A Holistic Guide to Wellness For a New You in a New Year

A Holistic Guide to Wellness For a New You in a New Year

Darian Elmendorf

At the beginning of the year, I attended a “2020 Vision” workshop. A group of individuals gathered together for dinner and discussed our current situation, where we wanted to be by the end of 2020, and what goals we wanted to set for ourselves to reach that better version of ourselves. We listed out accomplishments and failures from last year and set goals we wanted to accomplish by the end of the new year. I took a look at that list recently and realized that I didn’t accomplish anything I originally planned to. This had nothing to do with lack of motivation or even the pandemic–it was because the goals I set couldn’t keep me engaged. They lacked specificity to the things that really mattered in my life. They lacked context and they were unrealistically manifested from the motivation I felt from hearing the stories of the other workshop members (most who were older and more experienced than I was).

At the time of the first lockdown in March, I was working with the State of Delaware as a Peer Support Specialist and with the University of Delaware. The shift to working from home triggered a lot of new emotions and feelings, but I was thankful that I still had a job and I was motivated to work hard. Every day I would wake up at 9 am and go straight to work until about 9 or 10pm, only taking breaks to get some exercise, eat, and shower. In my head I was thinking “everything is shut down, so I might as well just work”. I soon realized the hard way that I was neglecting the one thing that needed my attention the most: my health and wellness. After a few months of non-stop work, I was burnt out. My body was tired and stiff, my mind was foggy, I was easily irritated, and I was living paycheck to paycheck, which just made me feel like my work was all for nothing. I couldn’t focus and actually enjoy the work the way I had before. I decided, finally, to take a break and figure out what was going on. As a Peer Specialist, my role is to advocate for the wellness of my peers, and at the time, I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching. I started to browse through some resources that were created by other peer advocates and use them to take a look at my own life. The result of these actions changed the way I approach goal setting, wellness, and my work in Peer Support forever.

One resource that I would recommend to everyone, and I do mean everyone, is The Eight Dimensions of Wellness by Peggy Swarbrick and Jay Yudof. This resource helped me understand which aspects of my life were causing me stress and gave me the direction I needed to set realistic goals that would improve my own health and wellness. I firmly believe it is a necessity that all young people set a strong foundation in each of the dimensions of wellness to improve their quality of life and prepare for any challenges they might face. In this two-part blog entry, I want to break down each of these dimensions, share some of my personal thoughts, and provide actionable steps to set goals and form healthier habits. For Part One, I will focus on the four internally- or individually-focused dimensions that Swarbrick and Yudof cover, and in Part Two I will share my thoughts on the remaining externally-focused ones.

Physical Wellness – Activity, diet & nutrition, and sleep

There are thousands of scientific studies which show that the quality of exercise, nutrition, and sleep we get is greatly impactful on our stress levels and other aspects of daily wellbeing. We are surrounded by distractions and we constantly trick ourselves into giving up healthier activities for the “easy way out.” I could talk about this topic for hours and discuss all the things that work for me, but I encourage you to build habits that are enjoyable to you and fit with your lifestyle. Educating yourself about all the benefits of nutrition, how to get healthy amounts of exercise, and how to improve the quality of your sleep is necessary for managing stress and leading a balanced life. These factors also play a major role in battling mental health challenges. I personally use a mix of YouTube videos, podcasts, and books to get information about these three subjects (some of my favorite experts are Andrew Huberman, David Goggins, Dave Asprey, Pavel Tsatsouline, and Aubrey Marcus) and, the more I learn, the more I realize they are all closely connected and work better when practiced simultaneously. I will tell you from personal experience that having a consistent routine that addresses each of these three subjects daily will greatly improve your mood, energy, focus, and ability to think clearly and work more efficiently.

Emotional Wellness – Developing control over how you feel in your everyday life to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and others

When we feel good, we love to experience and share these feelings with whoever we can, but it’s often not the same when we feel bad. If you do not allow yourself to feel and be vulnerable when you aren’t feeling well, then you will have a much harder time engaging in the process of managing your emotions. To develop emotional clarity, I recommend making it a goal to take note of who or what triggers negative emotions in your life. I like to set daily goals as feelings I want to experience and think about what activities I need to do and what level of energy I need to bring to reach my goal by the end of the day. Expressing both positive and negative emotions  is an important habit for building emotional wellness. People who genuinely care about you will want you to be honest with them about how you are feeling. Many times we try to keep our feelings bottled from fear that they will have a negative effect on others or how others may perceive us. This does not hold true when communicating with people who want to see you thrive and discussing your difficult feelings with them is not a sign of weakness.

Intellectual Wellness – Learning your creative abilities and expanding your pursuit of knowledge and skill

Throughout life we all make important decisions about what we want to learn in life and how we can best absorb the information, but how many of us are asking why? If you believe that being smart will help you become wealthy then you need to dig deeper and learn about things that you actually know you will love to do. Otherwise, you’ll spend a tremendous amount of time and energy dedicating your life’s work towards a profession that doesn’t make you happy. We need to focus on learning skills that allow us to push our creative abilities and satisfy our personal urge to acquire new information. We live in an information age, where everything is competing for your attention. If you don’t have a clear picture of what you want to learn and how it can bring value in your life then you might end up feeding your head with useless knowledge. The intersection between creativity and expertise is where the real magic happens. When the experience of learning raises curiosity, brings joy, and creates satisfaction in an individual’s life they become exceptional in what they do and fall in love with every minute of the process. I always say the most important thing you can study is yourself. Learn about YOU, learn about things that make you happy and allow you to grow personally and professionally. Pretty soon the acquisition of knowledge will feel natural and authentic to yourself because you start to learn for yourself and not for anyone or anything else. For me, this means learning everything I can about things I know would keep me healthy, focused, and performing well with my professional endeavors. I enjoy learning about peer support, finance, nutrition & exercise, business, and music. These subjects are important to my wellness, they allow me to improve performance in my work, and they help express myself creatively all at the same time.

