking breakfast in the kitchen. people i didn’t know planting seeds in the garden. seeds you planted, still growing today. some strangers offered words that i still carry with me today, like the ones exchanged at your memorial. that place where i finally saw your tree, clear as day. other acts were wordless. unspoken sentiments that reverberated in our souls. 

this time reminded me of when i was seventeen and my family and i got lost in switzerland. an older woman named judy took a train across the country to help us get where we were going. she told us that she loved americans because her husband was american, that they spent some of the best years of her life with him so she always wanted to give back to americans when she could. it was then i decided to get that j tattooed on my arm, to always be reminded of this time. 

the day after graduation, i left our friends and moved to new york. in those months that followed i felt you everywhere. every sunny day. every smile on a stranger’s face. you were with me wherever i went. then one day, on your next birthday, i was talking to candice and poonam on the phone. candice relayed a theory she had heard on her travels about how we must see each other as teachers, and each act a lesson. that your dying too was a lesson for each of us, even if we did not understand it yet. immediately i thought of those seeds. the letter j. 

i stopped feeling you after that. i did not feel you in the sunny days, nor the strangers on the street. you were gone. the only place i could properly process this was in a small yoga studio on north sixth street in brooklyn. at the end of every class my teacher played a song that spoke of you. i cried every time it played. at my last practice there, you came to me in a vision. i saw you dancing, with ranges of mountains around you, and a vast night sky of stars. you were laughing, and you told me that you were okay. i cried and cried on the wooden floor. that was the last time i saw you. shortly after, my studio closed. i never did find out the name of that song, though i would chase it in studios around new york for years.

at the beginning of this year, i found myself in a time of unprecedented anxiety. everything was changing, time passing so quickly, and i was paralyzed by constant fear. fear of death. a fear i later realized was rooted in not feeling that i was living my life the way i wanted to. so i decided to go on a yoga retreat in guatemala. with thirteen people, most of whom i had never met. it was the scariest thing i have ever done, but something told me that i needed to go. at the end of my first practice on our trip, in this place of impossible beauty, i lay my head down on the mat, and it finally happened. i heard your song. my heart immediately began to swell. i felt you again. i felt you everywhere on that trip, finding myself being taken care of by strangers once again—strangers who helped me overcome my fears. i found myself surrounded by a view of mountains and a starry night sky—the same as in my last vision of you.

i do not believe that everything happens for a reason. i do not believe you had to die. but, as ajooni put it so well, i do believe that we can find reason in everything that happens. i believe that this is why we are here. to find the lessons. to find faith. and that’s what you gave me, jordan: you gave me faith. faith in people. in the power we have to heal. the capacity to love unconditionally, even those we have never met. the strength that comes with knowing that wherever we go, we will always be taken care of. most of all, you gave me the understanding that we are all just teachers and students. here to learn. even from the most difficult events life has to offer. it’s a lesson i’ve learned again and again in these years since you left us. i suspect it’s one i will be learning for the rest of my life. 

- Will Defebaugh

Posted on April 3, 2017 .

El Girasol

To commemorate Jordan's life 5 years after her death, we have been posting a series of blogs every day for the past few days. This 9th piece was written by Claire, Jordan's friend. 

"El Girasol" means sunflower in Spanish. Jordan & I talked about how much we loved that word because, translated literally, it means "turn toward the sun." We talked about trying to find the beauty in the mundane, focusing on the things in our lives that gave us hope and strength. Every time someone asks me about the tattoo on my foot, I think of her. I think about whether I have time to explain what it means, and whether I want to. Some days it's easier just to say it means sunflower and allow myself to be written off as a girl with a dumb tattoo. Other days I take the time to explain that it's for her.

As much as I hate to admit it, Jordan's death has become the first thing I think of when I think of her. Those first few minutes after finding out what happened remain as vivid in my memory as ever, and I still feel sick every time I think back to that day five years ago. One of the ways I've found meaning in this experience has been by learning more about suicide & doing my best to educate those around me. But today I don't want to think about her suicide. I want to think about Jordan. Because I still miss her, and it feels good to look back & remember my friend. Over the last few days of working on this post, I've been going through old photos, videos, gchats, and voicemails. These are the things I remember about Jordan:

1. Jordan & I talked about snacks. A lot.

  • 11:12 AM Jordan: ooh wowie. where?
  •  me: 4154 LSA
  •   wanna go w/ me? THERE ARE SNACKS
  • 11:13 AM Jordan: well, i was gonna say no, but now i say hell yeah
  •   also, idealist grad school fair
  •   onnn..
  • 11:14 AM me: they're hammering in the kitchen
  •  Jordan: get in on that action, baby
  •   mon oct 3 from 5 to 8
  •   in the union
  •   i'll tell you again when it's closer if you wanna come
  • 11:15 AM me: yes i wanna come :)
  •   absoFRUITLY
  • 11:16 AM Jordan: bueno Bueno

2. Jordan exuded this calm, subtle confidence that I always admired. I listen to the recording of "Sea of Love" she & I made in the BunDun living room one afternoon, and there's such a wisdom and gravitas in her voice. I remember what it felt like to be around her when I listen to that song. Like swimming in a cup of hot chocolate (she would've liked that analogy!)  




3. Jordan was a good friend, and a good roommate. She always found loving & hilarious ways to remind us about our roommate responsibilities.

Exhibit A:

4. I miss her. I always will. Jordan taught me what it means to be brave, to care deeply & relentlessly, even when it hurts. She taught me about yoga, how to make pickles, and about the wonders of marshmallow fluff. I feel lucky to have known her. I'm so proud of the work that her friends and family have done in the wake of her death to destigmatize mental illness & suicide & fund depression research. And I feel confident that she left an impact on the world. She certainly left an impact on me.

-Claire Baker

Posted on April 3, 2017 .

To commemorate Jordan's life 5 years after her death, we have been posting a series of blogs every day for the past few days. This 8th piece was written by Poonam, Jordan's friend. 

When I read through the utterly beautiful words written by everyone in memory of Jordan, all thoughts and pre-formulated stories leave my body, and I’m entirely filled with complex, often contradictory and nameless emotions. 

Gravity feels heavier and I am dense and raw and a blackhole when I let myself truly go back to the day 5 years ago when Jordan died. Opening the door to the BunDun, hearing Stephanie scream (scream isn’t the right word) as she ran down the stairs after getting the call from Jordan’s Mom, running up the stairs, and all our bodies melting together, one person’s tears and anguish indistinct from another’s, piling on the floor outside Candice and Ajooni’s rooms, reaching for each other and a version of reality that no longer existed, where Jordan was alive. The intensity is so acute, that I don’t often let myself feel this, though the gravity of Jordan is always with me.

