So, I have gotten into Against Me! a whole lot lately since finding out about them through the lead singer’s announcement that they are trans, and the decision to pursue their transition. Laura Jane Grace, her new name, is an AMAZING woman, a total inspiration to all of us, and can rarely be found these days without a MASSIVE smile on her face. Anyway, the title is from their song “Stop!” which eventually got repurposed for the Rock the Vote campaign. I have, however, found another meaning in the song, and it’s not a hard one to find.
“Stop! Take some time to think! Figure out what’s important to you. You gotta make a serious decision.”
It’s the perfect song to listen to when you’re feeling depressed, and in particular, suicidal. Upbeat, a good driving rock song, and with a very clear message to deliver. It kicked off a chain of events in my (small) mind, which led me back to some advice a very close friend of mine, who is also a psychiatrist (not mine), gave me a while back when I was particularly down and suicidal. A common theme in my life then was making rash decisions at some particularly bad times to make such decisions. Her advice is a simple synonym for stop: Halt. Halt itself then becomes an acronym.
HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. You should never make any important decision when you are any of these things.
Hungry: It’s pretty self explanatory, but hunger has some pretty heavy effects on your body and your mind. When you’re hungry, you make rash decisions, usually because your body is now running on low power, and it wants to get everything out of the way so you can get to eating again. We’ve all seen the Snickers commercials: “You’re not you when you’re hungry,” goes the tag line. Well, sometimes you don’t just get crabby or tired or lack energy, but you can get depressed, too.
If you’re getting depressed or suicidal, eat something. If you’re completely broke and you have nothing in the house, beg/borrow/steal from your roommate, call a friend and beg them to buy you something. Sometimes just saying “I’m broke and hungry” isn’t enough. Tell them you’re flat out broke, and haven’t had anything to eat in X amount of time, and let them know that you’re not feeling well emotionally. Someone will help you out. Look at me, I’m a bitch all the time, and people still come to my rescue when I need them. 🙂
Angry: This, too, is pretty obvious. Anger makes us do a whole lot of stupid stuff, and, as one of my teachers once old me when I was little “Usually, by the time we’re done, we don’t even remember what we were angry about.” The point here is that being angry can cause us to do everything from slamming a door to breaking a possession to, sometimes, harming yourself and possibly ending your own life.
“Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will…” – Master Yoda
Lonely: This is my favorite, as apparently, I am its favorite (target). The vast majority of my depression results from extreme and abnormal senses of loneliness, the feeling that I am alone because of ME, some personal failing. “It’s Friday night and I’m home alone because nobody wants to hang out with me.” In my case, certainly, it was purely irrational. I could’ve had plans which got cancelled for reasons beyond my friends’ control, or have plans for tomorrow, or have hung out with people the day before. It never stopped me from feeling that way.
What I realized that I needed to do was to simply stop and think – HALT, if you will – and spend a moment realizing how silly that feeling was in the face of facts. I know, it’s not easy, but this is the basis of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. First, just start out with distracting yourself, thinking about something small and simple, and just describe it to yourself. After a while, you learn (with your therapist) to process your thoughts, and instead of analyzing some object, you analyze your feelings. When I did that with my feelings, I realized that one night without plans does not a hated Katie make – I am wanted and genuinely cared for, and I promise, you are too.
Tired: This is another of my common enemies. When I am tired, as with most of us, our ability to process things goes down the crapper. There’s a reason that sleep deprivation is considered a torture tactic and a serious health issue. For example, sleep apnea (when one stops breathing during their sleep) might well be bad enough in and of itself. To be sure, I had a very good online friend who suffered from a more severe case and did sadly pass away after stopping breathing one night. But if that doesn’t get you, the sleep deprivation will.
Even without prolonged exposure to a lack of sleep, being tired severely decreases your capacity for logic and critical thinking. At that point, our more primitive functions take over, which is why we are more prone to rash behavior, anger, and a whole host of other issues that can really put us in the danger zone. Literally, we become a danger to ourselves. Small issues become huge blowups and a minor problem can become a life threatening crisis. Get some sleep. If you need to, take a sedative, an Ambien, whatever will get you some sleep. Just avoid drugs and alcohol – both of these can create dramatic shifts in behavior and personality that could get you in deeper.
So remember, if you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and/or Tired, do us both a favor and HALT. Get something to eat or drink (water, milk, juice, something healthy!), take a chill pill, literally or figuratively, call a friend or hit someone up on chat, and get some sleep. I don’t care if you have to miss work or skip out on some obligation to do it – YOU are the most important thing here, and if you’re not well, how can you expect to care for others?
Take it from experience: Burning the candles at both ends is only going to lead to total burnout and losing everything. You can’t catch that home run ball and hold on to the soda and hot dog, so don’t even try. You’ll miss the ball, lose your food, and end up having to buy the guy in front of you a new T-shirt, making you out $20 to top it all off.