Spiritual Wellness – Understanding your purpose and creating your own meaning of life

For me, this is the most important dimension in the whole list. Growing up, I constantly felt like my life lacked purpose and meaning. The pressure I put on myself to figure my life out was wearing down my outlook. I didn’t have any faith or gratitude, and this soon led me to feel like there was nothing to live for. This hopelessness was at the core of my depression and it created a deep resentment for the world inside of me. This sort of feeling is why “Purpose” is one of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s four pillars of recovery. Everyone needs something in their life that helps them understand their place in the world. Whether it’s family, religion, fulfilling work, school, nature, or other daily activities that help someone find their place in the world, everyone needs something that sets their soul on fire and drives their creativity and energy. Being spiritual doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be religious or meditate all the time. Instead, it is the feeling we receive when we connect with something greater than ourselves, and develop a strong set of values, principles, and beliefs that bring meaning into our lives and guide our everyday actions. I recommend thinking deeply about these subjects and writing them down somewhere that you can easily see them and remember to practice them in your everyday life.

I consider these four dimensions to be internal, because practicing them will directly promote your health and your ability to build self-worth and personal satisfaction. There’s a well known expression that you can’t save the world unless you save yourself first. It may sound cliché, but it’s very true and very important if you want to lead a life or practice a profession that involves leading or supporting others. By focussing on these dimensions of wellness, you will set a strong foundation for yourself and will soon have the ability to serve as a role model for others who want to feel happy, healthy, and inspired by how they choose to spend their time and energy.

Christmas Magic



Christmas Magic and A Boy Named Dylan

Chris Locke

Last week, Christmas Magic came to Sean’s House via a 5th grader from St. John the Beloved named Dylan.

Dylan had an idea this Christmas season, he wanted to be a Santa to someone this year. He wanted to show his generosity just like Santa does to all the little children around the world. Dylan decided that he wanted to be Santa to Sean’s House this year.

I had the pleasure and honor to greet Dylan at Sean’s House last Thursday. He was waiting there with his Mom, wearing his UD sweatshirt. He was a little nervous at first, as was I. As all of us are a little nervous, when you meet a new person for the first time.

But just like the story “T’was the Night Before Christmas”, I knew I had nothing to worry. Dylan had a twinkle in his eye and a smile so nice, I knew in a moment that the Magic of Christmas was all around us.

Dylan, like Santa, brought gifts to Sean’s House. Each of his gifts had a special meaning.

He brought a Christmas ornament of a basketball and a Santa hat to hang on our tree. It reminded me of Sean and his love of wearing Santa’s hat during the Christmas season. The ornament will always hang on Sean’s House tree, front and center because on the reverse side it says, “Dylan 2020”. Dylan also brought us a soap dispenser shaped in a basketball, so that we may clean our hands from the days hard work.

Dylan also gave us little candles with lights to put in the windows at Sean’s House, so that people can see the light and let the light help lead the way for people to get the help they need at Sean’s House.

Dylan donated $136.00 which represents the address at Sean’s House, 136 West Main Street. When I asked Dylan, how he raised this money. His response brought me to tears. He said, “I didn’t raise it, this is my Birthday money and I want you to have it to help people”.

Lastly, Dylan brought beautiful new comfy blankets that we can give to our guests. With each blanket, a handwritten note from Dylan, with a simple but eloquent message,

“You are Loved.”

THAT IS CHRISTMAS MAGIC!!!!

Christmas is all about love. God loved us so much that he gave us his only begotten son on Christmas morning.

2020 has been a very unusual year. Most of us are looking forward to seeing this year come to an end. I must admit, I was not feeling a lot of Christmas spirit this year. That is, until I met a boy named Dylan. This ten-year-old boy brought the magic of Christmas back to me this year. He represents all that is great about Christmas; Hope, Faith and Love.

This Christmas I hope each of you feel the warmth of the hugs of your family, like Dylan’s warm blankets. And always remember:

“YOU ARE LOVED.”

Merry Christmas and God Bless,

Chris Locke

SL24

SL24 Board Members


SL24 Board Members

Carl Georigi

Carl joined the board because he wanted to help erase the stigma of mental illness and start the process of saving lives by raising awareness, generating dialogue and finding solutions to all phases of mental illness, depression and suicide. He said “when Chris asked me to be on the board, it was an immediate yes!” Carl writes, “seeing the impact we are having on our youth, our schools, our sports teams and our community brings me light. The day we open Sean’s House will be the greatest day of all.”

Carl Georigi

Founder/CEO Platinum Dining Group
Cyndi McLaughlin

Cyndi works full-time as a Business Administrator in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at UD. She is a lifelong Delawarean who is passionate about mental health because her family has been personally affected by suicide. She writes that, “while national change is important prevention work, my goal was to become engaged with an organization making a significant and sustainable impact in Delaware. SL24 is making that impact.”

Cyndi McLaughlin

University of Delaware Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering Business Administer
Thomas J. Hanna “TJ”

TJ works primarily in commercial/industrial real estate but having known Chris Locke for many years, he jumped at the invitation to join SL24. TJ writes, “I am a father of three boys. I’m also a member of the Delaware Community. While deeply saddened by the circumstances surrounding the launch of the SL24, I’m inspired by the Locke family, and I am energized to help change lives in honor of Sean Locke.”

Thomas J. Hanna “TJ”

President of Harvey, Hanna, & Associates, Inc.
Kat Locke-Jones

Kat Locke is a Baltimore City Public School Model teacher who is lucky enough to spend her days teaching 7th grade English and Social Studies. The oldest of the Locke siblings. Kat writes, “I hope to make my little brother, Sean, proud by making sure his light continues to shine. I am passionate about supporting and assisting Delaware students.”

