Why Don't We Talk About This?

Talking about Self Harm & Recovery w/ Kristin Light

April 25, 2023 Paula McMillan-Perez, LCSW Episode 25
Why Don't We Talk About This?
Talking about Self Harm & Recovery w/ Kristin Light
Show Notes Transcript

We engage in a very candid discussion of Kristen’s personal experiences surrounding self-harm and recovery as well as where this journey continues.

Guest Bio:
Kristin Light is a marketing strategist, vintage dance specialist, and award-winning speaker. Her multi-decade eclectic career spans both the boardroom and the ballroom. Co-founder of Refvik & Light Productions, her boldly simplistic marketing strategy launched the event company from literal rubble to multi-six-figure revenue in its first full year. However, as a vivacious showgirl and successful entrepreneur, Kristin was perhaps the last person you’d expect to be suffering from a diagnosed mental illness. Following a brush with suicide that left her confined to a psychiatric ward, Kristin now speaks out to provide real insight and practical strategies that demystify the facts surrounding mood disorders and mental illness using inspirational (and often hilarious) stories from her own personal and professional life.

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Paula McMillan-Perez:

Hi everyone. Before we start this episode, this was a trigger warning because we discussed self harm and suicide at length. If you or someone you care about is struggling support is available by texting 741741 calling 988 or going to your local emergency room hey y'all Hey, welcome back to another episode of the why don't we talk about this podcast. I'm your host Paula Macmillan Perez, and I'm a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist. On today's episode, we have a very candid and raw conversation with Kristen light as she shares her experiences with self harm, and exactly what she wants you to walk away with in terms of knowledge and what comes next with these experiences. Here we go.

Kristin Light:

Hello, people, it's lovely to meet you all. I am Kristin. I was Chrissy off the top of my life. And then shortly after Christmas, you don't care about any of this, but it's interesting. I'm currently I am a mental health speaker. At the moment I do corporate and inspirational speaking, I came I've had every job that there is to have, which I'm sure will come out organically in the span of our conversations. Mostly I'm a marketing strategist. I was a professional dancer and now a speaker and happy to talk about

Paula McMillan-Perez:

All right, well, that's a nice segue right in so Kristin, by chance, can you think of something that things that we're not supposed to be talking about. we're not talking about?

Kristin Light:

suicide? I was gonna try and find a fun way to bring that up. But you know, the kids are calling it un-alive thing right now. But now we're just gonna call it what it is. We're gonna put it right out there.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

I can say that. I haven't heard that one on the live thing, but I'm gonna keep an ear out. That's one of the benefits of working with us. You can get to stay on the pulse of slang when you're like 40 like me and kind of sound like you know what you're talking about. But not Oh, yeah,

Kristin Light:

I'm part of the over 40 club over here too. And if it weren't for tick tock I wouldn't know anything that was going on

Paula McMillan-Perez:

tick tock is a dream. And I must say for those of you who are listening to this episode on audio, we are two dynamic women who do not look our age, we look fabulous.

Kristin Light:

And for those that can't see her right now Paul is rocking a fabulous t shirt.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Social Work life.

Kristin Light:

Love it.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

So tell me a little bit about whether it's your lived experience? Or why do you think having conversations about suicide is important and or impactful for the folks.

Kristin Light:

It is my lived experience. And I've gotten more comfortable over the last year of talking about it. My story reached its head about five years ago, actually five years ago this month. Oh, it's August right now. And we're recording this. I'm sure we later when you're all hearing it, but five months five years ago, was my attempt to an alive as it were. And the reason that I made the decision years later to speak out about those experiences is I was finding even with all the progress that we're making around mental health, psychiatric disorders, neurodiversity. Whether or not someone chooses to take their own life was still so incredibly misunderstood. Absolutely, not just in the act itself, but in the signs and the symptoms and the red flags and what you can do to help somebody if you suspect that they're struggling. And I found that there's just confusion, fear, trepidation. And maybe we needed somebody or multiple somebodies to just lay their story out there. For people to see all the dirty details.We all have our different levels are different thresholds of what we're comfortable with. But if we keep sitting in comfort, then the people that need our help aren't

Paula McMillan-Perez:

I like how you're able to clearly identify going to get it. in you know, what you just shared your experience in the experience of others because there are no two spirit experiences that are the same way there's no to even you know, different diagnoses that we have, whether it's health or mental health both don't appear or manifest the same. And I think that things that come with a negative connotation like suicide or grief or loss are things that are typically very uncomfortable for people to talk about, or if they want to talk about it, and maybe you can speak based on your experience, I can speak on it from you know, my other side of the table.

Kristin Light:

Yeah.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

You don't want to say something wrong. You don't want to say something to upset someone to trigger someone. So sometimes you feel like alright, well, I should just stay quiet or not necessarily acting like it's not happening. But that can be the interpretation of from someone else's side. Because if we don't talk about it, it's as though it doesn't exist or it's swept under the rug.

