I want to die

I typed that into the search box tonight. Google must have someone making this page of results very valuable. It’s the most clear-cut, useful results page I’ve ever seen. 

First of all, there is a phone number to call. I wouldn’t call it. Of course I’m ok: I’m in a good marriage, I live in a great house on a gorgeous farm, I have two bright boys, and very supportive siblings.

I am crying now. I’m too overwhelmed. Before you jump right to the comments section trying to help me, let me tell you that I’m traveling with the kids and I’ve been in Aspen for five days without my anxiety medicine. I will have the medicine again in two days.

I have friends I can always call. Melissa and Cassie will read this post and tell me I could have called them. But I wouldn’t know what to say to them. I guess I could say, “Help. I want to die.” I know I could say that because they have called me to say that. That’s how I know there are others of you, reading this, who have felt like I feel tonight.

When I found something to read online, I was so grateful. Can you want to die and also feel gratitude? I think it might be impossible. So maybe that’s why the way Google organized the search results really works.

I want to be a shining example for you but I can’t cope.

I want you to see that even though I had to live at my grandparents house because my parents hated me so much. Even though I did that, I am still a great parent. I want you to see that I’m not ruined and I’m not ruining another generation.

I want you to see that even though I told you to never have two blogs, I can still do it. But I can’t. I didn’t write for two weeks. But I keep writing both blogs because I need the support system. And now maybe I don’t even have that.

I want to die because I feel like I can’t do anything right.

I am not sure what could possible make me not want to die except that I can help people. I’m not sure what else there is. Which is crazy because I’m doing this course this week about using personality type for making relationships work. Most of these people are complaining about their spouses, (or, worse, they think they have perfect spouses and it’s so easy for me to see what they’ll be complaining about in the future) and I have so little patience. I want everyone to see that their relationship is fine because they are with someone who is just being themselves, trying their best.

Why do I think it’s fine for everyone else to try their best but it’s not enough for me? I read a letter in the Guardian from a guy who is angry at his wife because she won’t work. I understand why the guy is so upset—it’s scary to have to keep earning money.

It’s scary to me how expensive music lessons are. And how much money we spend every week in science and math tutors. I feel like a failure because I am not homeschooling like a free-and-easy, life-is-good parent. I am in overdrive.

I realize now I’m like all the other people in my course whose relationships are in trouble: doing the only thing I know how to do. I’m an ENTJ and I’m driven to meet goals and so I find the goals that drive my kids and then I don’t take my eye off the ball, no matter what.

I’m just being me. But I am failing at it right now.

I read a lot of forums tonight. So many depressed people are depressed because of their job. It’s so common to read studies about how love matters more than work. And how you are not your career. And that money doesn’t make a good life. But there is also research about how we can recover mentally from a lost limb better than we can recover from long-term unemployment.

Not having a job is very very very difficult. So many people on the forums wrote about that.

I have a job. I am so grateful that I have a job. This is my job. To write a blog post. To make a community that matters. So I am doing that tonight. And I have survived, to the end of this post, to tell you that when it comes to feeling like you want to die, life changes so fast.

If you can just get through those worst feelings, you will get to something better. I did. Right here.

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  1. Bob Dickenson
    Bob Dickenson says:

    OK. I’ve been reading you for several years. Also a “somewhere in here” not very social/Asbergers/Autism Spectrum/name-that-tune person. Also a trained psych guy but in the software biz for a LONG time.

    It sucks to be in this free-fall space where you seem to be right-this-moment. It REALLY sucks. BUT “this too shall pass”, as long as YOU let it do so. (OCD or similar is your real enemy here.) BUT if you hold onto the confusion of this moment as a blocking obstacle, it CANNOT pass. My simple advice is this: step outside….wherever you are physically this very moment, step outside. If on the farm (I’m a farm guy), go walk the corn rows (or soy rows). Feel the morning dew irritate your skin. Stop in awe at the occasional golden-orb spider laying his/her net between the plant rows. (I’m from Illinois, that’s what I would encounter anyway, your biome may vary).

    If you are in some “city”, find a new shop where you have never set foot…might be food/books/who-knows…someplace where you have never set foot. Be open to astonishment–be open to “really?”. Example: listen to Radiolab’s excellent and fascinating on MANY levels podcast titled (I think) “Better Than Bacon”…the title is an audience-grabber, but the physics inside is much deeper….I think you will like it.

    Above all, be encouraged. You are NOT alone.

    • Pearl Red Moon
      Pearl Red Moon says:

      love your advice Bob, and I can vouch it works. At times of despair it’s so comforting to ground ourselves in nature. Its such a blessing and a miracle to realise the insignificance of our suffering located in the enormity and beauty of the cosmos. We are stardust.