Kat Locke-Jones

Baltimore City Public School Teacher
Steve Wheat

Steve Wheat is the owner of High 5 Hospitality, owning and operating 11 restaurants in Delaware that include Buffalo Wild Wings, Stone Balloon, Limestone BBQ and Bourbon, and Eggspectations. With regards to his inspiration for joining the board, he writes “I have known the Locke family since 2005 and was honored to assist in the SL24 initiative. I got involved because I know our efforts can help bring awareness, break the stigma of depression, and ultimately save lives.”

Steve Wheat

Owner of High 5 Hospitality
Steven Hyde

Steve is the President of HFM Investment Advisors and chairman of the board of St. Mark’s high school. With regards to his motivation for joining the SL24 team, he writes, “I got involved with SL 24 through my friendship with Chris, but I have been involved in CYO sports for over 20 years so I was aware of the issues that young people face when it comes to depression. SL24 addresses a huge need in our society when it comes to our children.”

Steven Hyde

President of HFM Investment Advisors
Allison Short

Allison’s spends her time as a Registered Nurse in the Operating Room at Christiana Hospital. She joined the foundation because she was a close friend of Sean’s and was inspired to take action in his memory. She writes, “through the passing of my friend, Sean, I knew I wanted to do more to help others who may be struggling with their mental health. One of the many areas that bring me light regarding the foundation is seeing the impact SL24 school presentations have made on students in our community.”

Allison Short

Christiana Care Operating Room Nurse
William A. Bathon

William’s inspiration for being involved in SL24 occurred several years ago, when personal tragedy struck his family. He writes, “I witnessed first-hand how devastating suicide is to the surviving members of those that suffered. Mental illness is a growing medical issue that can affect those of all types. I believe that the strongest we can ever be, is when we are asking for help. The goal of SL24 speaks to opening up lines of communication and being an avenue of connection for those that are suffering. This is truly a special organization.”

William A. Bathon

Vice President of Bay Country Landscape
Emma Grey

Emma was asked to join the board in order to provide the mental health resources that a health care professional can contribute to the foundation. She writes that “what is most humbling about this experience is traveling to schools to speak with students and parents about my relationship with Sean and our time together throughout high school and college. Sharing his story has impacted so many young students in ways I never imagined. I look forward to continuing to share his story in the hopes that it reaches anyone looking for help or support.”

Emma Grey

Registered Nurse at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
Kevin Healy

Kevin’s motivation for joining the board was a personal one. He writes, “watching Sean grow up I assumed all was right in his world. Sean’s experience made me realize how important it is for those suffering with depression and/or other mental health issues, to feel safe about sharing what burdens them with family, friends and professionals.”

Kevin Healy

Attorney for Morris James LLP
Michele Whetzel

Michele spends her time engaged in improving the Delaware community. She is the President of the Fresh Start Scholarship Foundation, a business consultant with the Detwiler Group, and serves on the Delaware Public Integrity Commission and the Aster Wellness Foundation board. Her motivation for joining the board is that Chris Locke has been a close friend since high school. She writes, “my heart ached for him and his family when they lost Sean, and I was inspired by the way they chose to help others and serve the public in Sean’s memory. I have a lot of nonprofit board experience, so I chose to share my knowledge and skills with this very worthwhile endeavor.”

Michele Whetzel

President of Revise, LLC
Trevor Cooney

Trevor was a close friend of Sean and knowing him is what inspired him to be involved with the SL24 Foundation. Trevor writes, “it hurts to have known him and not realize what he was going through, and if it can happen to him it can happen to anyone. That’s why it is so important to get the right information out and to end the stigma that surrounds mental health. Everyone needs to know it is okay to have these thoughts and feelings and if you are struggling and need help please reach out for him, because it can save lives.”

Trevor Cooney

Director of Events and Programs BPG Sports at the 76ers Field House
Michael Igo

Michael is a Commercial Banker for WSFS Bank. He got involved in the SL24 Foundation to help carry on the legacy of Sean Locke, one of his dearest friends. He writes, “I am excited for Sean’s House to open at 136 West Main Street and to see the impact it has on the community. 136 West Main Street will forever be a reminder of our friendship and the many good times we enjoyed together in college.”

Michael Igo

Commercial Banker for WSFS Bank
Barnett Harris

Barnett is a third year at Georgetown Law. Barnett was inspired to get involved with the organization in part from playing with Sean on the UD Men’s Basketball team for three years. The other part came from when Sean’s dad explained the mission of the group to him. Barnett writes, “I was immediately drawn to get involved and help anyway I can. The idea of helping young people talk about a topic that is of such importance and can change their outlook on life is what brings me light with the work we are doing.”

Barnett Harris

Georgetown Law Student
Chris Locke

Chris Locke is a General Counsel/Sr.VP Lang Development Group “Sean was the least likely person you would expect to be suffering from depression. The tragedy of losing my son Sean, has shown me that mental illness and specifically depression is an indiscriminate disease. We must do everything possible to remove the stigma of mental illness by educating, assisting and supporting those with mental illness so people like Sean do not suffer in silence anymore.”

Chris Locke

General Counsel/Sr.VP Lang Development Group
Jeff Lang

Jeff Lang is a real estate developer working for Lang Development Group in Newark, Delaware. He was inspired to join the board because of his close relationship with the Locke family over the years. Jeff writes, “I was directly involved with Sean’s passing being at the site within hours of the event and have known Sean since he was a little boy. We shared many many great memories together and mourn his death like family, so I am motivated to help the SL24 cause in any way I can and look forward to helping others that are struggling with his same terrible disease.”