Kristin Light:

Exactly. And I do want to be clear, I'm not advocating marching into McDonald's and just announcing to everybody if it's your last day on earth, maybe that is not necessarily what we're going for here. We don't want to hit people with what I call emotional landmines. I do believe that each individual should have the the freewill to opt in or opt out to any conversation. I am a strong believer in trigger warnings. And we are going to put a big one right here. Yeah. All right, now that we're talking about suicide if it's not already clear.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

And I think that one of the best ways to do that, just like you said, is provide a space. So individuals can decide do I want to opt in? Do I want to opt out? Do I want to actively listen and maybe take something in? Do I want to verbally or non verbally participate? Because one of the things that you know if we can go back as far back as we can remember, when we were kids, we didn't have choices as parents or whomever? Adults, caretakers, they told us what to do. We didn't like it, we did it. Maybe we didn't do it, we got consequences. Giving options can also increase bias and to have conversations that are difficult to allow yourself to sit in a difficult space, or at least test the water like, Can I try this? Can I persevere, or step back, or at least that's what I've found in certain situations. With regard to that people don't like it when they don't have choices. And they have seen and some of the experience that I've had with youth and you can share yours as you feel comfortable part of what happens before they get to the point where they feel like there's nothing left is feeling like I don't have a way to reach out. I don't have a source I don't have I just don't have right or no one's listening, or I'm invisible, or I don't have an option. And it's that that lack whether it's perceived or real, that can do some significant damage, because we don't necessarily know what may be at the tail end.

Kristin Light:

And it is often perceived because I think it's important to reiterate that these are illnesses that we're talking about. If you suffer from a diagnosed mental illness, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality, wherever you are on the spectrums. One of the scariest things about receiving a diagnosis like that is you then don't know now speaking for everybody, this is my personal experience. And many others that I've spoken with as well. You don't know when to believe your own brain? Yes, yes. And with myself, I planned to end my life at 40. And I planned it for years. And as that date got closer and closer, I got more and more comfortable with the idea.I didn't want to reach out for help anymore, because I didn't need help as far as I was concerned. Because you had your plan and I had my plan. It was a good plan. And I was doing it not out of selfish reasons or because I couldn't take it anymore. For me personally, I honestly believed it would be best for everyone around me. And as we said, there's no universal. For some people it may be an in the moment decision when faced with some horrible news or horrible trauma. For others. It's a long thought out process. But it's notan it's not a decision taken lightly no matter how one comes to it.And it's interesting that you talked about just a moment ago. Folks needing options in those moments, they need an outlet, someone that they can reach out to in that moment of need. And every time there's a very public death, very public personality taking their own life or Mental Health Awareness Day or some kind of event that gets us folks attention on this subject. Your social feeds are absolutely full of very well meaning people Yes, all say the same thing. If you need me, I'm here just reach out. And I believe that they believe what they're saying. And I believe that it's coming from a very good place. And I also believe that no one will ever call them on that. And that person can walk away feeling like they've done something for help to help. I've let everyone know that I am a safe space that they can come and talk to about their problems. Yay, me pat yourself on the back walk away, it's no longer your issue to worry about. And I think that still comes from a very well meaning place. However, when you're in that place, when you're really up against the wall, really determining if today's the day that you make your exit. Why on earth would you burden somebody else with that news? This is how the brain can work in those moments, not everybody. But I sure as hell in my worst moments, and there have been many, I sure as hell wasn't calling somebody an interrupt interrupting their dinner or their time with their children, to let them know that, hey, I'm really sad and thinking about doing something. What do you think about that? Because that, to me, sounded like the ultimate burden. The most horrible thing I could possibly due to another human. Again, I'm not saying those are true thoughts by any means. That is how my brain was working in the moment. But I think it's important to recognize that that's a possibility.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Absolutely.

Kristin Light:

And therefore have other approaches, other things we can say to our friends, so they do know that you are a safe resource for them.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

And I think the thing that resonates the most with me about what you said is the part about not wanting to ruin something for someone else. So like, like you said, if someone was having dinner, and you want to reach out, like I don't want to ruin their dinner, no, I'm the same token. That's what our brain tells us. Does our brain tell tell us? Oh, well, if I took my own life, maybe I'm ruining their ability to ever get close to someone again, maybe I might be ruining their ability to I don't know, like, whatever our favorite meal or something was that we shared together? Right? We're not thinking that abstractly about it. Because that's not the place we're in. We're struggling.

Kristin Light:

It may enter my mind on occasion that sure my sister would be very upset. Yeah, but and sometimes that's enough to get me to put down whatever thing I'm holding in the moment and say, okay, not today. But other times, I think, yeah, she's gonna be very upset, and she's gonna grieve for a month.And then there'll be this big weight lifted off her shoulders.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Or she may say something like, she's in a better place. She's no longer struggling. And those are some of the things that sometimes I've had clients, students, other people in my life tell me that have come to them. And this may be a phrase or a prompt that you've heard at some point before. What changed in that moment?