    • Abigail
      Abigail says:

      This is Abigail,
      Bob you cannot give advice to Penelope, Penelope gives advice to you. Please move on.

      • Bob Dickenson
        Bob Dickenson says:

        I have always listened to Penelope, even when I disagreed at some level. Why can I not give heartfelt advice to my parallel-traveler Penelope ? I do not know her personally (we have never met, but from her writings I know we are fellows on the same journey).

        Tell me exactly why you object to my offering to my fellow human being in pain. I’m interested in your answer.

        • Rebecca Stafford
          Rebecca Stafford says:

          Bob, Abigail’s comment has got nothing to do with you. Absolutely nothing. It’s easy to spot people who are brutally hard on themselves, they are hard on other people.
          The good news is that self- and other-brutality can be fixed with a little DIY neural re-wiring. I’m living proof.

          • Rebecca Stafford
            Rebecca Stafford says:

            P.S. Bob, you may find my HuffPost article useful. I demonstrate how bullies are psychophysiologically motivated to bully others.

            In other words, when ‘the bullied’ bully others, they experience a brief decrease in their elevated & harmful levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

            As chronic elevated cortisol levels impair the immune system, it is marginally less maladaptive to pass on the stress-baton by bullying others, than to bully yourself.


            The adaptive solution is to reduce stress levels overall so there is no need to choose between beating up yourself or beating up others.

            One of several ways of doing this is to override our fear of rejection, and to connect with others – of which Penelope is a shining example.

            We may be defective but it doesn’t matter. We are still worthy of love and connection. We always will be.

            And we are not alone.

      • MJ
        MJ says:

        Abigail – this is not your blog, and you don’t set the rules. Penelope invites responses and discussion and leaves the best, and the worst, up for others to see.

        Bob’s comment had some compassion and some value. Yours? No value, lots of bossing where you have no standing.

        • Rebecca Stafford
          Rebecca Stafford says:

          MJ, you are right but (and usually everything before the “but” is bull shyte, but not in this case) you are treating Abigail as badly as Abigail is treating Bob.

          As before, people who treat other people harshly, are even harsher on themselves. This means Abigail, it means you, and it means me. (Although I’m less brutal and more compassionate with myself these days: which makes it much easier for myself and others to be around me)

          And people are only hard on themselves for very sad reasons.

          Abigail is doing her/his best. You are doing your best. I’m doing my best. Penelope is doing her best.

          We are all doing the best we can – with the tools we have at the time.

          Often our best is average. Sometimes our best is a dazzling force of nature. Sometimes our best is absolute shyte. Its always our best.

          It about getting better tools – for others and ourselves.

          Best wishes to all of us
          (Even my abusive ex-husband. If he had better tools he wouldn’t have such pathologically low self-worth, nor be so reactive & dangerous)

        • Naimah
          Naimah says:

          Ok guys to step in a bit for Abigail, they’re letting you have it hun! I think those words were more so as a snap out of it for Penelope! We all think she’s our BFF in our heads so I think Abby (because we’re friends now too right?) was being sarcastic in a tongue and cheek way to actually call Penelope out to actually listen to this advice.
          Hey we all Love P and I’d personally find the farm and whoop your tail if you ever harmed yourself! Much love & light to you all!

    • Rebecca
      Rebecca says:

      Thanks, Bob. personally, I find your suggestions very helpful.

      And “Bigger than Bacon” – huge WOW factor! Especially the bit about … I won’t give the game away.

      But it reminds me of being a high-school exchange student. In July, I went from Sydney (Australia) to live in the mid-west of America. The first night I arrived, with my host-Dad threw a few shrimp on the barbie (as you do, if an Australian has just come to live with you!). We had dinner outdoors and as dusk fell, for the first time in my life, I saw fireflies. I’ll never forget the wonder of that moment. I don’t think of it often but the Radiolab podcast brought it to mind.

      Thank you. Sincerely.

  2. Terry Cooper
    Terry Cooper says:

    Penelope,thank you for your honesty. Thank you for holding onto hope. Thank you for your vulnerability. You are am inspiration to me.

  3. Kim
    Kim says:

    Penelope, put your hand on your heart. Feel its beat…you are enough, you are loved, you are beloved, you are worthy of connection and belonging…the world and all of humanity is united in its perfections, imperfections and vulnerabilities…it’s the imperfections that make us interesting, real. You are not alone…connect with your friends…sit with them in the mess. We love every blog you post b/c in doing so you reach an audience who is reminded that there is hope whether for their career, their relationship, their kids, themselves. Where there is life, there is hope…hope is oxygen. We love you. We need your work, your hope, you.