Jeff Lang

Real Estate Developer for Lang Development Group
Jack Markell

Jack Markell served as Delaware’s Governor from 2009-2017. Jack writes, “I’m inspired by how the Locke Family has been able to turn their own personal tragedy into something that’s so positive for others.”

Jack Markell

Delaware’s Governor 2009-2017
David Bowes

David is a political operative originally from Washington D.C., and a recent newcomer to Delaware. With regards to his motivation for joining the board, he writes, “I know that suicide is preventable, and I am passionate about fostering honest, open conversations to reduce the stigmas around mental health challenges in our culture. The simple fact is, it is okay not to be okay, but we have to make sure we are creating the space for people to be honest and get the help they need. We can and must do better, and SL24 is making a tremendous difference.”

David Bowes

Political Operator
Martha Cunningham

I presently am a Nurse Technology Instructor at St. Georges Technical High School. Martha has experience caring for young adults after failed suicide attempts. She writes, “I am proud to say that St. Georges is the first school to adopt the SL24 student group and is serving as a model for other schools.”

Martha Cunningham

Nurse Technology Instructor

How Did This Happen?



How Did This Happen?

Scott Day

**Trigger Warning**

This piece discusses suicide and suicidal ideation, and some people might find it disturbing. If you or someone you know is suicidal, please, contact your physician, go to your local ER, or call the suicide prevention hotline in your country. For the United States, the numbers are as follows:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), or message the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Both programs provide free, confidential support 24/7

How did that happen?

That’s a question that I’ve asked myself many times over the past two years or so. It’s a question that many people ask, but not many know the answer to.

To understand where that question stirs from, I’ll have to tell you a little bit about my story.

It was March of 2018; I was sitting on an Amtrak train heading back to be with my wife and three kids back in Richmond. I was three months into my job as the Assistant AD for PR and Communications at the University of Delaware after spending the previous 13+ years in the city of Richmond. For the first six months, I traveled back and forth on every open weekend to see my wife and kids, who were finishing up the school year before joining me in Delaware, the home state of both my wife and I.

As I sat on the train, I made a decision to open up and tell my story of what had happened to me over the past five years. A very small handful knew some of the struggles I had faced, but no one knew the depths of my battle with depression. So, I turned to what I had always done, I wrote out my feelings.

I won’t tell the whole story again, but if anyone is interested, here’s the full link.

I tell that background because that became my outlet to finally be open about what I had been through and still was facing. I was back home in my home state and I was facing an opportunity to reset my life in almost every facet.

Over the course of the next two-plus years, I became so much more mindful of my daily emotions and feelings. I became much more routine oriented. I put my health, both physical and mental, at the top of my priority list, alongside my faith.

One of those routines was a morning walk that I try to do 4-5 times a week starting at 5:30 and goes for about two hours. And that’s when the question comes up…. “How did that happen?”

You see, I grew up in the suburbs, my parents worked their tails off to provide for my two brothers and I, I was very involved at my church growing up, my daily struggles weren’t anything compared to some of what my teammates or classmates faced throughout my high school or college career. I went on to play college baseball and was always surrounded by friends and family. I married my high school sweetheart and at the age of 26 was the youngest Division I communications director in the country.

So I have found myself asking, how did that happen?

How did I end up sitting in a garage holding a rope and standing next to a ladder? How did I find myself staring off the bridge into the James River in Richmond? How did I end up there?

You see, depression and mental health affects EVERYONE. It doesn’t matter what color, gender, occupation, age, background or faith you are. It hits everyone. You know the old cliché saying of “you never know what someone’s going through”, that’s not cliché. It’s reality.

I’ve had so many people, former colleagues, close friends, and others, whom I spent a lot of time with say to me, “I had no idea you were going through that”. I’m a pretty open individual, I don’t hide my feelings or emotions well, but I did in my darkest moments. Imagine those individuals who aren’t comfortable being open with their thoughts and emotions, imagine how they feel. That’s why it’s so crucial to be REAL and show people you care through your actions, not just your words. Even if it’s not an in-depth conversation, maybe a friend just needs someone to be in the same room as them.

Each and every person who have struggled with their mental health journey has a different path and a different story. There’s no clear cut, concrete answer for every single person. There’s no answer on Wikipedia or Google. Hell, even Amazon doesn’t have a solution for this one. The only solution I know is the support of incredible doctors, family, friends and a faithful God.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have several days where I get upset with myself for not being tougher or not being stronger to avoid putting myself, my family and my friends what I put them through. But I also know that I was put through those struggles because it has allowed me to impact others in a way I couldn’t have even imagined.

For much of my career, I’ve dedicated my daily occupation to impacting the lives of thousands of student-athletes at four different institutions through my work in communications, whether that be social media or a website or telling their story to the media. That’s what I had focused everything on.

A month ago, that all changed when my job was eliminated at Delaware. So, I was faced with another challenge. And because of the support system that has surrounded me since I opened up with my story, I know that another chapter of my book is coming and it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

I don’t know what’s next just yet, but I do know that I will continue to use my story and my voice to be a mental health advocate.

Throughout my life, I had several people close to me succumb to their battle with mental health and depression. I’ve seen the pain that suicide has caused and is causing at an increasingly alarming rate, so my hope is that my story can try and help others from having to look back and answer the question, “How did that happen?”

Grief During The Holidays



Grief and the Holidays

Catherine Hogan

I am at the mall with my friend days before Halloween. Music tinkles through the speakers. “You guys are already playing Christmas music?” he asks one of the saleswomen. “Yes, well the store manager gave us a playlist and here it is. We’re surprised too!” she replied. I laughed, then paused. Thinking about the holidays used to make me so excited as a kid. The anticipation in the air as I looked forward to seeing my family, especially my favorite cousin, and opening gifts on the morning of Christmas Eve with the scent of pine trees in the air. There’s something magical about the holiday season, but when I lost my father freshman year of high school and my brother at the end of senior year, the season became more dreadful than anticipated.