Even this week, I allowed my life to fill with mundane crap that “HAS TO GET DONE” – but the truth is, I sometimes avoid the intensity, and I’m learning to stretch my capacity to feel and be with what’s there. 

This teaching has been one of the most precious gifts of my life, and I have Jordan and all of you who love so deeply to thank. In her life, Jordan expanded my ability to feel joy, connection, and love, and in her death, Jordan expanded my ability to feel joy, connection, and love. I’ve been crying for the last decade, either from laughing so hard I also pee my pants, or from deep sadness (and everything in between) – Jordan has taught me that life is whole and to experience the pinnacle of exaltation requires feeling it all.  

I am a rich woman, covered in jewels of people I love – dead and living. It’s so damn easy to forget this sometimes.

Ajooni and I saw a 5 hour opera shortly after Jordan died. Einstein on the Beach. I think of this line from it often, if not every day:

Everything must end, except my love for you.

- Poonam Dagli

This was the morning after one of our epic BunDun parties. I licked her face :p

This was the morning after one of our epic BunDun parties. I licked her face :p

Posted on April 1, 2017 .

Poem as Raft / Texting the Ether

To commemorate Jordan's life 5 years after her death, we have been posting a series of blogs every day for the past few days. This 7th piece was written by Dyar, Jordan's friend. 

A few months after Jordan’s death I found this poem, December 4th, by Anne Sexton. Suspended as I was, in a kind of numb stasis, submerged a few feet underwater in the silty depths which constituted my resulting depression, this poem, like a harpoon, pierced right through me and yanked me to the surface, tears and toxins billowing out around me. I could breathe again.

December 4th

And where did we meet?
Was it in London on Carnaby Street?
Was it in Paris on the Left Bank?
That there that I can thank?

No. It was Harvard Square
at the kiosk with both of us crying.
I can thank that there—
the day Jack Kennedy was dying.

And one hour later he was dead.
The brains fell out of his dazzling head.
And we cried and drank our whiskey straight
and the world remembers the date, the date.

And we both wrote poems we couldn’t write
and cried together the whole long night
and fell in love with a delicate breath
on the eve that great men call for death.

-Anne Sexton

Sifting through all the fantastic memories and experiences together for their origin; personifying and actually thanking a place for containing the beginning of your lives together; finding comfort in witnessing a bit of a companion’s darkness that maybe mirrors your own…I could go on and on about how this poem spoke to me. I came across it haphazardly, flipping to a random page in Sexton’s Complete Poems, yet it became for me a mantra and a life raft which I clung to, an arrangement of words that contained within it the full, tumultuous range of sadness and joy which flooded me when thinking of her, when before I had been unable to create that for myself.

We were never romantic, but I loved Jordan, and it was after high school especially that our relationship came to mean so much more to me. Wherein, sadly, many of my other close friendships among my high school class faded away, Jordan and I joined forces many winter, spring, and summer breaks for wild escapades to Austin for New Years, to a beach house on the coast for a late summer week, or traipsing giddily around our very own hometown suburb like we were lighter than air.

In these times I saw a comforting equal, someone also from my home now growing up just as fast and turbulent as me, equally with a whole set of new, completely different friends we couldn’t imagine meeting just years ago. And equally, I saw someone with new burdens, or shadows about them at times. The handful of direct, cathartic discussions we had about the new things troubling and shaming us during this period of growth were vital to my then mental health. And knowing that we could talk together about the depression we sometimes felt, and how comforting it was for me to do so, makes it all the harder to know, during the last time I saw Jordan, only a couple weeks before she took her life, that she was so consumed by and lost in the disease that she couldn’t reveal to me the truth of why she was home early from school that semester.

At the end of that difficult year I went to a New Year’s party at a friend’s cabin on some land in the country, and was pleasantly surprised to find that Matt, Jordan’s little brother, had come as well. Late that night, well after the clock had struck midnight ringing in the new year, I was sitting alone off to the side on the high porch overlooking the property, and I watched Matt having fun with his friends, in that moment seemingly as giddy and silly and carefree as any college kid surrounded by his buds, and I missed Jordan so intensely then that I (fueled a bit perhaps by alcohol) called her number on my cell phone.

I heard some strange beeps, a digital hesitation of sorts, and then a ringing, as if the call were going through. It shocked me, sent my pulse racing, but I quickly realized it was different than the standard ringback tone. It was a slightly higher tone, I think, at longer intervals. Must have been some weird middle ground between the phone losing service and the number being deactivated, I never investigated further. It went on and on. I sat there, I don’t know how long, just letting this eerie ringback hum go and go and go. For some reason it was comforting. Like a simultaneous confirmation that she was truly gone but that I had really reached out to her right then. After hanging up whenever I did, I sent her phone number some texts as well. I texted that Matt was being silly and that she’d have loved it. And I texted her a few memorized lines from the poem above. This was the first Jo grief session of mine after which I felt...pretty ok.

- Dyar Bentz, Program Director of Light the Trail

(Prom ’08. Wow, look at that dress. Ignore idiot in joke tux.)

(Prom ’08. Wow, look at that dress. Ignore idiot in joke tux.)

Posted on March 31, 2017 .

Her Legacy Lives On

To commemorate Jordan's life 5 years after her death, we have been posting a series of blogs every day for the past few days. This 6th piece was written by Krista, Jordan's friend. 

It’s been 5 years, and I am still at a loss for words. I still don’t know how to talk about what happened 5 years ago and what it’s been like (and is like) to have her missing from my life.  It’s still hard for me to talk about her and what the world lost that day. What I can say is that Jordan taught me so much while she was here (and since she’s been gone) and that I miss her each and every day. She taught me to be creative, to love life and everyone in it, to never apologize for being ambitious, to see the best in people and to make sure I left room in my life for the little things. Jordan and I went to high school together. We were in all the same classes, played basketball together, joined the track team together and were on the same spirit squad that forced us to wear ridiculous red jumpsuits that we couldn’t get enough of because we thought we were just that cool. We grew up together in those 4 years, and I know, without a doubt, she is a huge influence on who I am today.  When I’m having a particularly dark day missing her, it brings me comfort to remember all the sleepovers, pool parties, basketball tournaments and all of the ridiculous, silly memories we had together.