Kristin Light:

Such a simple question,

Paula McMillan-Perez:

but what not at all?

Kristin Light:

Yeah. In the end I'm not even sure how to put this entirely.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

And that's okay. I wrong answers

Kristin Light:

a little bit of context. I had meant to end my life on my 40th birthday. That was always the plan. Yet on my 40th birthday, my psychiatrist intercepted that plan. Luckily for me, and I was hospitalized for five consecutive weeks, lead out briefly and then put back in for three more. And during those eight weeks. There was a gradual shift in mindset. It wasn't instant. It's not like, Oh, I was stopped and put in hospital and I thought, oh, my gosh, what is happening? What am I doing? Now? It took weeks, took another three or four weeks before my mind clicked into that. But even then, even while sitting in the hospital, there was a part of me that thought, I've spent the last decade of my life building up to this moment. If I don't go through with it. What the hell do I do now? I was 40 years old and have a dime to my name. I didn't have any RRSPs I didn't have a spouse or children or a nest egg or a credit rating. I had nothing because I didn't think I needed anything. So going back, stepping back into the life I was so ready to leave behind was so terrifying to me, thatanxiety took over. Yeah, I couldn't walk out of the psych ward.Without a debilitating panic attack. And it's so interesting how the brain can shift from one extreme to the other in the span of weeks. But in time you take it one little thing at a time when my first big challenge was, oh, boy, I had the inpatient psychiatrists gave me a project to do and you're, I wasn't allowed to leave the ward, I was there on a forum. So I had nowhere to be I could spend all day in various therapies and color at night that was about it. And so when they give you a project, well, you might as well do it. What else do you do? And I was to make a flowchart of myself in the middle, and then sort of draw clouds out from there, o intangible things that I wanted in my life if I was going to live on. And I'd made that decision yet if I was going to live on what would need to be in my life. And I, you know, and I put random things in there, like, oh, I don't know, financial security and consistent bowel movements, I came up with all kinds of completely ridiculous. I have a follow up question. But I think with this, okay, is it poop related? Let's do it. And when I got to a bubble, I wrote joy. And I stared at it for about two days, I remember was a long time, and he wanted me then to draw new bubbles out of those bubbles and get more specific.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

And he he gave you a project, all right.

Kristin Light:

And I was color coding, I would spend entire days just on the color coding. And it was a good two weeks before I could write anything next to joy, because I just couldn't my brain could not conceptualize what that would look like. And until I could conceptualize how can I work towards it?

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Yeah. And similar to what you were saying, if it's a flowchart, one thing flows into another. So you have already isolated if I can conceptualize what joy looks like in this moment, or what joy looks like in my future. Yeah. I can't put anything else around that.

Kristin Light:

Nope.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

And one of the questions that I have, which, you know, kind of popped into my head, and when you were identifying some of the initial things in your chart was, you identified joy, specifically? Like the word?

Kristin Light:

Yes.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Even if you didn't know what that meant for you in real time in that moment, in the future, you knew that that was something that when you were able to conceptualize it would be something that was impactful for you.

Kristin Light:

And it's so interesting, because what does everyone say when someone takes their own life, you see the quotes in the newspaper, it's always the same. They seem so happy. I just saw them the day before the party

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Makes me and seen because one doesn't have anything to do with the other.

Kristin Light:

It really freakin doesn't. 94 I tried to take my own life, I hosted a swing dance in a venue that I co owned. It was boisterous. There was music, people were dancing. And I smiled the whole night. No, one knew. That's the whole point. What I didn't want them to know if I wanted them to know, I would have been had it all their role to say, On top of in that moment where you know, you had an opportunity to really take in everyone really enjoying themselves having a good time. You very well could have been having a great time. Yes, that didn't have anything to do with the next step in that moment. And I think that's one of the things that many people struggle with, in terms of like trying to conceptualize, but how does that work? What does that mean? Especially if you're not a person that can identify what that is, of course, and one of the ways that I have been trying to and you can let me know your thoughts on this. I am still till this day, a huge fan of Robin Williams. And I like that was when I was a kid like I wanted him to be my dad, like he just had like all of not just because he was funny, but like, the range that this man had as an actor, as a comedian, as a human beings. And I didn't understand as a child developmentally, you know about drug abuse, addiction, all of that. So as I got older, learning about, you know, some of the battles that he had and things of that nature, when he became a parent, all of those things, and I remember that simular to what she was saying, when we hear that people pass on, you know, on social media, people are sharing stories, photos, all of these things. And you know, it's so sad, this loss of life, comedic genius. And the thing that I thought was that he was a success and a lot of different ways. But he also made it to this age after years and years of struggling, through addiction, through trauma, through all of these things, and nobody's looking at the fact that he made it to give joy and hope and laughter There's so many people, so many different age groups, cultures, races, religions. Oh, that's a shame, he took his own life. And it made me angry. Because here we have a person that's in the limelight, so to speak. And you're reducing his humanity because of a decision that he made. And you just hit me in the feels so good with that thin. Like I just exactly all of that. He suffered, and he was brilliant. He suffered and he was giving. He held on those addictions, those substances may have helped, and I'm not endorsing addiction, completely understand it, he was self medicating, it may have allowed him five extra years to impact more lives. It's not uncommon, for the most mentally ill person in the room to be the life of the party. Absolutely. Because we're compensated.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