When you lose someone, it is a form of trauma. In my favorite John Green novel Looking for Alaska, he states ““That is the fear: I have lost something important, and I cannot find it, and I need it. It is fear like if someone lost his glasses and went to the glasses store and they told him that the world had run out of glasses and he would just have to do without.” In this case, you have lost someone important to your life. I lost my two favorite people within a span of 4 years.

My family and I settled from a state of shock into a state of numbness during these losses. The holidays became the motions that we went through, something that normal and happy people around us celebrated but was turned into an old and tired routine for us. You never stop noticing the empty spot at the dinner table, or the quiet that fills the room where your loved one would have otherwise filled it. You think of things you want to tell him or her, like “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” and “I miss you and wish you were here to celebrate with me.”

I have been able to survive these difficult holidays with the support of family and friends. They make me feel supported and loved, and I never realized how strong they were until we faced these times together. Often, we take those we love for granted, but having my family and friends by my side has helped me tremendously.

I used to think that ringing in a new year meant leaving my father and brother further in the past, but I realized how much love there still is in my family. Talking to a therapist and psychiatrist have been helpful as well. There are always steps you can take to get closer to healing. People are always willing to listen to you. I love hearing stories about my brother and father during the holidays, because I have wonderful memories with them and talking about them allows me to keep them alive. I know now that my father and brother will forever be in my heart.

I’ve also realized that the love you have for those you have lost can carry you far. It drives you to be your best self, to carry on the memory that was left behind. You’re allowed to be sad during the holidays. I’m not saying that sadness and longing are prohibited. Of course, you will reminiscence about the past years when things were good, but you also must realize that things will still be good, now and in the future. You’re allowed to let yourself be happy, even if people in your life are missing. They would simply want you to be happy. Keep your friends and family close this holiday season. Remember that you are loved, and you are fortunate enough to always have your loved one in your heart and by your side.

Embrace The Journey

Embrace The Journey

Chris Ianni

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**Trigger Warning**

This piece discusses suicide and suicidal ideation, and some people might find it disturbing. If you or someone you know is suicidal, please, contact your physician, go to your local ER, or call the suicide prevention hotline in your country. For the United States, the numbers are as follows:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), or message the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Both programs provide free, confidential support 24/7.

  “Too Much” – a Drake song that always reminds me of Sean. “Don’t think about it too much” if only I could brush it off so easily…

Before I speak about my personal experience, I want to say thank you to both the Locke family and the boys of 136 for creating this platform and allowing me the opportunity to speak about my ongoing battle with my mental health. I was hesitant about writing this because, quite honestly, I don’t like drawing attention to myself; it enhances my anxiety. Nevertheless, sharing this is important to me. As scary as it is, I hope that writing this can help me heal. 

I went through a battle with Lymes Disease six years ago, one that affected me physically and emotionally. On top of the constant feeling of anxiety and wondering if I would ever feel better, I was slowly slipping into depression. I was too sick to do anything. I spent my days sleeping, trying to eat anything I could to keep from losing more weight, and hoping that one day I would simply wake up feeling normal.

 I missed so many things. It forced me to miss a semester of school, but I missed more than just my classes. I missed out on valuable time with my friends, and being isolated was the most challenging part. As years passed, I began to recover physically, but mentally I was falling into a sinking hole. I was frustrated, lost, and confused. I felt empty. I often wondered if my mind would ever rest. If this is how it was going to be forever, I didn’t want to do this. I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about how I felt because it didn’t seem fair to burden other people with my problems. 

The feeling of desolation became the norm. I simply just learned to live with it. I was never truly myself. I felt like I could never shake that permanent feeling of brain fog. Sure, I had days where my energy felt good, but at all times, I had a ticking time bomb in the back of my head of panic and anxiety, ready to explode at any moment. At times I didn’t even feel comfortable leaving the house; I was so content just being alone sleeping all day. It was where I felt safe. But it was only making things worse. I was stuck. I began thinking about ways to better myself. I saw a therapist, but to me, that wasn’t going to be enough. I started working out pretty regularly; it was my getaway, where I could clear my mind. It felt like a positive step because at least I was trying. 

Little did I know my biggest test was yet to come, moving across the country. I needed a fresh start; it was necessary for my growth. My family and almost all my friends were still back in Delaware. What if something happened? That fear always filled my thoughts. As more and more time passed, I felt like I still couldn’t get over that hump. The constant feeling of anxiety with the daily waves of depression were taking over my mind. I felt lost that I was just going through the motions of this meaningless life. I felt like I had nothing that I was simply just there. Dark thoughts of do I even belong here, mixed with does anybody even care? Where do I go from here? I knew I couldn’t live like this long term. It wasn’t sustainable. 

I’ve never been an expressive person, speaking on how I truly feel. I never felt comfortable doing so. I’ve been so used to holding in all these thoughts and emotions; it became the norm just to bottle them in. Being consumed by and suppressing my  thoughts was beginning to take over my everyday life. I felt like I wasn’t able to entirely focus on things that mattered most to me, and that genuinely hurt me.

That leads me to this very moment today. I had to sit down and do some self-reflection. Days filled with frustration, sadness, tears, sleepless nights, all of which felt uncontrollable. I can’t live like this. I know deep down inside of me that this energetic, caring kid wants the best for not only himself, but for others as well. I took some time to myself to contemplate what kind of man I aspire to be. How can I grow from this and become that person, but also be there and support others going through similar situations at the same time.