Unfortunately, I can't help but feel that I took our 7 years of friendship for granted, and it’s one of my biggest regrets.  I want nothing more than just a little more time with her. I had planned on having her in my life forever. I never doubted that we’d travel the world together, be in each other's weddings and make 100,000 more memories together.  After high school, we talked less as we both went off to college. We’d still get together on college breaks without missing a beat, but we lost touch with each other’s day-to-day lives.  Today, it's painful to think about all the things that I missed and all the times I should have been there to laugh, cry, and celebrate with her. She came to visit me in college, but she passed before I had the chance to visit her at Michigan. However, I did get the chance to visit after the funeral and had the opportunity to meet her amazing family of friends at school. They welcomed me, a complete stranger, with nothing but unconditional love. I left Michigan incredibly sad, but overwhelmingly inspired.  Jordan was still connecting and bringing people together in ways I couldn’t imagine. Her love and spirit had spread like wildfire amongst her friends, and I knew she’d been living with and been cared for by the best people imaginable. But I still regret not being there sooner and getting a little more time to live in her new world.  While our time with her was cut short, she left a legacy that none of us will forget. She loved harder than anyone I’ve ever known. Everyone who had the privilege of meeting Jordan knows what a force she was. Her legacy lives in all of us. She taught all of us how to love a little harder and laugh a little more. To bear witness to the incredible person she was, all you need to do is meet her family, friends and all of the people in her life.  She left her mark on each us, each one unique, vivid and bright.

While I don’t always know what to say about Jordan’s departure, I know I’ll always feel her love (which I’ll cling to forever). And I’m blessed to witness it in each of these posts and in her family and friends. Even as Jordan was suffering with depression she was focused on spreading love and helping others. So I’ll end by sharing something she wrote shortly before she passed. I read it everyday for months after she passed because it reminded me so much of who she was (smart, inspiring, goofy, selfless) and how much love she had to spread.

I want to write a children’s book about depression. There will be brain-sweeping elves involved. There will be golden rings of light. There will be mind horses, little ones, and there will be black gook. It is a sticky, stagnant gook. A gook that is not easily de-gooked. But thanks to Persistence, Perseverance, Positivity, People who love us it will be peeled away to reveal the pure plenty of love and light which exists in life. (Gook will always be gook, but it will not always be grande).

Quote by Jordan Harris

Post by Krista Whitaker

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Posted on March 31, 2017 .

Remembering her love

To commemorate Jordan's life 5 years after her death, we have been posting a series of blogs every day for the past few days. This 5th piece was written by Stephanie, Jordan's friend. 

It's hard for me to separate my "college experience" at the University of Michigan from my "Jordan experience". Jordan was my closest friend, confidant, ally, and roommate for a very wild four years of my life. Granted, I think if you throw 7 girls in a house, it probably always ends up wild in some form or another.

Now, instead of looking back at my college years as that wild, crazy time of life where I shared a throw-up bucket with Poonam and watched Ajooni use her waste-long hair to create a Hagrid beard and flew high in the sky on the legs of Candice as a human airplane in the law quad and watched Jordan create questionably sanitary sangria in a giant tub for a house party... I instead jump to the dark times. The head-in-the-sand let's-forget-about-this times. The crying on the floor times and the how is this happening times and the oh my god, was she saying goodbye to me when she said that times.

There is some sort of interesting human phenomenon where we tend to vaguely remember all the goodness in our lives and hone in on the bad stuff like a black dot on an otherwise pristinely white page. Even as a resident now, if an attending physician gives me 19 good comments and 1 bad one, you better believe I tuned out the 19 good things. Five years after Jordan died I am more aware of this phenomenon than ever before. Now that the initial stabbing pain is gone and more of a dull aching throb has set in, I strive SO hard to remember all of the good things with Jordan. I want the simple joyous moments. I even want the simple run of the mill moments, like telling Jordan to pick up her clothes for the twenty zillionth time and her laughing and shrugging and probably doing it later but maybe not. I want the back massage memories, the strumming the guitar memories, the "are we really doing tequila tonight" memories. But somehow, when I close my eyes, I go back to that same day.

My family always told me I had a pretty lousy memory. There are whole family vacations we took when I was in middle school that I apparently just wasn't mentally present for (turns out, I have been to St. Louis!).  Even now almost a year out of medical school I am amazed by the amount that I used to know just a few years ago that I have to frantically look up now. That being said, when it comes to Jordan's death and the events surrounding it, I have a picture-perfect, movie-esque memory. I can easily replay every earth shattering moment from the phone call from Jordan's mother, running downstairs to Candice's room, and the absolute mayhem that followed. I remember people taking turns sitting in Jordan's room absorbing her ambience. I remember at first feeling like a ghost had come to live with me, then remembering that Jordan was gone and running into her closet to just smell her again. The rush to get flights to Texas, the desire to make a eulogy worth Jordan's beauty but the realization of the utter impossibility of that task. The feeling of looking Jordan's mother in the eye for the first time. And the second time. And the third time after Jordan's death. Seeing Jordan's body, so strangely alive appearing in the casket. All of it feels like yesterday.

But it was five years ago. FIVE YEARS! Candice said to me recently (and in her blog post) that Jordan has been dead longer than we knew her alive. For some reason that concept seems wrong to me. Jordan is more than a person I knew and loved, she is a large chapter in my life that shaped me into who I am today. The way my memory distorts the past, it seems like Jordan is less of a person and more of a horrible tragedy in my life- and I don't like that distorted view. I am working hard to change my memory, sharpen it, make it reflect what I know was the truth- that Jordan shaped me into who I am because of the four years that I knew her, not because she died.

So now, when I close my eyes and think about Jordan, I am working on actively taking my mind away from the end of senior year and backwards to other moments. I can picture Jordan and her mom decorating her wall after she moved in at welcome week (my snap judgment was that I thought she looked pretty and therefore probably popular and therefore we probably wouldn't be friends). I can picture exploring Main Street in Ann Arbor for the first time with Jordan and Candice- we went into a small trinkets shop and they were both super in to the tea cups and other very hippy items, and I thought maybe I'm not cool enough for these people. I remember being made fun of for ordering fries at a vegan restaurant because it was the only thing on the menu I knew I would eat. I remember moving in to our first shared dorm together sophomore year in East quad and deciding we wanted beds side by side because bunk beds seemed weird and isolating. I remember her favorite Pandora station, the invention of "shower shots" (yes, even in the group showers in the dorms, we made it work). Harmonizing to the lion king. Many wogs (walk/jogs) around campus contemplating love and life. Jordan's first real snowfall. Sledding on cafeteria trays. Forcing myself to try kale then promising her I would never eat kale again. Lying on the sand staring at the starry sky in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Dancing. Singing. Loving.