  4. Angela
    Angela says:

    As life always seems to be full of these coincidences your feelings and blog post sum up events going on in my own life and a tornado of feelings and life climaxes that have gone on this past week with several of my loved ones. Because I read your blog addictively from an unschooling mom perspective it has saved my mental sanity on more than one occasion. I just want you to know I am grateful to you and your sharing. You are most certainly a sanity touchstone in so many people’s chaotic lives and you are certainly entitled to let you self feel human once in awhile. Take good care.

  5. Susan Coppersmith
    Susan Coppersmith says:

    I happen to be in Aspen. If you want company, send me an email and I can come to where you are.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Susan it’s so nice of you to write from Aspen. I actually feel good just knowing there are people reading in Aspen.

      I am going to a music performance tonight. With my son. He will hold my hand while we watch and I will tell myself to not let him know that I really really need to hold his hand. I will hold like we are a normal mom and son holding hands in a concert.

      And I think I will be okay. But knowing you are near me is like having a Xanax in my purse that I never take — it’s just nice to know there’s a way out if things get bad.

      Thank you so much,

      • J.U.
        J.U. says:

        So true! I actually carry Xanax in my purse that I never [hardly ever] take. Just knowing it’s there can carry me through. xx

  6. Ashley
    Ashley says:

    I’m sorry for your pain, but this was beautiful and I think important for your online community to read.

    I used to live in Aspen. There’s a little hiking trail called Ute that is beautiful. You’re not acclimated to the altitude so it’ll be intense, but the view will be so worth it. And you’ll get the ‘high’ of the altitude ;) Please take advantage of the beauty of the place! I live somewhere that’s very brutally dry and I pray for rain everyday in the summer, so I would recommend basking in the simple fact that water is life. It always seems to humble me.

  7. Tom
    Tom says:

    Thanks for this post. I actually Googled “I want to die” a few days ago. It helped me just now to read this and know that another person — a high-achieving person — did the same as I did.

    And yes, it’s harder without a job. Because being at least a little useful to at least one person is a good-enough reason to stay here.

    Thanks for your fearless writing. It’s helped me for many years now.

  8. Emily ENTP
    Emily ENTP says:

    I’m currently in paris. my team week in Portugal ended, and now i’m traveling in europe. I dont have a return flight. I dont have a lease and my car is paid off, so as long as my daily expenses stay under $100 a day, i can stay in Europe as long as i want. I was sitting in my room the other night looking at the life i’m leading, and feeling so infinitely thankful for all the steps that lead me to here.

    You were a huge part of that. I am so grateful that I started reading your blog in high school, or college, I can’t remember you not being some role in my life. Your advice, encouragement, beratement, hiring/firing, and continually mentoring has helped me get to where i am today, arguably the happiest i think i’ve ever been in my career and life. I just wanted you to know how grateful I am for you, and that our paths have been as entwined as they are.

  9. jennifer lehr
    jennifer lehr says:

    i guess this post makes you one of the best bloggers out there. thank u. (when i’m very anxious, as in can’t handle it anxious, the one thing that seems to help me calm down for a moment is to try to listen for the furthest away sound that i can. just calms me down for a bit.) ox

  10. Mindy
    Mindy says:

    I live in Denver, however been to Aspen and surrounding mountains my entire 50+ years.
    While everything (beautiful, authentic, real) that you wrote is your Truth at your moment of writing….and it seems you have problem- solved your feelings of overwhelm, gratefully so…..Please be aware you may also be suffering from High Altitude Sickness.
    Dramamine, ( motion sickness medication) or even better…Ginger tea ( real ginger steeped in boiling water, a cinammon stick with a touch of honey) can help drastically. You may not be getting enough oxygen.
    Hope this both encouraging & helpful!

    I have taken your webinar you taught with MariaK.y You, and Your work are The Best!

  11. JAT
    JAT says:

    A few years ago, I began focusing on neurotransmitter-related symptoms and diseases. As you know, Aspergers, depression, anxiety, etc. all involve neurotransmitter imbalance of one kind or another. I ended up formulating a nutritional product designed to provide complete neurotransmitter support (I’ve been formulating for years). As far as I know, there’s nothing else even close to this available anywhere. This is not an advertising pitch. What I’d like to do is GIVE you some if you’d like to try it. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Let me know if you’d like more details…

  12. Mzmm
    Mzmm says:

    Sometimes life sucks ….and we feel that we do too. Thank u for ur transparency, humility and humanity… We all need to know that we are not alone in feeling overwhelmed and down and out. Wishin u peace and restoration…..

