Powerful and crucial conversations have recently been taking place on the tragedy of suicide. Although the topic is (by nature) depressing, I am grateful that it is welcomed to the table of hard topics.
As with most hard things to understand, it requires much more education in our current culture.
I took some pills when I was thirteen. It was the rest of the Bayer aspirin we had in the cupboard. There were about 13 pills left, which I don’t think is enough to do the job. My plan was to lay down on my bed and die. I decided that my best friend deserved a good-bye, so I called Tom and told him good-bye and I would not be going to school with him anymore. He asked what I had done, and when I said “I took some pills”. I heard a thud on the other end of the line and by the time I hung up he had run the block to my front door.
Tom was angry (scared) and demanding “What are you doing?” as his parents were a minute or so behind him. Apparently he had yelled something to the effect that “Jami was dying,” as he ran past them.
Fast forward to the year after I got married. I felt terrible about myself and what was going on with me and I spent the next ten years excelling at everything I did: school, work, fatherhood, and being the picture of a good husband. I was all of these things while at the same time being passively suicidal.
I was successful beyond my wildest dreams, and surpassed everyone's expectations. But the money, public approval and the beautiful family that I had did not cover the pain and self doubt that lead to more and more destructive behavior. It was like for every success I had to prove that I was not worth it by shaming myself. Risk-taking behavior went from adrenaline sports and ended with what ought to have torn my family completely apart. I was too busy upping the ante to feel like a hypocrite. So I would hand out the family of the year award in our town and then go have an affair that next week. Sick and wrong. And with each cycle around the chaos addiction merry-go-round I would get closer to getting purposeful about dying.
I was depressed and no one would have ever known. I did not know how to ask for help and the hypocrisy kept getting worse. I was screaming for help but only in my pillow. The pain of admitting that I was not perfect was killing me. I needed help and as ridiculous as it sounds I could not figure out how to do it healthfully.
I went into two counselors offices, I took a diagnostic test that said my most likely diagnosis would be alcoholism, but I had not had a drink for two years and probably had a total of ten drinks in that decade, and the last time I started to ask for help and at the last second made it about some professional referrals that I could make. I remember the look in her eye, like she saw that there was more.
By the time I finally got help, I had already caused massive pain to myself, to my family, to my friends, and to the community I had built around me.
How could anyone have understood my depression? How could anyone have helped me? How do you understand anyone's ongoing illness? To do that, you first have to understand what depression is.
Depression is anger turned inward. It is, of course, a serious problem and a medical consultation is vital. Any prolonged sadness or lack of interest in the things that used to keep you occupied is a good cause for a deeper look, especially relationships, sex, and work. The causes vary and can and do reach back to habits formed from very early on, often times in early childhood development.
What we have come to realize is that all of us build strategies to make ourselves okay. They are all customized, and often a pattern before we get to be two years old (Yes, this is shocking but is well documented, see Origins: The First Nine Months by Anna Paul Murphy). Mine was a common strategy. It was not to feel my own feelings and take care of everyone else’s. The other main strategy is to control and use anxiety and fear.
Taking care of everyone else works great until it doesn’t. We adopt strategies because they work. The problem is that these strategies are habits that become completely run by our subconscious process. This means that often we do these old strategies when they no longer are really working for us. Eventually, if left unchecked, they become destructive.
There are three keys to dismantling these old habits and bring them into the consciousness. These three ideas are for both those who are chronically depressed and for those who care about someone who is:
To understand depression we must first educate ourselves on what that means. The clinical diagnosis has many symptoms listed that are contradictory. So, we understand depression by having compassion and patience for ourselves and our loved ones. We understand depression by listening to those non-verbal asks for help. If I would have been able to get the help I needed at an earlier age, I would have been able to prevent so much heartache.
My hope is provide a prevention to heartache, but to also assist those who feel like they have already created it. Allow for things to move slowly at first, and know that new habits are rarely formed perfectly. Celebrate the progress and keep moving, life is a long journey. Let's talk!
by Jami and Marla Keller
Body shaming often makes front page news. Remember that time in 2017 when there was a little Kim Kardashian drama about cellulite and disgust and a lot of “How dare she mislead us???” Friends, do you realize that the pic of her on the beach lost her one hundred THOUSAND followers on Instagram??? What the what? But don’t worry too much about her dynasty; at the time she still had 98.8 million followers on Insta… But please do worry about the fact that she was shamed in the most vicious way.
We see it in our coaching practice all the time. One client who has done a lot of work to get past body shame recently said, “I was not a wanted baby. My mom couldn’t handle another child and I always felt like my body was not welcome, and I was ashamed, especially of my female parts.” And don’t make the mistake that guys are immune to it. They get it, too, now more than ever.