It's a work in progress, but my memory is coming along. I don't remember what we talked about on those long jogs in the gardens, but I do remember our last conversation in person about what I thought her funeral might look like. Jordan had flown back to Ann Arbor from Texas during our last semester of school (she had taken a semester off because of her depression) for my 22nd birthday celebration. After a weekend of celebrating, I calmly drove her to the airport completely wrapped up in my own life and oblivious that this would be the last time I would see her alive. After talking about her upcoming summer plans to return to school and finish up her degree and mindless chatter about the weekend, she turned to me and asked about her funeral, and asked me point blank what I thought her funeral would be like. I told her that she would be 95 and that we would have co-caskets and our friends and family members would be drinking vodka cranberries over our graves toasting our long and happy lives. She laughed. I told her that she would have friends lined up around the block of the funeral home waiting to come in and pay their respects. I told her that of anyone else I knew, she had more friends and people that loved her than I had ever seen. A lot of what I told her was true.  I may not fully remember how it felt to hug her, but I am trying to remember how it felt to be loved by her... and I think it's working. Five years later, and I think it's finally working.

- Stephanie Garbarino

Posted on March 30, 2017 .

Warped time

To commemorate Jordan's life 5 years after her death, we have been posting a series of blogs every day for the past few days. This 4th piece was written by Candice, Jordan's friend. 

I’ve never ventured into writing something personal for this blog, like others bravely have. I hadn’t even thought about it until I realized this year would mark five years since Jordan died. 

Jordan is clearly the spark for the foundation, as she was in life. She was bright and funny and punny beyond belief. She was/is my favorite person. Tenses are a funny thing now. 

For a bit of context, Jordan was my college friend, housemate, and mutually-dubbed “platonic soulmate” - we thought that if we were in a romantic relationship as fantastic as our friendship, we could be sure we’d found "the one." 

At my only NYC meeting for survivors of suicide (people who have lost someone they love to suicide), one woman who had lost her son burst into tears admitting that she feels at fault. She spent her life as a social worker, keeping others mentally healthy, but she was unable to see the pain her son was going through. I mentioned this weird thing that had been happening with me since Jordan died. I’ve started to imagine that Jordan never existed - that maybe she was just a figment of my imagination. A woman in the group who had lost her husband of 30+ years looked up at me and said that she’d felt the same way but hadn’t put it in words before. 

I don’t think I consciously thought suicide was an option for Jordan, mostly because she told me years before her depression took over how deeply a child's death had and would effect her parents. It was also a terrifying thought my conscious mind would rather keep far away. When her mom called us to ask if we’d known where she was and I re-read her last text to me that I (annoyingly still) received a couple hours after she sent it due to a basement classroom, I suddenly knew that she’d attempted suicide and all I could hope was that it just didn’t work. And in the flurry of emotions when I found out, I remember feeling confused and frustrated that I couldn’t turn back time just a few hours. 

Time is weird. Jordan has been dead longer than I knew her alive. 5 years feels like 50 years (a timeframe I don’t even know) and it feels like 5 days. 

5 years after Jordan took her own life, I miss her. 5 years after Jordan took her own life, I’m mad that we’re not living together in New York like we’d talked about, jointly experiencing the absurd, gross and magical things this city has to offer wide-eyed 20-something-year-olds. I’m mad that I don’t get to be the godmother to any of the 3-5 kids she would have liked to have. I’m mad that she’s the only person I know who would spontaneously cook up these “miracle” Japanese noodles that are only made out of digestible fiber and think they tasted OK enough to eat (with the rightly spiced sauces, of course). I’m mad because so many good things have been born because of Jordan and continue to be born because of her, but she will never see them (from this perspective, at least). 5 years after Jordan took her own life, I’m semi-relieved that I can still find the playfulness and humor she so delightfully and effortlessly pulled out of me. 5 years after Jordan took her own life, I really, so deeply wish she was sitting right here, next to me, making me laugh-cry with the story of whatever hilarious shenanigan she’d gotten herself into this time.

One of our other good friends mentioned that I was a thick pillar of sadness in the weeks after Jordan died. I think my grief looks more like a purse I can carry now and sometimes even forget I have on! Until I remember it and its ripple effects. The shift feels like this beautiful illustration by Mari Andrew.


Time becomes even more distorted when I can still look back at Facebook messages and emails we wrote to each other. They became one sided after she died. I wrote this on her Facebook wall, knowing there'd be no response:

dearest dear my dear jordan, 
poonam says we should let your spirit fly instead of holding on so tight. and ajooni says we should be so thankful for you. and steph says we should associate your name with all the unconditional love and happiness and life and smiles and laughs in the world. and will says we should feel. and i love you i love you i love you. and i’ll try. 

It holds true today. I’m still trying 5 days / 5 years / 50 years later.

-Candice Ammori 

Posted on March 30, 2017 .

Shifting Priorities

To commemorate Jordan's life 5 years after her death, we have been posting a series of blogs every day for the past few days. This 3rd piece was written by Matthew, Jordan's brother. 

It’s amazing how your priorities change when you lose a loved one.

The little, petty things you’ve been holding onto fall out of your head like they weren’t even there. All of those unremitting disagreements become irrelevant. It’s hard to care about couch stains or fantasy football when you’ve just lost one of the most important people in the world to you.

And yet, everyone handles tragedy in a different way. Some become closed off, while others need to surround themselves with family. Some cry uncontrollably, others are overflowing with rage. Everyone has their own painful snowflake of a reaction, but there’s one emotion that tends to rear its ugly head when you lose someone in as sudden and devastating a way as suicide, and that’s guilt. 

There was nothing you could have done about it.”
“You did everything you could.”
“It’s not your fault.

We hear these phrases over and over. We repeat them to ourselves to help them sink in. But no matter what, on some level, we blame ourselves for not doing more. The guilt eats away at you slowly, and coming to terms with the fact that you couldn’t have done anything to prevent what happened, that depression is a terrible monster that your loved one couldn’t escape, is an incredibly difficult thing to do. 

But once you are able to accept this, your mindset starts to shift a little. 

It’s still okay to be sad, but the sadness will start to make your memories of your loved one that much happier. You can get mad about your loss, but that anger can be harnessed to motivate you to help those who are still suffering. Your heart will never be fully recovered, but your loss can make your love for others even stronger. 