  13. KD
    KD says:

    The jolt of panic I just had reading your subject line is just like the one I get when my brother seems on the brink of suicide and sends me tormented emails. It passes, he’s ok now, but those emails will come again.

    I truly am glad that you are OK if indeed you were wanting to die for even a moment. It’s wonderful that you have an audience you are connected to who as readers can help you through your darkest days. I bet they would read your email even without such a heart-dropping subject line. Take care.

  14. Jodi
    Jodi says:

    I understand why that feeling can be difficult, the one where you are overwhelmed and want to give up. I feel that way sometimes too; usually about team dynamics I can’t navigate. But then I just fantasize about getting another job or changing my surroundings like moving. And sometimes I do those things. I worry that having my own business would make those feelings harder to get through. Then, how would I take that negative energy and make positive changes without destructing? When times get too tough what do you do when you can’t quit your job? You can’t always leave to build a new life somewhere else either. It’s hard to be a go-getter and a life-changer and be stuck. Especially when it’s a coping mechanism you which you rock. It’s one of my biggest challenges. “Sticking it” has got to be the hardest thing there is to get through. I can allow the feelings to come and just focus on avoiding self-destruction. Avoiding self-destructive actions is a good focus to have. Make a list of those and check off the ones you successfully avoid.

  15. JML
    JML says:

    I often get overwhelmed. I often want to die. This has gone on for as long as I can remember. And it just seems to get worse as I age. I get to the wanting to die place and I think, Really? Here again? This obviously will never end. I can’t handle the world. I don’t belong in the world. I have an incredibly mean voice that sings to me in twisted words at tormented times. Then I read Virginia Woolf’s suicide note. And I feel sad that David Foster Wallace never left a note, or at least it’s not published. And then I look up more notes. I read them and cry. I think I should go to the hospital. I google “what to do when suicidal”. The number comes up. I never call. I could never call. What would I say? I’m lucky. I have a job. I have a husband who loves me and forgives me. Children who drive me mad but whom I love with my whole soul. I call my husband. He comes home. He rubs my back until I fall asleep. And then I wake up and I’m ok. It takes days to pass. But I’m ok. And when it comes back, I try to remember that it passes. But there is always this fear that this time it won’t. That this time I’m done.

    Go home. Cut it short. Get your meds. Or someone to rub your back until you fall asleep.

    And think of your kids. You come from a shitty place. Your kids are already way better off than you were. Until you kill yourself. Nothing fucks a kid up more than having a mom who killed herself.

  16. Mark
    Mark says:

    Penelope – My brothers and I lost our mom when we were about the age of your sons and even though Mom had some coping problems and pain it makes me sad to think she is not here today. I suspect she might have had an undiagnosed Asperger’s condition (and that my inheritance is through Mom) and my biggest sorrow today with our relationship is that she is not here some thirty five years later because I know she would be the one person on the planet who would be next to me and accept, love and understand me just as I am regardless of my occasional “moments”. Your sons need you thirty five years from now. Please do not be too proud to find immediate help if you need it no matter how far from home. You are not as alone as you might feel. The pharmacy even has over the counter anxiety meds (AnxioCalm or similar) that might help take the edge off for a few days until you can get back home. Your sons know who you are and its ok to ask them to hold your hands because it helps you stay calm. I’m 51, a former Marine, and pretty bullet proof but holding hands works for me too when I get anxious. Please take care of yourself – life is beautiful and a one time opportunity. The sun will rise again for you. Stay strong. You are not alone.

  17. Jon Walman
    Jon Walman says:

    Hi Penelope. I’m sorry for the anngst you’re experiencing. I’m also going through some very difficult circumstances for years now but have found peace in the amazing grace we recieve through faith in Jesus Christ.
    1 Corinthians: 15. 10. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not found vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
    May God bless you during this troubling time.

  18. Jon Walman
    Jon Walman says:

    Hi Penelope. I’m sorry for the angst you’re experiencing. I’ve also been going through very difficult circumstances for years now but have found peace in the amazing grace we receive through faith in Jesus Christ.
    1 Corinthians: 15. 10. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not found vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
    May God bless you during this troubling time.