The truth of the matter is, I am still struggling this present day. I am still searching for the best ways to overcome this, but that’s ok. I am learning to embrace the journey. I am becoming deeply invested and committed to helping myself. I’m trying to focus my attention on things that will help me grow and be a better person for myself. Nothing is accomplished overnight. Success is a series of small victories. Do you live in the past on certain things which then allow them to dictate your future? Maybe I have been letting my emotions get the best of me. At times my mind wanders and I can’t help it.  All these years of built up anger and frustration inside me, I’ve been letting them control me. But it’s time I take control before things escalate further. We weren’t raised in a culture where it is okay to not be okay. But, you have to be willing to understand that you’re allowed to feel that way! You must live your truth. That includes not hiding if you are feeling a certain way and want to speak up. At first, nervousness and anxiety filled my brain as I thought about this change and entering upon a new journey to find peace.  This is all new and fresh to me, I truly have never just set the time aside for myself to work on self-love. As scared as I am, I’m incredibly excited to learn about my emotions and thoughts. I’m looking forward to embracing this feeling of uncertainty and getting to that place of being comfortable and content with my thoughts and emotions.

I read a quote the other day by Bob Dylan that stood out to me that said, “Destiny is a feeling that you know something about that nobody else does. The picture you have in your mind of what you’re about will come true.” It is ourselves who are in control of our own emotions. Be that person you want to be and start living by that. 

I want people to know my story not because I’m searching for sympathy, rather because I know we are all battling something. It’s ok to be frustrated. But to not be discouraged, but embrace the position you’re in, and trust the process. It will not happen overnight, but that’s the beauty of it. All this time, I’ve been so focused on the future, thinking there was this imaginary timetable when things might be better, that I entirely forgot what matters most, the NOW. I’m learning to live in the moment and trying not to look too far ahead, for I’m causing self induced anxiety over something that has not even occurred yet. I’m learning about different ways to help cope with these emotions. I understand this is a long process that requires daily work, but I’m happy about breaking out of my comfort zone. 

I’m beginning to focus on my true passions and other ways that ease my mind, such as cooking and running. What do YOU love to do? Find joy in things you genuinely enjoy doing. I encourage you to speak out, do not hesitate to express your thoughts or ask for help. Be free with your mind. Do not be defined by the bad days.

Family, friends, humans, we must be conscious of others’ emotions and feelings. We must listen diligently to each other. We must grow together. Most importantly, we must be patient. I want you to know that you indeed are never alone. I understand the pain, the frustration, that feeling of no worth. 

I want to hear your story. I want to talk to you. Whether we know each other or not, I want you to know that I care about you. Please reach out to me at any time to talk about how we will get through this together. There is so much beauty in this life, so much to be happy about. This is only the beginning. There is so much that has yet to be written. I look forward to speaking with you and embracing the journey together. 

If you want to talk, please do not hesitate to reach out to me via phone at 302-367-9967. I know how good it feels to just have somebody to talk to about anything. I promise you this is a judgement free zone. We are living in unprecedented times right now, I understand that feeling of being overwhelmed. Be patient. Listen to yourself. Remember, you are loved. You are incredibly important to me and the world, and I’m both excited yet grateful to ride along with you to find our inner peace.

Say ‘i love you.’



Say 'I love you.'

Allison Burns

Alli Burns & Tara Lauderdale, Brendan Lauderdale's mother, at the annual #BE4B run in honor of Brendan

As a junior in high school, every little thing that happens seems to matter… a lot. Who you sit with at lunch, what you wear and every little grade you get seem to rock your world almost to the point where something happening that really matters seems like it would be too much…that is until something does happen that really matters.

“Brendan is gone”

My first thought after hearing those words, standing in my high school

hallway, was ‘did he transfer?’ … ‘where did he go?’” That is when, at age 17,

I found out that a family friend of 10 years had just taken his life. Brendan was 18, a month away from graduation and ready to go to his senior prom. He was part of a big group of friends, on the football and swim team, had a great family and was an IB student. I was never the closest to Brendan, but from where I stood, his life looked pretty nice.

The truth of the matter, and what I came to realize that day, was that I really had no idea what Brendan was going through, and neither did really anyone else. The week between that day and the funeral were the biggest blur but had an incredibly lasting impact. For a while I was sad, and only sad. It didn’t feel right being happy but at a certain point, I knew I had to do more than just be sad. From that moment I started taking action in my life.

In memory of Brendan Lauderdale 11/29/99-5/2/18

What was I going to do about the future? To start with, I was going to study psychology. If there was something that I could do to one day feel like I was giving back, I knew I was going to do it. So, I came to the University of Delaware and started studying psychology, which was great, but I knew I wanted to do something more. In February, one day between classes, I got an email about a volunteer opportunity for psychology majors. I looked into it and filled out the google form for Sean’s House… whatever that was. I sat on a zoom call with Chris Locke, Sean’s dad, when he explained his story and his missions. I knew that this was as much as sign as I would get in my life, so I decided to take action on it. In my interview to become a Peer Support Specialist at Sean’s House, I was asked what lived experience I had, and I said, “I don’t know if this ‘counts,’ but I lost a friend to suicide and I just need to do something.” I took an unbelievable amount of comfort from hearing that it did ‘count’, and I could start making the difference that I was hoping to. 

What was I going to do about my own mental health? Take action and break the stigma. After Brendan passed, my parents asked me to go to see a psychologist. Although I did say I would go, I told myself, and everyone else, that it was “just because of Brendan”. The stigma I was so adamant about taking action against was the same stigma that I was falling right back into in not being okay with saying I needed help. Moving forward, I was taking ownership my own self-care because it was a good thing! I had no need to be ashamed of going to see a psychologist because I was doing what I needed to do for me; and what I wish I could get the people I love to do for themselves, as well.