I feel like I covered most of the emotional spectrum after we lost Jordan four years ago. The initial sorrow and anger gave way to gratitude for the outpouring of support for my family. Unfortunately, that quickly faded into helplessness as I wondered how I was supposed to move on after this life-altering event. Then came guilt, along with a very real fear that depression might one day envelope me like it did her. The list goes on, but I am thankful for those that helped get me through the lowest point of my life to a state where I am happier, more motivated to help others, and able to love deeper.

 I’m sad that Jordan won’t be there when I get married in three months. But I’m happy that Jordan’s words of wisdom about women led me to the love of my life. I’m happy that, despite going through such a painful experience, it caused me to grow up enough that I am ready to take on the responsibilities of being a husband. 

I’m sad that when Claire and I have kids, they won’t get to meet their Auntie Jo, but I’m happy that someday, I’ll be able to talk to them about mental health and tell them about the meaningful work done in Jordan’s name. Everything Jo did was to help others and bring happiness to the world. It’s only fitting that the work done in her name would have the same mission.

(In the time since I originally wrote this post this past July, I married Claire and think of the things Jordan has taught me, in her life and death alike, daily.)

- Matthew Harris


Posted on March 29, 2017 .

Thoughts about Jordan from her Dad

The second post in a series of blogs commemorating the 5 year anniversary of Jordan's death.

On this 5th anniversary of Jordan Elizabeth’s passing I find myself wondering where the time has gone since that very sad day when she left us. In my mind it seems like it was yesterday when our collective hearts were broken and we found ourselves searching for answers as to why something bad like this could happen…. Particularly to such a wonderful, loving and caring human being. Needless to say there are countless questions beyond that which will never be answered, at least not in this life. Our lives on this earth speed by as we get older for some reason, perhaps we tend to load up on way too many issues that clog our minds with information overload. Perhaps this condition of losing track of time gets in the way of us really slowing down and thinking about what’s important.
I think of Jordan daily when I wake up, when I’m in the kitchen each morning and I see her picture on the counter, when I get to work and see that same picture on my credenza, when I’m on my bike, when I’m working on JEH Foundation activities, when I’m having dinner, when I see University of Michigan sports teams on TV, when I drive by Richland High School, when I’m with her friends, when I jump in bed at night….. I think of my special girl a lot. Sometimes I think I’m being selfish because those thoughts detract from others in my life who deserve that same attention. To all of those who I care so much about, forgive me if I ever allowed that to happen too much.
The hole in my gut is still there, but thankfully has grown smaller over time. The sadness has turned mostly into joy as I think of Jordan times that include…
Jordan laughing so hard at the dinner table with her family that milk sprayed out of her nose after she took a gulp, her participating with me at the Falmouth Sprint Triathlon (she beat me of course, but I fixed her flat tire), her riding piggy back as a baby as I was on my all fours, her beautiful black curly hair as a toddler,  her HS valedictorian speech, playing basketball as Captain of the HS team, her crazy times as a Johnny Reb spirit squad member, her throwing the shot put in a HS track meet (she was hysterically terrible), her snowboarding down the hill with all of us in Tahoe and so many more great memories.
In the end, Jordan brought joy, comfort and laughter to more people in her 22 years on earth than most folks do in a lifetime and for that I am thankful. She was truly a blessing to many….. I still love her from here to the moon and back a trillion times….and I will forever.
- Tom Harris

Posted on March 28, 2017 .

Optimism > Pessimism

Today marks the 5 year anniversary of Jordan's death. To commemorate her life, we'll post a series of blogs every day for the next few days. This first one was written by Elisha, Jordan's younger sister. 

I think everyone that has gone through some tragic, life-altering event can agree that it had the potential to turn them into a somewhat pessimistic person. For me, it took a while to begin to see the world in a more positive light again. 
My older sister, Jordan, suffered from severe depression the last six months of her life and ultimately died by suicide at the age of 22. Today marks the 5 year anniversary of her death and the word ‘Why’ has never seemed to escape my thoughts. Why Jordan? Why me? Why did I have to lose my older sister, my life mentor, my role model, my best friend? Why have my parents, two of the most incredible human beings you will ever meet, been made to suffer through the death of not one, but two children? Why did Jordan, the light of so many people’s lives, have to suffer from such a debilitating mental illness? Why did she have to be so overcome with darkness that her only escape was death? I could go on for hours with these questions that swirl through my mind.
I have a dry-erase board hanging on the wall in my apartment that my roommate and I write or draw whatever is inspiring us at any given moment. It can range anywhere from movie quotes and song lyrics, to drawings of Christmas trees and leprechauns. At the start of the year, we listed out our 2017 New Year’s resolutions. Most of mine were your typical cliché resolutions – eat out less, read more books, visit one country I’ve never been to, etc. But there was one that I’ve really been pushing myself to be consistent about, and it reads “Optimism > Pessimism.”
I don’t consider myself to be a negative person, and I don’t believe the people who are closest to me would describe me as one either. However, there are some things I can’t help but be negative or mad or sad about after losing my sister. In the last 5 years since Jordan’s death, I’ve thought a lot about the things that I’ll never be able to do again. I also constantly think about what the future looks like for me and one of my immediate thoughts is that Jordan will never be there. I’ve slowly come to realize that these negative thoughts don’t particularly benefit my mental stability. I know for a fact that Jordan would not want me to live my life like this and dwell on these thoughts. She would spin every pessimistic thought that enters my mind and turn it into an optimistic one, that’s just the type of person she was. She always wanted the best for me despite anything she was going through.
So, I’ve been trying my best to implement the mantra of “Optimism > Pessimism” into my life, not only when it comes to thoughts of Jordan, but in all aspects of my life. Below are some pessimistic thoughts I’ve had related to Jordan, followed by a more positive outlook, similar to how Jo would have spun them.