  19. Katt
    Katt says:

    I’m going to tell you something you already know. Anxiety and depression lie. They are lying liars who lie. They lie to everyone who struggles with them, but the lies they tell the wounded are the worse. If music or movement help, do that. If watching Netflix helps, do that. And get your meds. Your job, right now, is to take care of yourself as if you were one of your kids. Fiercely. Completely. Because nothing last forever Sweetie, not even pain. So even if you’ve walked this path before and even if you walk it again, it’s not forever. Only death is. Hold on tight to yourself, don’t let go. And go into crisis mode for awhile but today, fight for your life.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      So true! I have to tell myself they lie.

      I think it’s why this post has so little in it about my anxiety about which cello teacher my younger son will have, or if I will get my older son the right tutor for his SAT preparation. When I am depressed I’m positive that I’m ruining their lives, one to-do-list item at a time.

      The best skill I have is to put the worries in a box and tell myself to deal with them when I’m not depressed. Nothing looks as terrible as it does thorough depression. And I have learned through mistakes that trying to solve problems when I’m depressed is almost like texting while drunk: I have no idea what I’ll do because my mind is so not thinking straight.

      I know people will find themselves looking through this comment section for tools to help with their own depression. So thank you, everyone, for all your suggestions.

      I am just giving an up vote to this idea to telling yourself anxiety and depression lie. Even if you can’t get it out of your head, you can tell yourself it’s not true. It can be there and be untrue at the same time.

      Thanks, Katt.


  20. Anika
    Anika says:

    Thank you. I so love your blog…it’s one of only 2 that I read and yours os my favorite. So real. So honest. Thank you. Been here…where you are… more times than I can count.

  21. Lynne
    Lynne says:

    Oh, I so get it. Every. day. Some days more than others. Some days less than others. It’s not something I tell anyone (except my shrink when I see him every 6 – 9 months). That’s the stigma with depression or anxiety. One can’t walk around talking about how depressed or anxious they are. Nope. Not acceptable. Yet, I know enough that it is ok to say “I want to die” versus “I am going to kill myself” — unless I want to me ‘hauled away’. So I live this life, an actress, an executive depressive among executive non-depressives. A so called high-functioning depressive. The gal with the biggest brightest smile on the trade show floor who can’t wait to get back to her hotel room and shut IT all out.

    Yet, what knocks me down more than anything else by leaps and bounds miles – is experiencing the loss of love from my son (now 19) who is the light of my life. An only mother. An only child. A son who I love to the moon and back. This son, my best friend, my buddy.

    So, P, hold you son’s hand real tight tonight and say a prayer – be grateful for that moment, his hand in yours, his heart in yours. There is nothing like it.

  22. Mari
    Mari says:

    I’m sorry for what you’re going through, but thank you for sharing this and for your honesty. I’ve been having some of these same feelings lately as well. My anxiety medicine helps, but I’m feeling more stress than usual (I’ve been told there’s a possibility I could be getting laid off in a month). I just keep praying and try to have faith that God will help me in this situation. I hope things get better for you. I always love reading your articles so thank you for all that you do.

  23. Flynn
    Flynn says:

    My heart opened, and broke, and opened again as I read your blog.

    Especially when I read — “I want everyone to see that their relationship is fine because they are with someone who is just being themselves, trying their best.”

    The depth of your feeling for yourself and for others jumps off the screen, into my house, into my heart, into my head, and clearly, into the heart and head of so many others.

    There is so much power in your words. I think you must know that. All that has driven you to such great depths has gifted you with words which carry so many of us – and by sharing your words, I hope your veil of sadness and despair has lifted.

    Most of all, know that you have allowed me to see love, true love, for the first time. I have tormented myself for many years – marriage, divorce, reconnection with the same person. We keep coming back to each other and always hitting land mines. I kept saying “It’s him.” Maybe it is but now I realize it doesn’t matter at all.

    What matters is kindness, sharing feelings, and to keep in mind exactly what you wrote; I need to love him and celebrate him and enjoy him for being himself and giving me his best! We’ve wasted so much time striving for improvement when we already had the best!

    Tonight while you are listening to a concert and holding your son’s hand, please know that because of your angst and the sharing of your words, you have ignited a love between two people that has been otherwise lost.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    And remember that YOU are fine – as Mr. Rodgers would say, “I love you just the way you are.”

  24. Brandy
    Brandy says:

    Very odd to read this tonight,I was just thinking,how I made it to the end of this month and it would have been easier to just die,than deal with everything. I made it! Life sure gets tough sometimes and it’s so great when people let you know,they really do care, so sending you feel better soon wishes! Thank you for being honest, you made my night and a new month!

  25. Matthew
    Matthew says:

    I voice the thought I want to die almost every day. I stopped fighting it and just let it be there. Because the point is to find a place of welcoming all parts of myself, including parts that are so hurt they don’t see hope.

