Episode 79: Suicide, An Honest Conversation (with Dese’Rae)
Episode 113: Stop Wasting Your Emotions on THESE People (with Dr. Jill
Questions for Reflection
In each episode, we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. You might pause the podcast and answer them right then and there, but if you keep a journal (Steph and Beth both do), feel free to download and print a PDF of the Questions for Reflection we've made just for you:
Landscape or Portrait
Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:06):
Where we share personal experiences so we can learn from each other. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:08):
And I'm Beth.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:09):
I've been in recovery for 16 years and am the author of Discovering My Scars, my memoir about what's done in the darkness eventually comes to light.
Beth Demme (00:16):
I'm a lawyer turned pastor who's all about self-awareness and emotional health because I know what it's like to have neither of those things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:23):
Beth and I have been friends for years, have gone through a recovery program together, and when I wanted to start a podcast, she was the only name that came to mind as co-host.
Beth Demme (00:29):
I didn't hesitate to say yes because I've learned a lot from sharing personal experiences with Steph over the years.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:34):
We value honest conversations. We hope you do too.
Beth Demme (00:37):
On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled Discovering My Scars Chapter Four.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:42):
Then we'll share a slice of life and the show will close with questions for reflection. We'll invite you to reflect on the conversation in your own life. So, this is something that we have been doing for three episodes so far.
Beth Demme (00:54):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:54):
Because this is the fourth. So, we are going through my book, Discovering My Scars, going through each chapter. We are basically listening to the audio book and pausing between to discuss it in a little bit more in depth.
Beth Demme (01:09):
Yeah, it's like a glimpse behind the scenes because I get to ask you questions about what you cover in that chapter.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:15):
Yeah. So, this is something I've been wanting to do since we started the podcast. So, it only took a couple years in pandemic for that to happen. Do you want to address that you think you sound weird.
Beth Demme (01:27):
I just feel like I like my voice sounds nasally congested. It's just because suddenly, the weather is cold. I'm just a very delicate human.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:37):
It is actually 42, which sounds cold, but maybe for people that aren't in Florida, that does not sound cold.
Beth Demme (01:44):
Right, no, this is extreme arctic weather for us. Also, I should say, we don't record outside. We're inside where it's climate controlled. So, I really shouldn't have an issue, and yet I do.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:56):
Yeah. Well, thank you for addressing that. That was the elephant in the room. We also have two greyhounds in the room, just so to clarify that. They smell great.
Beth Demme (02:04):
They are elephant sized.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:06):
Whoa, baby elephant.
Beth Demme (02:09):
A greyhound is a large animal.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:10):
I like a baby elephant though. Yeah, a baby elephant.
Beth Demme (02:13):
I mean, these are no Maltese.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:16):
But when you stack them next to each other, they're just the size of an average big dog, because they're really skinny. It's super cute. When they sit it next to each other, it's like, "Oh, this is the normal size." That's why you have to get two because one is not enough and two equals the same as one big dog.
Beth Demme (02:31):
It's just a lot of legs. It is a lot of legs. They're long and skinny and you don't want to break those. They're hardy dogs and they're very sweet actually.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:43):
Well, speaking of dogs actually, I got Mac while I was writing this book. The whole process was just a whole challenge for me, but towards the end, it was really hard to realize that this was going in the world and to finalize everything. I happened to adopt her right towards the end, and she really helped give me the push to finish this book. So, it's very fitting that she is here along with my second dog that I just love so much. So, Mac and Tosh are here with us. All right. Let's get started.
Chapter four, community college. In middle school, I started taking birth control pills to regulate my hormones, because I had really painful periods. But as a middle schooler and then high schooler who was not sexually active, I hated being on the pill. Picking my prescription up from the store embarrassed me. At age 18 when I started community college, I wanted to be done with the pill. I had taken it for six years and thought my periods wouldn't be so bad anymore. So, I stopped. I didn't think much about it or try to take note of things that might be different. I just enjoyed my life and community college.
I want to say this little section right here, I think, is probably best favorite part of my book. The reason for that is because I learned when we did our period episode that Beth really does not enjoy talking about periods.
Beth Demme (04:10):
You were right. I do not like talking about periods. Actually, even when I reread this chapter preparing for the episode, I was like, "Why'd she put that in her book?"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:19):
Because it does have context though.