What was I going to do about the people in my life? Say ‘I love you’. One of the things all the people in my life know about me is that I always say, ‘I love you’. To some people, they know why it is so important to me, and to some, it’s just kind of what I do. I hope one day, that can be part of the legacy I might leave behind.  Something that I struggle with often is thinking that I know. I know what people are thinking, I know what someone meant when they said that, or I know what someone is going through. The truth that I have found in my life is that you can’t really ever know what someone else is experiencing. I also can never know who needs to hear ‘I love you’. I find myself taking comfort in ‘I love you’ because the thing about ‘I love you’ is that there are no questions asked…it never hurts, and it is never too often.

I didn’t know Sean, but I am beyond thankful for Sean’s House and the Locke family for providing the platform we have here to make a difference. You are all the leading force towards eliminating the stigma and making real change in the lives of so many people. You give so many people hope and the opportunity to recognize their worth, and for that I am so thankful… I love you all.

Photo Credits: Rich Condit
Allison Burns

Allison Burns

Alli Burns is a sophomore at the University of Delaware and a member of the varsity Women’s Rowing team. As a psychology and human services double major, she is passionate about finding ways to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

How to Float

How to Float

Shannon Gibbons

 

I never met Sean, but every day I’m entrusted with handling photos of him, sharing in his stories, and walking through his house. Every day I get another piece of this larger-than-life person. I may not have ever met Sean, but I feel like I carry a part of him. I’m overwhelmed with emotion and compassion when I think about him because it feels like I’m looking in the mirror at myself.  

Last fall, to the outsider looking in, I was a girl who had everything she had ever worked for, a girl who had it all “together.”

Division 1 walk-on athlete. Straight A nursing student. Undergrad researcher. Presidential Scholarship recipient. Leader, tutor, friend… The list goes on.

Little did anyone around me know that if it wasn’t for that 5 AM alarm telling me to go to practice, I probably wouldn’t have gotten out of bed for the day. The emails to my professors saying that I had a “migraine” were cover-ups for days I spent in bed having a panic attack. Constant anxiety meant that my routine for leaving my dorm each day was ID, backpack, keys, and Xanax. Behind the straight A’s were tears in the bathroom at the Hockessin Starbucks and check-ins from my friend Maddie every twenty minutes. She knew I couldn’t focus. My brain was so heavy with fog. And Fridays? I spent them drowning in anxiety, terrified that I would have a panic attack at a race, that I wouldn’t be able to show up for my team. I couldn’t keep that perfect face on any longer. Trembling, I finally told my coaches that I needed a break. 

As the seasons change and fall comes back around again, I think back to that girl with tears in my eyes. She was working so hard to keep functioning, to keep up the act.

Behind the personal accolades and well-crafted resume, I struggled and still struggle every day with anxiety and depression. 

My accolades can’t protect me, but mental health care–both clinical and personal–has at least given me the tools I need to survive it.

I think of it in relation to the water.

I have been teaching swim lessons on and off for over three years, and when you teach a kid how to float, you teach them the basics in shallow water. You slowly practice with them in deeper and deeper water, with them barely noticing the change, but as the instructor you know that you are preparing them. You are teaching them to float in any depth of water life throws at them. Eventually, you let go.

This past June, I was working with a very timid kindergartener. She knew how to float in shallow water, but every time I’d try to let go of her in the deeper water she’d panic. After many failed attempts, I let her in on a little secret: The more you fight, the harder it’ll be. The first rule when you feel like you’re drowning is to relax. Don’t clench your muscles and panic, remember that you know how to float no matter how deep the water gets.

When the water is deep, when my anxiety and depression open the floor up beneath me and I feel like I’m drowning, the worst thing I can do is fight it. The more I fight it, the more energy I expend, and the faster I lose control. When the water gets deep, I have to remember that I know what to do. I won’t fight it; I will lean in knowing full well that I will float. It won’t overtake me. I’ll unclench my muscles and do what I know how to do until the help and relief arrives.

I have lists. I’m prepared. And when I start to feel like I’m drowning, when I’m edgy, can’t sleep, when the doubts start to get louder than the truth, and when it feels easier to just withdraw…

I’ll call Maddie and be honest. I won’t hide.

I’ll tell my designated people that I’m struggling, and I won’t fight them when they advocate and care for me, even if it doesn’t feel pleasant in the moment.

I’ll look over the note in my phone that says “things to do if things get dark.” I’ll cut my caffeine intake in half. Caffeine is not my friend at these times.

I’ll schedule counseling every week and sometimes even twice a week.

I’ll communicate what I need rather than assume people just know.

I’ll take my meds every day with no exceptions, even if it doesn’t feel like they’re working.

I’ll make sure I’m eating meals and snacks regularly.

I’ll write what I know is true, even if it doesn’t feel true. I’ll speak my truth into the dark.

I’ll look at my calendar and decide what I can take off my plate.

I’ll be self aware of my capacity by being protective of my “yes’”

I’ll set reminders to eat and try not to just consume a diet of Ben & Jerry’s “All Nighter.”

I’ll schedule an appointment with my psychiatrist. 

I’ll practice the coping skills I’ve learned even if they feel elementary.

I’ll talk to my sports psych, athletic trainers, and coaches without fear.

These are the things I know how to do. They aren’t easy, but they are doable. And I have to hold onto that.

They don’t ensure that things will get better in 24 hours, but they help me work through the deep stretches knowing the shallows are within reach and that I will survive. These things don’t come naturally to me, but I am learning them. I am choosing them in little ways, the best I can manage each day, and the positive effect on my mental health is adding up.

I wish I could give you a story of massive triumph. The reality is that I struggle, some days more than others. But I have tools, people, an emergency plan, and perspective. I am proud of the work I’ve put in when I set a clear boundary with my time, when I don’t ignore the rest day on my training calendar, when I intentionally schedule counseling into my calendar, and when I let a friend into my struggle. I may not have it all “together,” but I definitely know how to swim.

