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What are your core beliefs?

by | 07/22/2014 | 4 comments

I’m pretty sure it’s no secret that I’m constantly pulled in 22 different directions all at once. I work on LTT pretty much every moment that I’m breathing, but I also have a part-time office job and photograph other things (like weddings, headshots, and events) to make ends meet. I try to keep on top of everything, but there aren’t enough hours in a day, and some things suffer.

One of them is this blog. I do make major news updates as often as I can, but I want the blog to be more than that. Because I have a tough time writing and/or actually finding the time to write, I’ve invited some folks to write guest posts. If you’re reading this and you’re so compelled, you’re also invited to send me a pitch (des@www.livethroughthis.org). I don’t know how often this will happen, or even if it will last, but let’s look at it as an experiment.

The first guest post on the ol’ LTT blog comes to you from Melodee Jarvis, who is a genius. She works in the suicide prevention field, and she brings her experiences to the table when she does so. Recently, she started a blog called 52 Core Beliefs, of which I’m a big fan (I even try to meme-ify some of them for sharing purposes when I can—see images below, and don’t forget: SHARING IS CARING).

Here she is to tell you about it.


I’m Melodee, a person who is passionate about recovery and healing. I have lived through several suicidal crisis periods, and have survived attempting suicide. My suicidal crises came about as a result of despair, isolation, and grief. I have survived trauma, both in an external fashion and internally as I’ve tried to make sense of what I’ve experienced.

In the beginning, I didn’t know what to believe about my experiences. I knew, however, that I wanted to help other people, to be of service to others that are struggling. Yet at first I thought that because I was so “sick,” I couldn’t really help others. I figured I had to get well first, and only then could I help anyone else.

Generally, it’s not bad advice to try to get well before trying to be a support person. But I’ve discovered, time and time again, that helping others is precisely what makes me well. The number one way I know how to heal myself is to sit with others who are seeking healing.

Not long after my suicidal crisis, I started volunteering at a suicide crisis line. And eventually, I was running the crisis line program. I moved on to do other work on suicide prevention projects, like running a support group for people who have been suicidal, and helping to start a new speakers’ bureau of suicide attempt survivors. I loved all this work, especially in introducing to others the mental health recovery values that have helped me.

But despite my satisfaction with my work, a few months ago, I found myself losing hope and slipping back into despair. I couldn’t understand what was happening — I was giving back, wasn’t I? I was helping others, so why was I struggling again?

I needed to remind myself of my values, and what beliefs I have about wellness and recovery. So I started to post these reminders on Facebook and Twitter, and called them my “core beliefs.”

My first core belief is, “Everyone is really just trying their best.” I had to recognize that I was trying my best, and that recovery is not a linear process. I was trying to let go of the self-judgment and shame I felt about being in crisis again.

I originally thought I would just do ten or so of these and get bored, but somehow, I couldn’t stop. I ended up writing 52 core beliefs. As I grew stronger, my core beliefs became more emphatic. I became more aware that I was writing these not just for me, but for anyone who may be struggling. I was giving back in a way that I hadn’t before.

My third core belief is, “Authenticity.” Years ago, I kept my lived experience of mental health challenges and suicide quiet. I wanted to keep myself and my struggles out of the equation when helping others. If I told anyone about my life at all, it was always constructed so the darker periods were all “in the past” and now I’m “well enough” to do the work I do.

But these days I see things differently. I believe that there is great power in peer support, in acknowledging not just your past struggles but your current ones. I believe that the reason I could write these core beliefs was because I have been there, and am currently there.

After I finished writing all 52 core beliefs, I started a blog at 52corebeliefs.com. Here, I write about each core belief, and what they mean for me and my recovery. I try to stay away from “it gets better” cliches and just write honestly. Because honestly, recovery is hard work. Surviving the daily traumas that life brings is a challenge.

But I am up for that challenge. And whoever is reading this, I think you are, too. My last core belief is, “Everyone ought to come up with their own set of core beliefs, because you are the number one expert on yourself. Not your family, or your friends, or your various paid professionals. And certainly not me.” Find out what you believe in, and decide for yourself how you can get well. And you never know — you could end up helping others along the way.

Melodee Jarvis is a blogger and attempt survivor living in Oakland, CA. Melodee works as the program manager of the San Francisco Mental Health Peer-Run Warm Line at the Mental Health Association of San Francisco. Melodee’s previously worked at San Francisco Suicide Prevention, where she managed the training for crisis line volunteers and staff. Melodee is currently a candidate for an MA in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Community Mental Health at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

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4 Comments

  1. KY

    From my experience with a person who you’ve interviewed on for your site, it is doing more harm than good. You have no qualifications as a mental health expert. You should stop this site.

    Reply
    • Felicidad Garcia

      KY, I disagree about removing the site being the answer. If you know someone who’s participated in the project and wants their story taken down because their situation has changed, Des will do that. You know, sometimes people share their stories and it’s a catharsis. Other times, it triggers them to face things they haven’t yet, and that can be hard (though hopefully, also useful). Again, if you know someone who has had negative feedback since having their story put up (which can happen sometimes due to the very stigma this project is working to eradicate), please have them reach out. I don’t believe you have to be a mental health expert to help people. Des can probably connect this person with a resource than can help them. As Des’s partner, I have met the majority of the people in this project. They are people and we care about them. They’re not just stories.

      Reply
    • Dese'Rae Stage

      Hi KY,

      You’re right: I’m not a mental health expert (nor do I claim to be). That said, only 10% of mental health experts in the US are competent to deal with suicidal patients, so I’m in as good a position as anyone to talk about these things safely and provide good resources when necessary, both of which I do. Further, I think we’re ALL in a good position to talk about these things. We can and we should. It’s not worth it to leave it up to the experts, because there aren’t enough to go around. We should ALL be (or become) the experts, as much as we can.

      I love this project and every person brave enough to share their story with me. The thing is, the only person who can know whether sharing their story is a safe thing to do is the person with the story. Your friend made a decision to share, and had time to consider the ramifications of that. Sometimes it triggers something else inside, and that’s not something we can foresee. But I’m guessing that if they’re still struggling, it has very little to do with LTT—I still struggle, myself, and so do many of the others who have taken part. If it does have to do with LTT, I’d like to think that that person would come to me. I am always open for further discussion and happy to help in any way I possibly can.

      What doesn’t help, though, is mean-spirited anonymous comments that leave no room for a solution to be found. Someone you love is struggling, and maybe you’re pissed off, tired of, and resentful of that, but how does this help? It doesn’t. Not even a little bit. You’re out there in the ether and may or may not be reading, while a person we both care about is in pain. If you do see this, please let your friend know that they can come to me if they need/want to.

      Reply
  2. Amelia

    Well, isn’t that loaded with incredible knowledge and um bias? And, Dese’Rae is very thoughtful with her interviews of participating and willing adults. These adults who admittedly share their stories, their struggles and their recovery on-going. Dese’Rae is facilitating a peer opportunity to be heard, to be listened to and to ultimately share this person’s life with others who may also benefit from knowing they are never alone. To whom this person you are vaguely referring to I hope they do seek professional supports if needed but also I hope they reach out to Dese’Rae to have a conversation about how their LTT interview and photography session affected them.

    You, anonymous commenter, have no first hand knowledge of what a mental health expert should or should not know if you think that is what LTT is about. You, anonymous commenter, KY, cannot speak on someone else’s behalf tlbecause ultimately you do not know what they need. They do and they can speak for themselves, I’d encourage you to share the same with them if you do care. LTT and Dese’Rae are leading this important topic out of taboo and stigmatized shadows on a national level.

    Reply

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