Beth Demme (04:21):
It does. It does.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:21):
It has context. I did debate about it. Do I write this? You want to know a fun fact? I'm on my period right now.
Beth Demme (04:28):
I do not need to know that. Literally, no one needs to know that except you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:35):
Why is there shame in-
Beth Demme (04:37):
There's no shame.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:39):
By saying that it's not appropriate to say it, you're putting shame on it.
Beth Demme (04:43):
No, no. There's no shame there. It's just irrelevant.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:47):
What if I said I'm experiencing depression right now?
Beth Demme (04:50):
Well, that would be different.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:51):
How is that different? That's a natural thing that people go through. Same as a period.
Beth Demme (04:58):
But depression can affect the way that you relate to others. So, I would want to know that. Whereas, the fact that you're on your cycle is irrelevant to me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:10):
Are you serious though?
Beth Demme (05:11):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:11):
You know how much your emotions are different when you're on your period? Come on. I think that's an important thing to know.
Beth Demme (05:18):
It's called pre-menstrual syndrome, pre, pre.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:22):
No. I mean, my mood is definitely different when I'm on my period. Right now, when I'm upset with you for telling me that it's not okay to... It feels like you're shooting on me, but you're being very careful to not say it.
Beth Demme (05:34):
No, I feel like you're shooting on me that I should want to know. I don't want to know.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:40):
So you're saying when you had a period, you were never told anybody, because it was your information to have and you didn't share that with anybody.
Beth Demme (05:49):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:49):
Even your husband didn't know?
Beth Demme (05:52):
He probably knew. There would be other reasons that might be relevant for him to know.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:56):
Yes. Okay. So, that's the only time that it's important for someone to know is when it's a partner.
Beth Demme (06:02):
In some way relevant. If you and I were going to go swimming and you didn't want to swim while you were on your period, you could be like, "Oh, I'm on my period." I'd be like, "Oh, okay." What if I just didn't want to swim? You could be like, "I don't want to swim." And then you'd be like, "Are you on your period?" I'd be like, "That's personal. Why would you ask that?" I do want to ask about this part of the book, because you started at community college and you decided that you would stop taking the pill. Did you talk to a doctor about that, or did you just decide, "I'm an adult and I can make my own medical decision. So, I will not tell anyone and I will just stop taking this medicine that I've been on for six years"?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:35):
I don't think I did talk to my doctor, because at this time, I had a doctor that I didn't like and I really didn't feel comfortable talking to her about things because she just had this attitude that was very not a supportive attitude. I hadn't started therapy yet. So, no, I don't think I did. I think I just stopped it because I didn't think my doctor would even care or I didn't think the conversation would be full. Literally, the only reason I was on them was because my periods were painful. So, I figured the doctor would be like, "Well, if you want to deal with the pain."
So no, I did not talk to anyone about it. Also, I didn't put this in there and this is an aside, but the last straw for why I got off the pill was they had just switched me to a generic version of my medication. I was really upset that I couldn't get the name brand version. My mom's like, "It's the same thing." I was like, "It's in a different container, it's different colors. I don't like this. I want to be on what I was on." So that was my last straw. I know that's like something really random. When I did get back on the pill years later, I was on the generic and it was fine.
But as the days and weeks went on, depression started to set in harder than ever before. It was slow, but it built into an overwhelming cloud of darkness. Everywhere I went, it followed. It was a heaviness that caused more pain with every step, every breath. I felt so much pain inside but had no physical pain to show for it. I couldn't say, "Look, my arm is broken. This is what hurts." One day the mysterious internal pain became so severe that after class in my bedroom, I cut the inside of my left forearm with scissors. I needed to see the pain I felt inside. For some reason, this is what my brain told me to try. It helped. The sting on my arm was enough to relieve the pain inside. It allowed me to go on playing the part of normal human in society.
I didn't know how my brain came up with this way to cope. It just popped up as a thought and I saw it through to reality. I continued this ritual when I was depressed or when I just needed to feel something. A lot of anger was associated with my depression too. I would hit the punching bag in my room for about 20 minutes and then I would cut my arm. Hitting the bag helped get some of the anger and rage out before I took the scissors to my skin. I didn't even want to think about cutting my arm before punching the bag, because if I'd taken all my pint up anger out of my arm, I might have seriously cut myself. I always punched the bag, then cut. I always cut my arms and always with a pair of orange handled scissors.