And it takes so much time and energy. I'm sure there were times in your life where when you got back to, you know, your personal space, you felt like you could have slept for a week, because it's like everything you had to be on.

Kristin Light:

I used to come home, I used to do dance gigs. I was a Charleston dancer. So I used to go and do corporate gigs and whatever little performances and you're smiling the whole time and you're on and you're doing the transatlantic accent or whatever bullshit, you know, for that kick. And I would come home. And there was a moment when I would close and lock my apartment door and I would just leaned against the door. It was done. And even when I was still trying to hold down nine to five jobs, which I've now learned is not me. But at the time when I was still trying to hold down that format, I would make it to Friday, and I would come home and I would lean on the door. And I would lean on the door for a good half an hour, crawl into bed, come out Monday morning, because it took the whole weekend or maybe even more. But you know, you had to show up to work on Monday got to possibly recharge or get a little bit of a little bit in your battery so that you can make it out the door to try to be on some more. But these are again, not things we talk about. No. And so one of my favorite ways to talk about this stuff is Spoon Theory. And I'm sure you are well versed and spoon theory it was I wrote down the name of the person that came up with it.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Share with I said I am but share with the group.

Kristin Light:

Hold on, I'm losing all the well I don't need that one, I don't think let your buds trying to like hide them from you. So I wrote her name down because I always forget her last name when I do one of these things. Christine. Ms. Randy, you know, I'm probably pronouncing that horribly. And I apologize, Christine, I believe it was 2003 that this came up for the first time and spoon theory the idea. And it happens to use spoons because when she was first coming up with this idea she was out for dinner with somebody. The idea that we all have a budget. And each day we all start not a budget, a wallet of energy units ability units, represented by spoons, I think is the best way that I can put that. And the same activity might cost one person two spoons, but someone else six. And so if all of humanity start the day with a wallet of 10 spoons and getting up in the morning, the process of physically getting out of bed is half a spoon to the average person but three spoons to you. You're already going into your workday in a huge deficit. And the idea of Spoon Theory was brought up initially to conceptualize chronic illness. I think it was lupus that she was tired. I think you're correct. Just by memory and the invisible disabilities world has really embraced it as a way to communicate day to day where you're at. And the mental the mental health mental illness world grabbed on to it too because it's perfect. Rather if someone says hey, do you want to grab a beer after work rather than having to explain Actually, I'm just about to cry. And it's taking everything I have in me to make it to the subway without being that person that other people film for Tiktok. So if you don't mind, I'm just going to excuse myself and go home and eat a bowl of Ben and Jerry's who am I kidding? The whole container? And then write poems to myself about how sad I am. Maybe you don't want to say all of that. So maybe you do. Or maybe you do live your life. So maybe you can just say, Hey, I'm down to one spoon, but I'll catch you next time. Yeah. Conversation done. I think it's brilliant. And, you know, similarly, one of the things you know,

Paula McMillan-Perez:

I always, since I was a kid referring to like battery life is juice. My juice boxes empty. I say that I used to say that to my kids when I had like, the little ones. Yep. Or, you know, some of my teens. Oh, look, there's this much of my water bottle. Yeah. Are you gonna? Sometimes, you know, and for me, as a person who has ADHD, I'm visual. And so I always have like, little knickknacks and things on my desk and all of that. So sometimes, especially, you know, when we are in a depressive state, depending on where we are, it could be a manic state, anger, whatever have you. We can't always verbalize like, what's coming up for us? No. So I have things in my office where like, someone will come in and just. And that tells me everything I need to know. Because, okay, this isn't a time where we're talking. This is a time where either we're sitting quietly, we're manipulating something with our hands, you may need other toys, a pillow to squeeze something to punch. But that doesn't mean that there aren't things happening here. That doesn't mean that our love our ways to communicate, are gone. They're just different and different. Not everyone has. To go back to what you're saying about the burden piece. Not everyone has people who they would feel that they would be a burden to.

Kristin Light:

True.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

So thinking about those who may not have a support system, or may not feel comfortable may not feel safe in their own homes. What do they do?