  26. Chris
    Chris says:

    Penelope, YOU wrote this:
    ” The more times you live through that feeling of being lost, the more faith you have that you’ll keep moving forward and come out fine.”

    I copied what you wrote and had it printed on card. I need the reminder that it is a matter of acceptance of feeling lost; of recognizing a recurring theme that is not fatal, despite the power of the emotion; and that faith in moving forward and coming out fine is what is called for.

  27. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    We need you. I need you. Life is tough. I have a good friend who says “Life aint for sissies”. From what I know of you from this blog, you are no sissie. But I get it. I have lied curled in a ball on my kitchen floor wanting to die, I have googled “I want to die”. And I have carried on, in some small way because I know there are others like me out there struggling, like you struggle. It makes me feel less alone. You help me. You touch me. We will get through this…
    Much much love to you/

  28. Barb
    Barb says:

    Penelope, you mean a lot to me and have given me more than you know through your honest, frank, thought-provoking take on the world. I am a homeschooler in large part because of you. Please push through this very difficult time.
    This is a short term “band aid” thought but I just listened to a speaker, Jane McGonigal, talk about the impact of video games on the brain and how they light up the centers that are inactive for depressed people. As a boost while you’re without your meds, perhaps a game could help…or at least pass the time until your concert. Outdoors is always great, but if that isn’t possible right now…just a 2 cent thought.
    Good luck. It is hard.

  29. Rebecca Stafford
    Rebecca Stafford says:

    Dear Penelope,
    You made it through without your Xanex.

    I belief I have acquired from both empirical research and clinical observation is that psychopharmaceuticals can’t help beyond tranquilizing.

    Yes, they can give you temporary relief from the agonizing pain (if they work at all), but they cannot cure the cause of the pain.

    Drugs are merely numbing the symptoms. They cannot grant you the self-awareness that’s on the other side of the pain. And you can only get to the other side by riding out the symptoms.

    Drugs are short term gain and long term pain. But they are so alluring because even small, but immediate rewards (and relief from pain is negative reinforcement) are more powerful motivators than even huge but distant rewards.

    (This is also why procrastination is so tough to beat – unless you understand the characteristics of highly motivating rewards.)

    Things that help you ride out the pain include reaching out for help – as you have done. In doing so, you reduce not only your own pain, but you let everyone else in pain know they are not alone.

    And for a profoundly social species such as humans, with our giant prefrontal cortex’s, realizing we are not alone in our loneliness, may be one of the most therapeutic realizations of all.

    One of my favorite pastimes is cornering academic clinical psychologists, and asking them if they could only teach their wannabe-clinical-psych-students one thing – what would it be?

    To date, they have all responded along the lines of wanting their students to have unconditional regard for their clients.

    This makes sense. Would you want to have a talk-therapist who was judging you?

    (I did have one of those once. I didn’t trust her. I also felt $140 a session wasn’t worth it when my family was happy to judge me for free).

    My conclusion is – why not cut out the middle-human? Why not give YOUR-SELF the unconditional regard? Think of the savings!

    Carl Rogers, with his client- or person-centered therapy, was an earl(ier) advocate for unconditional self-regard, whereas Dr. Brene Brown is the modern advocate. “Unconditional self-regard” is short hand for the psychological construct . The long hand is “a belief in your unconditional worthiness of love and belonging”.

    It’s ‘just’ a belief, but a belief in your unconditional worth is a REALLY useful belief.

    It means that even if you are failing – it doesn’t matter – you are still worthy of love. It reduces your anxiety when you feel you are failing. It means less devastation when you do fail. It means you bounce back more quickly from failure, and move on more quickly to a better quality of mistake.

    Being less afraid of failure makes it so much easier to succeed.

    There is no need to self-sabotage with procrastination. There is no need to reject people before they reject you.

    It means that even if you are rejected – even if your parents hate you and send you away – you didn’t deserve to be rejected.

    Penelope, you are not failing even though I understand that you feel like you are. But, fundamentally, even if you are failing, it doesn’t matter. You will always be dazzlingly perfect in your imperfections.

    People often struggle with the idea of applying unconditional self-regard, or self-compassion, but our children will model self-treatment on how their parents and caregivers treat themselves.

    So do you want to model beating yourself up for real or imagined failures? (Which is motivating – but in a really inhumane and worse – inefficient – way). Or do you want to model self-forgiveness and self-care in response to real or imagined failures? (Which – ask any behavioral psychologist – happens to be the most efficient way to overcome challenges)

    I assume that your exquisite honesty is helping many many people, but I know for sure that its helping me.