This was the only thing that satisfied my pain. They faded or I would cover them up. This was not for others to know, see, or question. While in health class one day, I read about premenstrual dysphoric disorder, PMDD. It sounded just like me. The Mayo Clinic's website explains it perfectly. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, PMDD is a severe, sometimes debilitating extension of premenstrual syndrome, PMS. Symptoms usually begin 7 to 10 days before your period starts and continue for the first few days that you have your period. PMDD has at least one of these emotional and behavioral symptoms standouts, sadness or hopelessness, anxiety or tension, extreme moodiness, marked irritability or anger.
Treatment of PMDD is directed at preventing or minimizing symptoms that may include antidepressants, birth control, nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, diet and lifestyle changes. There it was, birth control can help. The pill might have been what kept my depression in check during my middle and high school days, but in community college when I had nothing to fight the depression, my symptoms were in full swing. At the time, I noted that antidepressants were another possible treatment. That seemed like a great way to get help without having to take birth control pills again. One day after class, I went to the gym and hopped on a treadmill. I walked on it like others were doing on the treadmills around me.
I'm sure I seemed normal like them, but inside I was so depressed. I couldn't think of anything except not being alive anymore. I just kept walking in place and thinking about what it would be like to end my life. As I was drowning in these thoughts, I jumped back into reality and wondered if this meant I was suicidal. I didn't think I was because every time I had the thoughts, I arrived at the same conclusion. I could never do that to my family and friends. It would be so unfair to take my life, which would in turn really hurt the people I love, especially because they did not know I was experiencing such pain. That's when I made a decision.
I would know I was suicidal and in need of help when I felt the need to write a suicide note. I could not kill myself without explaining why to my family and friends. I would not go through with anything without that simple act. Through my life, I've been lower than low. I spent days just wishing I was no longer on the planet, but I never wrote that note. I came close, but I could never do it. Not for the love of myself and those moments, but for the love of my family.
Beth Demme (12:16):
Okay. I want to pause there because there's a lot to cover in that before we move on. So, you talk here in that section about needing to see the pain that you felt inside. At the time, would you have articulated it that way or is that really the benefit of reflection?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:37):
It's definitely the benefit of reflection. It was a messy time. I didn't know what was happening. I could not have articulated any of this back then. All I knew was I needed to see the pain. Well, I didn't even know that I needed to see the pain, but it was as if there was something inside my body in every inch of my body that was crawling out to get out and I had to get it out somehow. That's how it came about. I don't even remember making any conscious decision of the location or anything. It just happened.
Beth Demme (13:19):
You never tried other locations, right? Because it says it was always on your arms.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:24):
In that time, it was. I don't know if I talk about it. In this time period, that's all I ever tried. But in the future, I did try other locations like the top of my arm because that could easily be hidden by a shirt. I tried my ankles, which was weird and didn't satisfy like the arm. Nothing satisfied like the arm. I never tried razor blades or anything, which is pretty common for people that deal with self-injury. But it was always scissors, orange handled scissors, which is funny, because if you notice I have a pair of scissors, but they're purple handled here.
Beth Demme (14:04):
Not orange handled.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:06):
In my craft room, they are blue handled. So, I actually do not use orange handled scissors anymore. When I see your orange handled scissors, there's still a fleeting memory. It doesn't debilitate me because it's been so long removed, but I'm like, "Why do I even need that in my head in any capacity?" So if you look at all my scissors, in the garage, I have black handle, red handle. They're all different colors. Orange handle is a specific brand that makes that and that's like their signature.
Beth Demme (14:37):
Yeah, they're pretty good scissors.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:38):
Yeah. Well, this is the same brand, but they make other colors. So, I specifically used that brand, but get other colors. So, there's no thought in my head. It wasn't like a thought in my head like I'm going to use them. It was just a thought of-
Beth Demme (14:51):
Why have the reminder-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:52):
Beth Demme (14:52):
... when it's unnecessary.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:53):
Beth Demme (14:54):
I also appreciated what you said here in this chapter. You say the sting on my arm was enough to relieve the pain inside. It allowed me to go on playing the part of a normal human in society. That may not be a universal experience, but I think that is something that many of us can relate to. The idea that we are playing a part and it actually is going to come up again later in the chapter, but the idea that what we present is really not fully who we are and it's because we just want other people to think we're okay.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:31):
Yeah. I spent so much energy. Actually, the doctor that I said I didn't like in this book, I have a whole another doctor that I love now. But this doctor actually, when she learned about my self-injury, accused my mom of, "How did you not know? Why weren't you present?" Really, really harsh to my mom. I spent a lot of energy for no one to know about this, especially my mom. It would've been almost impossible for her to know. If you don't want someone to know something, they're not going to know. I mean, have your kids ever lied to you about anything or not told you?