Kristin Light:

Intersectionality comes into it from every angle.every angle, where do you live? What is your home life? What is your religion, race, job title, financial situation? Oh, I hate that finances still have to come into it. I mean, Canada, we're supposed to be the land of universal, amazing healthcare. And don't get me wrong. If you break an elbow playing baseball, they'll they'll set the bone for you. And you'll only have to pay for the ambulance. But there's always a but yeah. You only get paid mental illness help when you're at the crisis point.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

And why does it have to be that we have to get to the crisis points to get the help that we need. When if there were we had additional education into learning about like our needs, when we first saw assign, before it trickled? We don't even have to get to the crisis point. And if we think about it, from a grand space, like if we're, you know, not that I'm trying to get too philosophical, but if everything breaks down to numbers and money, right? Wouldn't there be less money put into prevention than into crisis? Yes. Neon banner, I'm just wondering, I don't have all the answers. I'm just you know, brainstorming

Kristin Light:

How about instead of so many very expensive inpatient addiction therapy centers, how about oh, I don't know, universal basic income. So people don't feel as much need to self medicate. It's I'm super simplifying there, of course, and your politics may vary for each person. But there are things we can do

Paula McMillan-Perez:

that are tangible or are realistic, and I know I cannot speak for individuals whether you know, like large you know, healthcare organizations politicians, I don't know what it's like to make decisions for large groups of people right so I'm not saying right one or other but we can improve

Kristin Light:

Of course we can.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Who of course like the doing like the dude doing

Kristin Light:

Oh, my goodness, so much emphasis is put on the person who's in crisis. Oh, are you suffering cool, call this number reach out to this person get on this waitlist, but then that you're pulling it all in Ithink

Paula McMillan-Perez:

To perform, when we have many individuals in our society now that don't even feel comfortable over the on the phone. Now I have students that are high school age, they're not calling me now. So it's just like, so that's one thing, then you're being asked what can be received as intrusive questions. You may not remember on the spot, if let's say for the sake of argument, you may be speaking to somebody over the phone that's overwhelmed. There, you're not speaking the same language that you know there are those language barriers? Yep. It's not a fluid form of communication. So what do we do to support those individuals that may have the desire the inkling to reach out, but are not sure how to do that, in a way? Even if uncomfortable, they can do it?

Kristin Light:

Something that I have been advocating for? Well, there's sort of two sides of advocating. There's what do we want things to be a year from now, two years from now, five years from now? And what's the best we can make with what we got? Right?

Paula McMillan-Perez:

I know, okay, I like that.

Kristin Light:

So if we look at what we got right now, what can we all do? We can all put a note in our phone, or a post it in your purse, whatever your method is, with a few very important resources on it, and you do not wait until you're in a crisis to Google mental health. Crisis help because you're just gonna get 8 million different ads at the top half of which don't Yeah, it's ridiculous. So if you are in a, you know, regular, not regular, it's a horrible word. If you have a spoon left today, make a note in your phone. And the one I tell everybody is if you if you have text messaging in your phone, if that is the thing you have in the act of calling someone sounds horrific. with you on that one. Hold on. I'm gonna cough 741741

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Yes, yes. And tell the people what that is.

Kristin Light:

Oh, I'm gonna be honest, I have used it. Many times.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

I have used it also, because I want to be able to pick up my phone and say, Hey, this is the number. Oh, you have it? Yes, I do. programmed in there. Yes.

Kristin Light:

Here's the thing. And you're gonna see, you dump the number you text is literally 741741. That is the phone number. And you can text home. You can text help. There's a different organizations have a different word that you can text. I don't know, I haven't fully tested it. But nothing I've ever sent has been rejected. So I'll say home because I know that works. 100%. Yeah, no, something else. You can do help. You can also put talk. Now I know. I'm not sure about you guys in Canada. But I know we can use 988 now. Oh, yeah. It's just starting up here.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Ok, which I think is this resource. And I know I have some youth that there is a youth Crisis Text Line because they sometimes feel comfortable speaking to people of their own age,

Kristin Light:

100 percent I used to do that in high school before it was called mental health. We didn't really have that word.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

It wasn't trendy.

Kristin Light:

No, it was just phone friend or something silly like that. But yeah, I used to volunteer for a couple hours, people could just call in anonymously andeverything talk about sometimes that's what's so great about about the civil rights of our one is and probably 988 is very similar is that it can be anonymous.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

It brings down the anxiety, the rush, the confusion, because I can get what I need. Or I can get a little something without you necessarily knowing anything about me other than what I feel comfortable or choose to share.