We were recently reminded that body shaming is one of the oldest stories. In the ancient writings of Genesis Adam and Eve, “felt ashamed and covered their nakedness.” No matter what you believe about the bible, it is interesting that the first story recorded has body shame in it. And so from body shame there is sex shame (slut-shaming comes to mind), and from sex shame there are secrets and lies that have built a cloud of fear, loneliness and being either controlled by the shame or feeling desperately out of control. Our deepest hurts can be about how we look. Our culture desperately needs new language and skills to drain the shame out of our beliefs about our bodies!
(Marla) I recently posted an abbreviated version of this on Facebook right after we finished binge-watching a very powerful Netflix show:
13 Reasons Why…I can’t even imagine being in high school right now. The bullying was bad enough (devastating really) in the mid 80’s where there were no cell phones and social media platforms to accentuate and broadcast our/my shame. I remember clearly the day that five or so other Freshman followed me from a distance from PE to English class and yelled things like, “You’re as ugly as a mutt, you’ve got freckles on your butt,” and “Too bad your butt’s so big. You’d be cute if you were skinner.” Wow. Really? I was 5 foot 4 inches tall and weighed a whopping 110!
The body and slut-shaming in 13 hit way too close to home, in a still very hidden place in my heart that I’ve realized needs another layer of exposure, forgiveness and healing. I was in a Christian boarding school and was categorized as a “slut” because I dated a lot of guys and made out with them. Did I make stupid decisions because of my deep desire to be approved of and loved? Of course. But that’s NEVER. An. Excuse. For. Shaming. My anorexia and bulimia raged an internal war against me, striving for control, perfection and some kind of absolution for that shameful 5 year old little girl, me, that had been sexually abused. I teared up at some point in almost every episode, my heart aching for Hannah’s devastating journey. Really for all of their heartbreaking journeys…
What’s probably the most heartbreaking is that we girls/women don’t build up and support each other. Is it our “not enoughness” that compels us to make each other small so that we can feel “enough”? In a crazy twist in my adulthood (over the past 16 years), when I was a pastor in three different churches in three different states, it was women who shunned me the most for being a female in a “male’s role,” for wearing a blouse too low, or pants too tight, or too much make up, and the list goes on and on and on. Sadly they were so absorbed in what I was wearing that they missed out on what I was saying. But actually the very worst of it was the shaming those ladies cast out onto our teen daughters. No wonder they don’t want anything to do with organized religion.
It is like being human is a crime. We’re here to tell you that it does not have to be. The awareness of your beauty (male or female), and the power to be beautiful, is inside of you. Know that you can make a difference, and the path to feeling empowered is right here.
After a few visits with one of our eighteen-year-old clients, an absolutely beautiful cheerleader, she said to us, “I feel like I get to choose how I feel instead of how shameful [the mean girls] try to make me feel.” These were girls who had shamed her for no reason other than the fact that they could. What is the point anyway of gossiping about someone’s flaws or their decisions, right or wrong. (By the way, it is the beautiful that get the worst of this. One clinician we know works with pro-basketball player’s wives and she says it is the most body-shamed group she has ever seen.)
Let’s all take a stand and not tolerate any body shaming, for yourself and anyone else. For us, it is absolutely not okay to hear someone say any disparaging thing about what someone is wearing, or any body issue, or how they are behaving sexually according to another person’s judgmental position. And we say it out loud when it happens in our hearing. It is fixable, we just all need to do the work to be fully present and express our feelings healthfully, all the while draining the shame out of the dark places.
Let’s get it together, ladies! WE NEED EACH OTHER. Let’s stop this madness and create a tsunami of love, connection, empathy, and compassion and change this story and change this world. And it starts with me. I love and support you, ALL of you, ladies in my life!
We’d love to hear your experiences. You are not alone. Let’s help others realize that they are not alone either.
Are you ready to be free of shame? We’d love to help you move beyond your shame into love and peace and empowerment and joy! Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org and give us your three difficult feelings about your experience and we’ll email you a free gift.
Marla and Jami
Cofounders of JamiAndMarla.LOVE (fka Passion Provokers and Keller Coaching) Jami and Marla are proud to bring a new level of success to coupleships worldwide with their unique coaching, mentoring, and consulting process. Their blogs are not only informative for coupleships they are personal. For over 25 years they have been helping people create emotionally and physically intimate coupleships.
Ariel is a freelance blogger, web designer, and SEO consultant. She is 23 years young, married to her soulmate, and a proud “mother” to boxer Bruce and Yorkie Dexter. She focuses on writing content that is raw and relatable. (Info relevant at the time of writing, circa 2013-2015)