  1. She’ll never be able to visit me in whatever city I’m living in (Chicago, currently) and I’ll never visit her in whatever awesome city she might have been living today (Detroit, NYC, Buenos Aires, etc.) -- I’d like to think her incredible sense of adventure rubbed off on me and has given me the courage to travel to places like Cape Town, South Africa by myself or leave my hometown and move to a brand new city. I also like to think that part of what drew me to move to Chicago was a mutual love for the Midwest (Jordan attended the University of Michigan). Or maybe we were both just dying to escape the brutal Texas heat. 
  2. A more obvious thought that has entered my mind and others who have lost a loved one to suicide: is there anything I could have done to prevent this? -- As much as Jordan’s death has pained me and so many others, there has been an enormous amount of good that has resulted from her passing. My family formed the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation two years after her death to help erase the stigma surrounding mental illness and lower the suicide rates in this country. The Foundation has made tremendous progress on helping to prevent more deaths by suicide, including funding a team that helped to intervene on a group of 16 high school students who signed a suicide pact. The Foundation is also currently in the process of planning a cross-country bike ride to educate communities outside of Dallas-Ft. Worth about depression and suicide awareness. (Learn about Light the Trail HERE)
  3. My new friends, my future husband, and my children will never know the loving, silly, encouraging, free-spirited person that Jordan was -- If I’m being honest, there’s not really a positive way to spin this that I can think of. As hard as I try to describe her to people, my descriptions never do justice to the type of person she was.   

The reality of the situation is there are some days where my grief is a black hole that I cannot dig myself out of. My sister is gone and I have come to realize that it’s 100% ok for me to be sad or pissed off about that. There are some thoughts that I am still trying to find a positive outlook on, and I think my search for this positivity is all a part of my grieving process. These thoughts include things like not being able to pick up the phone and call Jordan to talk about all of the current events in our own lives, whether it be talking about the parties we went to the weekend before or obsessing over a new song by Florence + the Machine. We also frequently talked about how we would be each other’s Maid of Honor at our weddings; Jordan won’t be standing by my side on that special day. 

There’s a void in my being that is forever present, an empty hole that only Jordan was able to fill. This emptiness inside me has become less noticeable over the last 5 years, it’s no longer a 50-ton boulder on my shoulders like it once felt like. Time has been a friend and has helped me to heal. Life continues on, even when one of the people most dear to me has left this Earth. Though, I know that Jordan’s spirit is always with me; she has some of the most clever and silly ways of letting me know that. Whether it be a random person walking past me on the sidewalk wearing a University of Michigan hoodie, or driving somewhere with my entire family and seeing her very first car, a 1998 white Toyota Rav-4, turn onto the same street we’re driving on. Signs like these help to keep me a pretty optimistic person.
Grief is complicated. Just when I start feeling like myself, it comes out of nowhere and hits me like a high-speed train. But when the world feels like an inescapable darkness, I try my best to dig deep and seek out the light and turn those pessimistic thoughts into optimistic ones. In the words of my wonderful mother, “Life can be tough, but it can also be beautiful.” I’m learning every day how to let more of that beauty in.

- Elisha Harris

Posted on March 27, 2017 .

27 and Single

It's less than three years until I'm 30.I’m at that age where everyone I know is engaged, already married, or at least in serious relationships that are expected to lead to engagement as soon as whatever is holding them back passes. I didn’t date in high school. A friend of mine and I visited the conversation multiple times but we kept coming back to two specific things that were vitally important to both of us that we disagreed on and respected each other too much to expect one to compromise. Other things, I’m sure we could've have worked around but these two specific things were not in question.  I’ve only been in two relationships since then and neither lead in positive directions for either party involved.

And now I’m 27 years old and still single.

Since before graduating college I’ve been in that stage of life where every few weeks or months someone else was getting engaged or married. And now I’m in that stage where many of them are starting to have children. In an age when many are waiting longer to marry and start families I realized recently that I am one of the last of my group of friends to be married or at least in a serious relationship that could potentially lead in that direction.

I’m also at that age when everyone asks why you are still single or if there is a boy in my life. The answer to the first is long and complicated, and the answer the second is no. When I answer these questions, I have never had anyone directly express their disapproval but many of you are not as good about hiding your “something must be wrong with you” faces.

I am not single because I want to be. I long for the day when I have someone special to share my life with and build a family with.

I am single, because right now, I have to be.

I am single because I have high expectations and things I’m unwilling to compromise on just to be in a relationship. I’ve had many tell me to lower my expectations, and then others who remind me that to settle is not to live fully who I am meant to be. That is not to say that any of my friends have, but to say that I haven’t found the person who helps bring the best out in me.

I am single because I am extremely passionate, about EVERYTHING. I am ALWAYS needing deep conversation. I recognize that not everyone can live with someone who is constantly on a mission. Whoever I end up sharing my life with will have to be ok with the fact that I’m probably going to call people out when they are not showing love.

I am single because I haven’t found my ability to fully trust another. As much as I’ve shared, not a single person knows the severity of the emotional pain.

I am single because my social life is almost virtually nonexistent because I’m either babysitting, studying, or have been too overstimulated by the amount of social interaction I have had from work or babysitting that I’m left too exhausted to communicate with my friends other than text because I can respond when I feel like it.

I am single because I haven’t accepted that I am worthy of being loved. A few weeks ago, a friend asked why I was so stressed out, and I responded lots of things. He asked me to expand. I finally gave him a laundry list of things, and for the first time, I finally verbalized that insecurity. I’d thought it many times in other ways. I’d remembered the mistakes I’d made and wondered if I was worthy of redemption. I’ve spent my life reminding those I love that they are worthy and are loved. I’ve defended those who have harmed me the most, saying that even those who do the most harm deserve love, too, but never in my life have I believed it about myself. In my head, I know it. In my heart, I don’t believe it.

I know the list is longer than this but this are the ones I can pinpoint off the top of my head.

Being single at 27 sucks. There are days when I don’t want anything to do with my friends who are in happy relationships or marriages. I’m not naïve enough to think that every moment is perfect, but there are days that I’m more discouraged than others.

So, as I am now 27, I am nowhere near where I thought my life would be right now. So, I’m going to use this time to learn how to love myself, so that one day, I might be able to accept someone else’s.

Posted on March 21, 2017 .

Lee to Rachel, 8 years later

Every year on the anniversary of Lee's sister's suicide, she writes a post on Facebook. This is her post this year:

I'm at a loss. It's February 26, 2017. Eight years ago, my sister, my only sibling, my friend Rachel killed herself when she could no longer take the unrelenting pain and pressure of her mental diseases. Eight years. Every year on this day, I take to Facebook to memorialize her and to plead with you all to change the dialog that surrounds mental diseases in this country. And there are changes. They are happening slowly, but they are happening.

But I realized this year that Rachel is only a name to most of you. Most of you didn't have the privilege of knowing her. There are some of you who did, and you assure me that you will never forget her. But most of you don't know her. And I'm at a loss as to how to explain her to you.

Her smile that could split her face and that ALWAYS reached her eyes.

Her roar of laughter.

Her insistence of doing things the right way (or her over-insistence on perfectionism, depending on my mood and how I choose to describe it).