Kristin Light:

Absolutely, they will sometimes when I reach out, so just for folks that have never done it, you text home talk whatever word 2741741 You get an immediate auto response that says, you know, someone's going to call you back within five minutes. And sure enough, someone calls you back. Or they'll sometimes call you I never answer the phone. I don't want to talk that's just me. That's not what I want in that moment. I cannot form words when I'm when I'm spiraling. I cannot I stopped her own mess. But I can I can text. So I will text Hey, I'm not doing that great. And now I get into a discussion with the person that I don't know who they are. I assume there's some kind of social worker, psychotherapist, who knows, volunteer, somebody that has some type of shoulder some training carry, yeah, be situated because they always are brilliant. That's non judgmental. They'll still ask what I want to be called not my name.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Yeah. And that's very important.

Kristin Light:

It is important, because your name may be triggering for so many reasons. Yep. Sometimes I'll make up a name. Sometimes I'll say Don't call me anything depends on where I am at that time. And they're fine. They're just checking in on what your preferences are in that moment. And you can say whatever you need to say just just blurt it out. And they'll recommend other resources, if they think it's important in the moment. But it gives you somewhere to reach out where you know, you're not burdening anyone. I put an asterix next to that statement, because generally speaking, if someone we cared about calls us up and says, Hey, guys, I'm actually in a really bad place right now. We're not birding. We're thankful that they reached out. But that's just not going to be the reality and most of these situations.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

And, you know, one of the things that really resonates with me also about what you just said, you know, I, it's gonna be late this is I shouldn't what year this is 22. I've been a social worker for about 11 years, clinically, for several I've worked in schools and all these other places. And I have friends that are like, you do this all day. I can't like, I can't bother you with this. And I'm like, Well, I hear you, I hear that. But part of the reason I do this all day, is because I give a shit. Yeah, I just want to throw that out there to you. Like I have friends that or you know, other people that are just like, well, you're easy to talk to. And I'm like, because I talk to everybody. Like that's, that's just who I am. But I also recognize that, you know, the term safety plan, especially for someone who may or may not have had to do it in the past may or may not have been hospitalized, and there may not have had a clinician or a provider that was worth a damn, that in itself is triggering. So it's like, Alright, so what are some options? Let's let's, let's brainstorm some options. Let's let's make made let's make a Lego Castle, a dog. Well, like, what's your favorite like Lego thing to build? Oh, you don't like Legos? What do you like so and it doesn't matter the age. And part of the reason that I'm even saying this is because you just gave a great resource that I was familiar with. And I'm hoping that some of our other community members that are listening to this podcast can be like, Oh, this is something that either I can utilize, or I can share with someone else. But what are some other things that we can do if we don't want to burden someone? Are their activities, or their grounding techniques? Are there things that you have done at one time, that worked great, and other times, it's like, not enough fucking when none of this this doesn't work? Like I'm done? What happens at certain steps? Because sometimes giving that some thought can make a difference, at least because we're thinking about other options or opportunities, which goes back to choice. When we feel like we don't have choice when we feel completely isolated alone. No one can see us they won't miss us. That place is dangerous, because it can only

Kristin Light:

Yeah.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

So what what are the choices? Or is there someone in my life or someone I have access to that can at least point me in the direction of choice? Even if we're not talking about it? Because like you said, Sometimes talking about it?

Kristin Light:

Sometimes that is not what we want. Yeah, I sort of look at this from different angles. Safety Plan for prices moment is a completely different from what I'm going to talk about right now. I have safety plans for myself, I have safety plans for the people that I've lived with, you know, red flags, if I'm doing this, Hey, yeah. But in terms of day to day, things we can do to help ourselves feel better. I look at it from two different perspectives. There are the things that are building for the long haul. And that may be therapy that may be cognitive behavioral therapy, if you do that. Group, and maybe you have a group that you're a part of where you can talk through issues. Maybe you're working on conversation, whatever your thing is that you're working on. Great. And then there's the I just need a break from my brain. Yes, and sometimes you just need a fucking break because the rumination is just attacking you. And sometimes that's when folks turn to substance because it numbs it out. I'm not going to advocate for that that's a slippery slope. Starts off really fun and enjoyable and goes horribly really quickly. So what are other options? Anything can get bad after a while, but doesn't mean it's bad to start with. I have video games I like I'm a grown ass lady. I play video games. Hell yeah. And sometimes there's one in particular that's gotten me through some stuff this summer. It's an older game is super simple looking try me Stardew Valley, huh? Well, I don't know that one talk about, it was an indie game designed all entirely by one person. But you get to be the character that you are. So Farming Simulator is where it starts off, and then it takes a hard left turn. Essentially, you're a dead end office workers so upset with your life. And then you your grandfather passes and leaves you a farm and some small little town. And you leave your whole, you know, stifling city life to go live in this town. And so it starts off a farming simulator. And okay, so your focus is entirely on cutting down trees and clearing rocks and planting crops and foraging because you already money in the first few days, you got to figure out some food. And you get all into that. But then in order for the story to come out, in order for the rest of the game to happen, you have to go have conversations with the townspeople. Okay, so I get completely wrapped up in the goings on of these NPCs these. So you're busy farming, you're doing your whole thing. But in order for the story to come out, in order for the rest of the game to play out, you need to talk with the other townspeople. And so I would spend, you know, maybe half an hour, at the end of the day, whatever I needed that day, just chatting with these 16 bit MPs, getting their little stories out. And eventually I've married the local doctor and helped the local alcoholic and, and you know, fought the aliens, and it just kind of takes you down this whole story. But it allowed me a little bit of time out of my own spiralling brain in a way that when I was done, I could just turn off the computer or the PlayStation or whatever you play on. And when I was ready to go back into life, yes, these things can get unhealthy. But in smaller doses, they can be life saving.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