Friends, unclench your muscles. Remember my little secret. I know it is so, so hard, and I am so sorry for that. But know that you are seen and known even in the deepest, darkest of places. Even when the water would swallow you up. This won’t overtake you and it won’t define you. 

You are not alone.


  

 

Shannon Gibbons

Shannon Gibbons

Shannon is a nursing student with a concentration in entrepreneurship in health at the University of Delaware. She is a member of D1 Women's Rowing team. She serves as the Operations Assistant for SL24: UnLocke The Light. You can find Shannon at the local coffee shop drinking an extra hot flat white.

‘Ode to 136 Pt 5

1000 Nights in 136.

            Spending three years with Sean in 136 is the most cherished times that I will ever have, and that I will never forget.  The people, friendships, camaraderie, hangouts, and trials and tribulations made 136 the place that everyone knows it is.  It was the best place to live at the University of Delaware.  It was the place that everyone wanted to be any day of the week.  It was the place where friendship, bonding, joy, happiness, and comfort reached its peak.  But what truly took 136 to the mountain top over those 1000 nights is that it was the home for the best person that I have ever met, Sean Locke.

Everything Sean did––his conversations, jokes, mannerisms, dance moves, ideas, and just his presence––took good times at 136 and made them unforgettable great times.  He is the reason why 136 was the place to be any day of the week, the reason why people called 136 the best, and the reason why people will forever call 136 home.  Those who visited 136 one time, ten times, or a hundred times will tell you that they had a great time, they laughed, they danced, they met new people, and that they simply felt at home.

Sean’s light was the backbone to all it then, and it will continue on forever in Sean’s house.  He will continue to bring happiness, friendship, joy, laughter, and comfort to anyone who walks into Sean’s house for their first time or their 1001st time.

With love,

Kyle Lynch

‘Ode of 136 Pt 4

Dear 136,

The thought of trying to put into words how important, influential, and amazing my time was at 136 is not only daunting but seems nearly impossible. It feels as if there is no perfect way to capture all of the memories, time spent with friends, little conversations between classes, etc. that would do it justice. There are too many good times to recount. So, let me try and summarize it short and sweet up here, before I go into some more detail below:

136 – 1 house, 3 years, 6 new brothers.

The three years I spent in that house will undoubtedly be some of the greatest, most memorable times of my life, and the six roommates I had throughout that time will be my best friends for life – my brothers.

As Sean once wrote on the stairs of our house, “136 will always be home.” And while, yes, I felt an unbelievably close bond to the 6 others who lived in the house, it was by no means home to just us. Our doors were always open to any and all friends. It was rare to ever find the house occupied by only the 7 actual residents, and I know that many others hold 136 within a special place in their heart, as it was home to them too. Everyone knew you could stop by whenever, invited or unannounced, and stay for however long you wanted or needed. Behind this welcoming persona and the backbone of the house was, of course, Sean. As we know, people were drawn to hanging out with him. He was charismatic, caring, and, simply put, a fun person to be around. Sean would always be the one who would organize or invite our friends over and would always put others first. Sean took it upon himself to make sure that everyone that we were with was having a good time, and he’d do anything he possibly could to make sure that that was the case. No matter how bad a day you’d had or how stressed you may be about that upcoming exam, project, presentation, interview, or whatever else may be worrying you, Sean would always find time, no matter what he had going on in his life, to talk with you, joke with you, and simply help you forget about the stress. He had an uncanny ability to help you realize that nothing was ever really as big or important as it seemed in the moment, and he brought you back to reality and what was really, in the end, important: the fact that we were currently experiencing the best 4 years of our life, in the best house on campus, surrounded by our brothers and our best friends.

There are far too many great memories at 136 to go through them all. Some of the best nights that I can remember, though, were the more relaxed Summer nights, when the campus was empty and no other UD students were around. We’d spend these nights on the front or back porch with a close group of friends just reminiscing on old times, joking around, and creating new memories together. Or the nights that Sean would gather us all in the family room, make us wait up until midnight for the newest album from Drake to be released, and then subsequently have us listen to the album on repeat all night until 2AM. He would then repeatedly play that album throughout the upcoming weeks, non-stop, until we were almost tired of hearing it (the same could probably be said for Bieber albums as well). Or the countless games of Ping-Pong we’d play in the living room or Spikeball in the backyard. All of which, of course, got extremely competitive and probably resulted in a class or two getting skipped, or study time being forgone for “just one more game.” Of course, that one additional game would inevitably turn into a best of 7 series, and undoubtedly would end with some yelling and protests from the losers. But, looking back, I wouldn’t trade that time spent and those memories made for anything in the world. As a matter of fact, I wholeheartedly wish that I could have lost to Sean one more time in ping pong or Spikeball, or listened to “Views,” “Take Care” or “Love Yourself” just one more time while telling him he needed to find some new songs to play, or have shared just one more beer with him on the front porch of 136 – one more night, one more laugh, one more memory.

As I said above, Sean coined the term “136 will always be home.” But it is no longer just our home. It is incredible that we are opening it up to all of the students at the University of Delaware and is exactly in line with what Sean would want us to do. Although the doors were always open before, the ability and reach of “Sean’s House” is going to be so impactful on campus. I truly look forward to hearing more about all of the good it will do throughout our campus and the plethora of students that it will help. I could not think of a better way to carry on Sean’s light and spirit of inclusiveness and positivity. Sean used to take on the burden of shouldering all of our problems, always putting our feelings first, and helping all of us feel better all by himself. Now, “Sean’s House” will have an entire staff to take on this important challenge for our whole campus. I’m looking forward to the opening and for everyone to get to experience and understand why 136 truly is home!

-Hydie, 136 Family Member