Her hugely caring heart that made her bring homemade pie and bourbon to friends in need.

Her insecurity that she wasn't doing enough. Enough for her friends. Enough for her family. Enough for this world.

Her love of her nieces and her wonder in their compact perfection.

Her unmitigated deviousness on the soccer field. (Woe be unto the person who tried to run her over. She would bide her time and then take that person DOWN.)

Her heartbreaking self-doubt that she would try to hide from the world.

Her utter inability to carry her liquor.

Her stubbornness.

Her determination.

Her courage.

Rachel would have been amazed at how her death and her absence in our lives have affected those of us who were fortunate enough to have known her. She never realized how truly loved she was.

As I do every year on this day, I urge you to reach out to someone who you know is struggling. Don't judge. Don't try to "fix" things. Just hug them and tell them that you love them. Even if you are at odds with that person, do it. Do it now. Go on. I'll wait for you.

Posted on March 16, 2017 .

Tim Ferriss on Surviving Depression

Maria Popova at Brainpickings.org writes about Tim Ferriss's autobiographical account of an attempted suicide and living with depression. The entire article is worth reading, and here are a few highlights.

He has a few recommendations to deal with depression.

One is to make a “non-suicide vow” with a friend. He writes:

As silly as it might sound, it’s sometimes easier to focus on keeping your word, and avoiding hurting someone, than preserving your own life. And that’s totally okay. Use what works first, and you can fix the rest later. If you need to disguise a vow out of embarrassment … make it a “mutual non-self-hurt” vow with a friend who beats himself or herself up.
— https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/12/08/tim-ferriss-tools-of-titans-depression/

Another is to. "Go to the gym and move for at least 30 minutes. For me, this is 80% of the battle."

And finally:

If you can’t seem to make yourself happy, do little things to make other people happy. This is a very effective magic trick. Focus on others instead of yourself. Buy coffee for the person behind you in line (I do this a lot), compliment a stranger, volunteer at a soup kitchen, help a classroom on DonorsChoose.org, buy a round of drinks for the line cooks and servers at your favorite restaurant, etc. The little things have a big emotional payback, and guess what? Chances are, at least one person you make smile is on the front lines with you, quietly battling something nearly identical.
— https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/12/08/tim-ferriss-tools-of-titans-depression/

While he knows he will deal with depressive episodes throughout his life, he believes the key is building "fires - the routines, habits, relationships, and coping mechanisms you build - to help you to look at the rain and see fertilizer instead of a flood. If you want the lushest green of life (and you do), the gray is part of the natural cycle."

Posted on February 23, 2017 .

Introducing Mary Katherine

I remember when I was in preschool, at Kinderplatz, in the music room gathered on the rug around the books with the rest of my class waiting for school to start.  I was wearing a red turtleneck with a navy jumper, and a big red bow.  I had just sad down to my friend and next thing I knew, another girl shoved me aside and said “You can’t sit with us because we’re wearing pink.”  I had a real life Mean Girls moment in preschool.  Both my friend and this other girl were wearing pink dresses with colorful snaps down the front.  That was the first time I remember feeling small and unwanted.

When I was in kindergarten, I was in a half day kindergarten, so I began my mornings at daycare.  I remember one afternoon, upon arriving at school, I was crying uncontrollably for no apparent reason.  Not only did I want my mom, we had a substitute that day so my day was already a bit thrown off.

When I was in fifth grade, my best friend and I were playing house, and we always liked to dress up.  I started to develop sooner and my friend made the comment one day that I could no longer wear cute clothes.  I was devastated.

At the end of fifth grade, I remember crying randomly about having to make the change to middle school.  Sixth and seventh grade were ok, but eighth grade was miserable.  I missed many days of first and second period.  My teacher thought I was just skipping, but in reality, I was waking up every morning with severe nausea from stress.

When I started high-school I went through a period of time when I cried myself to sleep every night.  I remember one day sophomore year, standing in the choir room with tears streaming down my face.  It was the Monday after spring break.  Every time I tried to open my mouth to sing my eyes flooded with tears.

By junior year of high school I agreed to go to a psychiatrist.  I was diagnosed with depression.  This was no surprise because of my family history.  My mom suffered from depression, and my maternal grandmother ended her own life when she was only twenty nine years old. Depression runs in my genes.

I still was not ready to admit that I needed counseling so my doctor prescribed me an antidepressant and I went about my day to day.  When I started college I visited the campus psychiatrist who continued to prescribe me my antidepressant as long as I would see a counselor.  I still wasn’t ready, so I no longer had my antidepressant.

My first senior year of college, I finally got tested for a learning difference.  We learned I am mildly OCD, and have ADHD and minimal short term memory in addition to my depression and general anxiety.  I went to another psychiatrist who gave me medicine for ADHD and that seemed to also help with my mood.

And then more change happened.

I was finally ready to admit that I needed help.  I began seeing an on campus counselor once I started graduate school, switched to a pastoral care counselor, then to a short term counselor, and then to a long term counselor.  My psychiatrist and I continued to try different medication combinations until we finally found one that worked.

But even the perfect concoction isn’t perfect.  I was taking a sleep medication that helped with my insomnia, but I couldn’t wake up or function normally unless I got twelve hours of sleep.  I’m lucky if I have eight hours straight to sleep.  So yet again, we are on the search for a medicine combination that works.

It might seem odd for me to share such a personal medical history, but I’m sharing it because I think people need to be aware.  Mental illness is often seen in a negative light.  I went to seminary with a girl who said that people with insomnia are crazy and she didn’t want to be involved with anyone with it.  We don’t hang out anymore.  Part of that is my own doing, and the other part is her.  It’s hard to be friends with someone who thinks less of you.

I have struggled with depression my entire life, and will continue to struggle with it for the rest of my life.  But it does not define me.  Sometimes I let it, but a mentor and friend of mine told me that bad days are just when you’re depression is lying to you.  That’s a good way for me to look at it.  It keeps me from letting myself be defined by my depression.  It keeps me from living in it daily.  Yes, there are days that my depression is harder to live through than others, but I know that come the next day or the next day or the next day this feeling will be gone, and I’ll be my true self again.

Posted on February 9, 2017 .

I Will Not Be Ashamed

Writted by Lee Virden DuBose

Shared with permission from Tanglewood Moms.

Bright. Loving. Funny. Caring. Intelligent. Resilient. Strong. Kind. Compassionate. Witty. Passionate. Sarcastic. Silly. Tenacious. Accepting. Outspoken. Warm. Vivacious. Creative. Dedicated. Real.