No, absolutely. And I have a few colleagues who do a lot of work surrounding video games role playing games. And as you know, and I admit, I don't have as much time as I would like to play them. But RPG can be great for anxiety and depression. They can be great for communication, great for learning, not learning, not just nest. They can be great not just for learning, but for practice strategizing problem solving, identifying solutions, in ways that have a little bit of challenge, but feel safe because they're virtual, but can also be applied in real life. Yeah, so I think that there's a lot of variety, and function. And yes, they can be addictive, and they can be harmful. But we also have to take into consideration how things are being utilized. The developmental level, you know, there are a whole bunch of and that can be a conversation for another day. But I'm really glad to hear that you're able to identify not just something that you found to be helpful, but you were able to identify that, like, it stopped me from thinking about my stuff. And it also allowed me a space to utilize my brain in a way that doesn't traditionally get to utilize it. Yeah, let's be real. The brain isn't concerned about emotions, it don't care. Now, part of the reason it don't care is because we have these neural processors and transmitters doing all of these things, the brain is trying to get the oxygen to flow, the blood flowing, the organs work in, it don't care about none of this stuff. So that's why we have to put extra effort into it because there are so many involuntary processes that the brain is responsible for. It's focused on how do I get this body to work? Work is relative.

Kristin Light:

Oh, my goodness. Yes.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

So I think that's, you know, a piece of it. And that's not to downplay the severity of any mental illness. But part of the problem is, too, we have to pretty much find a brain hack or two or three, to be able to navigate these things that are just very challenging.

Kristin Light:

Very challenging and relentless. Yeah, that doesn't let up. No, it does not let up. It's not like if you have cancer, that you're just not there one day, so you get a break and then it's back the day after. I mean, that is your reality. I'm sorry. It's coming and going like that, but we have to find ways to cope with it. There is no happily ever after yet we don't have cures. We have treatments. We have management, we have coping mechanisms, we have support. And the combination of all those things can make our good days far outweigh our bad days. Yes, are good hours that were bad hours, we want to really simplify it down. But it's no cure. So happily ever after can't be the goal. Because we're just going to, we're going to be disappointed. Happily Ever average, much more attainable. All right, good. Have a hashtag about or something like that. I'm working on it. I bought the domain.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Okay, girl.

Kristin Light:

I feel a t shirt coming.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Okay, and I will support that T shirt. I'll add it to the collection.

Kristin Light:

Because I was that person I, you know, shoot for the moon, you'll land amongst the stars or whatever other bullshit.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

I like that quote When it is complete bullshit like that the stars.

Kristin Light:

That's not how the solar system works. Yeah, and I'm like, 200 some odd pounds, like how strong you think these stars are? If you shoot for the moon and miss, you're just gonna burn up in the atmosphere. I float until you know, to get my science right kicks in. And I'm like, no, no, no.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Yeah, you know, there's this thing called logic catch up. So as we begin to wind down, is there anything that is in your heart or on your mind that you really feel it's also important to share or maybe expand?

Kristin Light:

Sure I did a lot of talking about what well meaning people say that doesn't work. And I don't feel like I gave enough options for what can be helpful to those looking to support the people in their midst. And I think the most important thing to recognize is you may not know who to say what to because someone that suffering may be working real hard to make sure you never know. And so rather than trying to zero in on who in your life needs the support. There are general things that we can do. There are smaller communities we can focus on. If you have, let's say, your five closest people, maybe it's a sibling, maybe it's a bestie. Maybe it's your neighbor, whoever your closest people are. Rather than putting a generic statement out to them to knock on your door or call you when they need you to pick up the phone. Yeah. Something simple doesn't mean you have to host the whole party. Something as simple as, Hey, I was thinking of going to Costco today. Do you want to take a look?

Paula McMillan-Perez:

At the house? Yeah, fresh air. Yeah, the whole and you probably have seen this like you know, on the internet, social media, check on your strong friend, check on your strong your weak friend, your hungry friend.

Kristin Light:

Even hot girls ge IBS, you can tell by looking at people. Right?

Paula McMillan-Perez:

That is correct. You never know. Because when somebody wants to keep something hidden, they will take all of their might their energy, their will to do that.