  30. Manu
    Manu says:

    Occasionally I read your blog, sometimes you make me laugh, you make me sad others, but I always find honest words from your experiences. I like it.Thank you Penelope, i will continue reading your blog.

    • Ashley
      Ashley says:

      Haha, can’t believe I forgot about this!
      Yes, go to the Apothecary in Aspen. Classy place.

    • Daniel Baskin
      Daniel Baskin says:

      I ctrl+F ‘ed for “weed” and “cannabis” to see if someone had mentioned this yet.

      +1 to trying weed while you’re there. The excuse “I don’t want to become a pothead” is an image problem, not a functioning problem.

  31. Stefani
    Stefani says:

    This might sound strange, but you were actually in a dream of mine the other night. We were just chatting like we knew each other, and I woke up wondering if I was supposed to pray for you. (That happens to me sometimes) But I must confess that I didn’t. I wish that I had. For what it’s worth, my husband and I will be praying for you. I’ll try not to get too ENFP on you, but we both read and enjoy your posts regularly, and feel like we know you – at least enough to pray for you, that is! If nothing else, I hope that is nice to hear… Be and feel blessed – truly. :)

  32. Barb
    Barb says:

    If I was nearby I’d give you a hug. Your parents didn’t hate you. They hated what they did to you and that they couldn’t stop themselves from hurting you. Maybe they weren’t sophisticated or self aware enough to understand that but the best thing for you was that you got out of their house.

    You are a perfectly imperfect person just leading your life the best you can (as we all are) so give yourself a bit of love and compassion today.

  33. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    That’s my nightmare, to be on the road someplace and have run out of my meds. I organize my life around not running out of meds.

    I’m sorry you hit a rough patch. I like how you wrote about it as part of your coping strategy.

    People who truly want to die just find a way to die. People who think they want to die but are really looking for a way not to die look up “I want to die” on Google.

    When I thought I wanted to die, I kept hoping that while I drove down the road a bridge abutment would just jump out in front of my car. Which meant I didn’t want to die, not really.

    You are one lucky woman: you have an entire blog readership who will try their best to offer you encouragement and comfort on a random Sunday night.

  34. Judy
    Judy says:

    A couple quick suggestions: Rescue Remedy (Five Flower is the same thing) is sold at most health food stores. It’s really helpful for stress and anxiety and works very quickly. Natural Calm magnesium powder is also helpful. EFT tapping is very beneficial (just Google it–I like tapping along with Brad Yates’ Youtube videos).

    I’m in Colorado too, so you have one more person nearby who cares about you. :-)

    Reading this blog and all of the comments today helped me, as I’ve been in sort of a funk, so thank you for that and for your honesty and transparency. You have some really wise and caring readers who have shared all sorts of helpful suggestions and encouragement.

    (((Sending hugs and blessings to you and everyone here.)))

  35. Stephenie
    Stephenie says:

    I’m sorry you are having a really bad day being a 2 hour drive from me, having a really bad day too. It was the kind of day that I couldn’t be around people. There was anxiety for me as well and I find it curious that we are struggling similarly. I wish I could help but I just shut off my phone to keep people from annoying me. If the air you are breathing is not filled with the smell of forest fire, as is mine, go out and breath it in deep. The air is thin up here in the Rockies and that can contribute to your anxiety when you are not acclimated. It is truly a potent effect and so don’t hesitate to get some oxygen supplement if you can. Emergency room if you must. They are used to it in Aspen.

  36. Chris Yeh
    Chris Yeh says:

    Writing is a miraculous form of alchemy. It can transform the dross and drang of our painfully absurd lives into meaning and inspiration. I’m glad you were able to do that tonight. But please, please, please remember to take your medication with you when you travel! If you ever need it, you have my phone number.

  37. jessica
    jessica says:

    All I could think was, ‘Go Home.’ And then I realised, you are home. Maybe not physically at the farm right now, but I think holding your kids’ hand very tightly is a simple way to put yourself back in your mode.
    Probably also a sign, to go to your physical home soon to re-energize. It’s really as simple as that. Overthinking the situation. You are human, and you have been traveling non-stop. Good luck and feel better.

  38. mary ann
    mary ann says:

    When I feel stressed, I get my walking shoes on, grab my poles and off I go. I walk through the countryside and soak in the beauty of nature, the silence and feel that everything will be alright.
    Take care of yourself. You are loved by many. Big hug.

  39. MBL
    MBL says:

    Earlier I finished http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/12/the-silicon-valley-suicides/413140/ and figured I would have an opportunity to post about it on your education blog. But here will do nicely. The most salient part is the potentially tragic outcome of thinking “I can, therefore I must.”