A few months ago, I posted an article on Facebook about people who conceal their depression. I prefaced it by saying that I have major depression and that the article hit home. It was amazing how many people responded, saying that they would never have guessed that I have a mental illness, that I hide it well. So I thought I would poll some Facebook friends to see how they saw me. After randomizing my entire friend list, I asked 100 people to write three words that they thought described me. The results, as seen above, were humbling.

I wish my depression would allow me to believe them.

Depression is a thief. It steals your identity. It whispers that you are no good. You are worthless. You are less than. Everything you do is bad. The voice in my head constantly says, “If you really are as smart as people think you are, your life wouldn’t be such a mess.” Or it says, “If people only knew the REAL you, they would never speak to you again.” Or, “How dare you think that what you write/say/do/feel is even remotely good? YOU ARE NO GOOD.”

Our society doesn’t accept mental illness. It is too scary, too illusive. We have no problem talking about cancer or heart disease or erectile dysfunction. We walk for cancer, run for heart disease, and sit in bathtubs in the middle of alpine meadows for erectile dysfunction. When a friend tells us she has breast cancer, we spring into action, praying and making casseroles and setting up carpool groups. If a friend is brave enough to admit she has depression, we giggle uncomfortably and change the subject because we think that she should just think happy thoughts and get over it. Even health insurance companies penalize people with “behavioral health issues”. I have to pay significantly higher premiums because I see a psychiatrist and a therapist. The stigma surrounding mental illness still stands.

When my sister killed herself, her friends were shocked. I cannot count the number of people who came to me, asking questions, saying that they never knew she was struggling. She never admitted that she had bipolar depression and borderline personality disorder and body dysmorphic disorder and other mental illnesses because she was ashamed. She felt that she should be able to just get better. She could not accept that mental illness is just like any other chronic illness. It is like lupus or diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. It takes monitoring and medication and patience. But she bought into what our society tells us about mental illness. She believed she was no good.

It is 2016. And yet, the stigma surrounding mental illness is still just as strong as it has always been. It is the stigma that still surrounds mental illness that keeps people from asking for help. It is the stigma that still surrounds mental illness that allows insurance companies to force people who do seek treatment to pay more. It is the stigma that still surrounds mental illness that causes 22 veterans to commit suicide every day.

Mental illness is not a moral judgement. Because someone suffers from depression does not mean that she or he is a Bad Person. Mental illness affects the young and the old. The rich and the poor. Male and female. It does not care where you went to college. It does not care what your address is. It does not care what kind of car you drive. It can and it does affect ANYONE.

I’m tired of hiding. I’m tired of being ashamed. I’m tired of people I love committing suicide because the stigma that surround mental illness keeps them from seeking help. We have to change the way we think about mental illness in our society. So I will start.

I have depression. I have a mental illness. I will not be shamed.

Lee Virden DuBose (seen here with her sister, Rachel) hopes that by standing up and admitting in a very public forum that she has major depression, others might change the way that they view mental illness and that some of the stigma attached to mental illness will crumble.

Lee Virden DuBose (seen here with her sister, Rachel) hopes that by standing up and admitting in a very public forum that she has major depression, others might change the way that they view mental illness and that some of the stigma attached to mental illness will crumble.

Posted on December 15, 2016 .

Sleep and Depression's Complicated Relationship

A recent Scientific American article describes insomnia as both a common symptom of major depression and a potential solution for a depressed person hoping for quick relief. 

Often after depressed individuals have taken the initial, hard steps to see a psychiatrist and become diagnosed correectly, their psychiatrist will recommend medication that often takes from four to six weeks to become effective.  

One such patient asked Dr. Steinberg if there was something she could do in the meantime. Dr. Steinberg asked her patient to skip a few nights of sleep, which her patient begrudgingly agreed to. She adhered to a schedule tailored for her, going through an “all-nighter” and afterwards following "a prescribed routine of specific bed and wake times to shift her sleeping cycle. She also sat in front of a full-spectrum light box at breakfast every morning." Mixing the effects of resetting her sleep cycle, which in turn can reset our mood, along with full-spectrum light therapies is thought to help patients feel the positive effects of sleep therapy even longer.

Although the patient found staying up to be tough, she did notice significant improvements in her depressive symptoms before her medication kicked in.

Full article here.


Posted on December 10, 2016 .

Deciphering Suicide's Language

While social media and other new forms of communication have been proven to negatively affect user's mental stability, technology has also taken an important role in aiding suicide prevention. As examples, the Crisis Text Line and online support groups have helped millions of people around the country and world.  

Using data available through technologies today, Dr. John Pestian has based his recent research on the use of "thought markers" in suicide prevention. Based on this research, he and his colleagues are currently testing an app that determines if the language a teen uses is similar to that of someone at risk for suicide.

The richness of data available today is paving the way toward a deeper understanding of suicide. And this deeper understanding can only help in suicide prevention efforts. 

Posted on December 4, 2016 .

Long term versus short term self care

Emma Phipps published a beautiful piece about her experience pulling through a deep depression. She talks about two kinds of self-care. The first is the concept of watching Netflix or eating comfort foods to feel better in the moment. The second is anything you do in the interests of your future self. 

But the thing that quickly became obvious to me — as I stood every night brushing my teeth (hopefully with the right toothbrush) and staring into the mirror at a face I was so profoundly sick of seeing — is that when your back is really against the ropes and life is punching the sh*t out of you, the most important kind of self-care you can possibly practice is the kind that only pays off in the long term.

The best way I found of fighting the desire to flat-out stop is to operate under the assumption that you will keep going. And once we have this assumption, the bravest and hardest thing you can do is take every measure to make sure that once you reach the future, you did everything you could to make it good. It’s the glass of water drunkenly set on the bedside table times a thousand. It’s preparing a room for someone you’re not sure is ever going to arrive.
— http://www.popsugar.com/love/Why-Self-Care-Important-42630190

For her, that involved working out, spending time with people who could understand her pain and also help her out of it, cutting down on drinking, saving money, and going to therapy to rebuild her emotional foundation.

By devoting so much time to my future when I was low, I’m in a better position to attack the world now that I’m getting back on my feet. I’m grateful to my past self, the girl who was so sad and so tired, because she was also (and I recognize the oddity of using the word in this context) unselfish. She took care of herself but she also took care of me.
— http://www.popsugar.com/love/Why-Self-Care-Important-42630190
Posted on November 3, 2016 .