Kristin Light:

They will even from you, the person that even your spouse, the people that you're supposed to be closest to. They may be working overtime because they care about you so much. And I think that's the important thing is generally speaking mental illness gets a bad rap because it gets paired with violent action so often, yes. And yes, people that commit violent crime can have mental illness, but that doesn't mean the mental illness caused absolute violent action. And someone that suffering may be giving every less spoon they have to make sure you don't suffer like they do. It gets dismissed, especially depression gets dismissed as selfishness. When in reality for most people, it's anything but yes. caring, loving, giving individuals yep are struggling. I remember the first time you know that I

Paula McMillan-Perez:

I think I admitted to forget who in the moment that was like, hey, you know, I struggle with anxiety, depression. So some, you know, times are more challenging than others. And it's just like, but you're so happy all the time and friendly and I'm like, Yeah, that's the face of depression. That's anxiety or it's like, you always have music playing in your office and you keep the I usually keep the overhead light off. So it's like it's always so cool in here. And I'm like, those are coping skills because if I don't have the music on that can it can mess with my attention. I can go into war. Dark place the you know, the sensory stuff with the lights with the ADHD, these are all things that I had to learn. So while you think it's cool that like I have this vibe going, which I appreciate, it's also a way that I'm not just taking care of myself and my personal needs. It's the way that I'm modeling for others that you can find ways to cultivate your space to meet your need. Because again, that's also not something that we talk about.

Kristin Light:

It's not and I'm actually on a mission right now to to speak with a different corporations associations about invisible disabilities, specifically of the mental and neuro persuasion. Awesome. And how policy changes that can be made an individual workplaces that will allow grown adults the choice, the agency to curate their work environment, their schedule, as needed to still meet the expectations of the job. Yes. If you let us help with that, a lot more work can happen.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Bingo.

Kristin Light:

I am not a good nine to five person. Why? Because my brain spirals in eight different directions. I'm not diagnosed ADHD. But when the trauma response kicks in a lot of those same things go on. Yes, absolutely. So if I'm super productive, let's say between 11 and two, and then again, after 8pm, then those are my super productive times.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Like, you know, you know, for those watching and or listening, we are recording this in the evening, I know I'm more productive in the evening, do you want to see me record a podcast I am.

Kristin Light:

Now I would not be a guest on a park.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

So that's, you know, one of the things that, you know, we do need to learn, but when we do grow up in society, where it's like, traditional nine to five, like even school hours, a lot of school districts have made the move to push the school day a little longer, maybe start at nine, or 10, because developmentally, that's when young adults can process better or they can be mimicked against that nine to five traditional workplace. So it's like we're recognizing that we're able to see greater outcomes, but coming from it from the perspective that you mentioned, like that policy standpoint, that's where the real change begins. Because if we if we put it into place, and this is something that can roll forward, then we can see some real change happen. So the fact that you're trying to tackle it from that avenue, I think is amazing. And I fully support that.

Kristin Light:

Well, I there's I watched Adam Conover G word series on Netflix he did with Barack Obama, where he he, you know, does six episodes or so doing deep dives into government agencies and what was great about them when they were terrible now. Oh, that's great.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

Because I loved his other show. So I'm sure this

Kristin Light:

Adam Ruins Everything right? Well, this is he has Brock Obama in the first episode, and then by the last episode, the theme is hope. Because you are kind of left feeling like these problems are so huge. There's nothing I can do about it. And the whole final episode, I'm getting goosebumps thinking about it was so well done. Because it breaks it down. It says yes, this problem is huge. And each of us individually, maybe we can't change everything that's wrong. With society. We can't erase stigma overnight. We can't put crisis situation or crisis response teams into place. So that you know, police aren't in the position of having to respond to everything. We can't make all that happen immediately as one person but there are grassroots changes that we can make. Grass spreads and then it permeates and that was so inspiring to me. Yeah, it's Adam Conover. He's hilarious, but he's also freaking real. And I love Barack Obama. He's making literally making a peanut butter and jam sandwich and the most real talk and the last episode. And so that's what I'm doing. Can I make monster changes? Can I push through all the news, psychedelic research to hurry that along to see if it's gonna be the thing we hope it is? Maybe it's not? We don't know. We're still trying to get the research. Exactly. We have to try and figure it out. Can we make small changes in the meantime, to make the day to day a little more bearable, and hopefully bring that suicide number down.

Paula McMillan-Perez:

I really want to thank Kristin and commend her for her honesty, sharing her journey with our community and putting the message out there for folks to really understand what's going on how they can support and what it feels like from the inside. So Kristen, shout out to you for Once again, please follow us on Instagram at why don't we talk about this pod and subscribe on Spotify, Apple podcasts and everywhere you get your podcasts until next time the why don't we talk about this podcast is for educational and entertainment purposes only, and it is not a replacement for psychotherapy or mental health care. It is hosted by me Paula Macmillan Perez, and is produced by Fonzie. Try media