    “One of the two major causes of distress, Luthar found, was the “pressure to excel at multiple academic and extracurricular pursuits.” In one study, for example, kids were asked to choose and rank their parents’ top five values, from a list of 10. Half of the values were related to achievement (“attend a good college,” “make a lot of money,” “excel academically”), and the other half to well-being and personal character (“are honest,” “are kind to others,” “are generally happy with yourself and your life”). When the kids chose a greater number of achievement-related goals, that usually correlated with personal troubles, Luthar said.

    The kids were also asked how much they identified with sentences such as “The fewer mistakes I make, the more people will like me” and “If someone does a task at work/school better than I, then I feel like I failed the whole task.” From their answers, Luthar constructed a profile of elite American adolescents whose self-worth is tied to their achievements and who see themselves as catastrophically flawed if they don’t meet the highest standards of success. Because a certain kind of success seems well within reach, they feel they have to attain it at all costs—a phenomenon she refers to as “I can, therefore I must.” Middle-class kids, she told me, generally do not live with the expectation that they should go to Stanford or earn $200,000 a year. “If I’ve never been to the moon,” she said of middle-class families, “why would I expect my kids to go there?” The yardstick for the children of the meritocratic elite is different, and it can intimidate as much as it can empower.”

    • Jennifa
      Jennifa says:

      I clicked the link but then didn’t feel like reading the whole thing; so I am happy you summarized it so well here. -Good stuff.

      • MBL
        MBL says:

        Jennifa, it is a really long article for sure. I started the print copy at the library and checked it out so I could finish it. The whole thing is excellent if you get a chance to read it, though.

        Another thing that jumped out regarding discussions on PT’s education blog related to the lack of agency that teens (and children and adults for that matter) feel.

        “Since Levine wrote The Price of Privilege, she’s watched the stress in the Bay Area and in affluent communities all over the country become more pervasive and more acute. What disturbs her most is that the teenagers she sees no longer rebel. A decade ago, she used to referee family fights in her office, she told me, where the teens would tell their parents, “This is bad for me! I’m not doing this.” Now, she reports, the teenagers have no sense of agency. They still complain bitterly about all the same things, but they feel they have no choice. Many have also fallen prey to what Levine calls a “mass delusion” that there is but one path to a successful life, and that it is very narrow. Adolescents no longer typically identify parents or peers as the greatest source of their stress, Levine says. They point to school. But that itself may suggest a submission of sorts—the unquestioned adoption of parental norms.”

        I think it is important to remember that “the unquestioned adoption of parental norms.” can apply to parents as well as children/teens. Which segues into my my (later in the comment section) recommendation of Will I Ever Be Good Enough.

        Penelope, it saddens me to see you stressing over things like SAT prep and the BEST tutors and the BEST teachers. Your posts have helped so many of us escape from that trap. Do you ever take the time to re-read your own work? It is a great way to see your own growth or to see where any backsliding may have occurred.

        I’m so glad to see your more optimistic voice in the comments. Truly.

  40. MBL
    MBL says:

    Whenever I think “I want to die” I realize that it isn’t true. What I really mean is, in that moment, “I don’t want to live.”

    Big difference.

    Life saving difference.

  41. Maureen Barker
    Maureen Barker says:

    Penelope hang in there… Cold turkey off an anti-depressant is making you feel like you are… Don’t trust that feeling. You are loved more than you can ever imagine – that I know for sure. Praying for you to feel better soon ??

  42. Robyn
    Robyn says:

    I was not expecting that. I’m so sorry for the pain you’re in. I can’t give you any advice sadly. I can’t relate despite suffering some childhood trauma myself. Im not an ENTJ. I’m an ESTP. But I am a fellow traveler and I know what its like to compare myself to those around me who appear to be uber successful and I know how it feels to be falling short of the cut. And when I catch myself in that space I stop comparing myself and remind myself that I’m not them, I’m nothing like them and they are nothing like me. I’m unique. I make my own decisions, I walk my own path I lead my children where I think they should go and my life is okay. In fact it’s more than okay. It’s perfect. Perfectly mine. Hang in there Penelope. You are helping many and you are needed. I have no doubt you are loved and adored. And you are unique. X

  43. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    I read the Guardian husband letter too, a while back when a friend shared it on facebook. I thought the husband/author reeked of fear that had turned to anger. In response to my friend on fb, I posted your article ‘Open letter to the guy who refuses to be the sole breadwinner’ for an opposing perspective.

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