Beth Demme (16:05):
Absolutely. Did I ever lie to my parents? Absolutely.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:09):
Is there stuff you didn't want them to know? Yes. I think there's things that I can't even remember what it was, but I think there's something recently that I was like, "Mom, I never told you this, but da, da, da." It was something stupid. She's like, "Oh, wow. I didn't know that." I was like, "I know, because I didn't want you to." Now, it doesn't matter. I've told her so many things that kids wouldn't tell their parents, but it's just like, "I don't care."
Beth Demme (16:38):
There are some times where I'm like, oh, "You didn't still need to tell me that. Even now, I don't need to know that you got away with that or that."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:45):
Yeah. There's probably things that she doesn't want to know about either.
Beth Demme (16:49):
You actually say it again in the part that we just listened to, because you're talking about being on the treadmill. You say, "I'm sure I seemed normal with the people in the treadmills around me," but here you say that all you could think of was not being alive anymore. But then it seems like you don't classify that as really suicidal thoughts. So, I wanted to understand the difference.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:11):
Well, again, my brain didn't know what was going on, didn't know anything. Well, I think I was trying to justify it to myself, because at this time, I didn't have medical support. I had the doctor that did prescribe me the medications, but I didn't feel comfortable with. That's a huge thing is trusting medical professionals. That's a hard thing, especially in today's day and age, to find a medical professional you trust. But if I could encourage anyone to do anything, it's find the medical people you can trust and keep trying. Keep trying, keep trying, because that's really something that is hugely beneficial for me is I have a great psychologist I can trust. I have a great primary doctor I can trust, and that is really what helps keep me on a good path.
So, I just tried to justify it to myself, because all I knew this was 2005 and suicide has always been within the conversation of the world. But more when someone famous dies by suicide, you hear about it. Oh, it's so sad, but you don't really hear anything more about it. That's why we did the episode about suicide. We had an honest conversation about suicide, which we'll link in the show notes. But what's the meat and potatoes of that conversation that we never seem to have that that is actually helpful.
So, for me, I just knew that people die from suicide. It's sad for the family and I don't know how people get to that place or anything of context there, but I just knew I didn't want to be around anymore. Does that mean I want to die? So I just justified it to myself that I couldn't die by suicide unless I wrote a note but if I started writing a note, that's how I know I'm suicidal. That's just something that I had to justify to myself.
Beth Demme (19:10):
Put a barrier in your way like a ski bump.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:13):
I guess that helped me to be able to think it was okay to have those thoughts without defining them as suicidal thoughts. I mean, I think it's a pretty human condition to think about not being alive, to think about, "What if I wasn't here anymore? How would that affect my family?" Through my life, I've had those thoughts and I don't think that that means I'm suicidal at that moment to have those thoughts. Just like we've talked about before. Are you still a Christian if you think there's no God, if you question it? Of course, you can question it. Of course, you can have these deep thoughts. I think that makes us more human and makes us more connected to those things. It probably makes me more connected to life to think about not being here.
Beth Demme (20:00):
Maybe giving yourself permission to think it through was better than trying to ignore or repress the feelings.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:07):
Yeah. I think anytime we tell people, "Don't drink, don't do this, or don't do that," never. When you completely tell someone to eliminate something, I think it's just a slippery slope. So, I think it was a way for me to justify at least having the thoughts.
Beth Demme (20:24):
So this is not really about the book. This is about something later, but was it 2020 when we were in pandemic world? I kept a gratitude journal for a month. Do you remember this?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:40):
Beth Demme (20:40):
What did you keep?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:41):
Okay. I don't think it was during the pandemic. I think it was right before.
Beth Demme (20:48):
Oh, was it?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:49):
I think it was September before of '19. Yeah. I don't think I could have done it during the pandemic. No. So, we had an idea to write a book together or I had the idea and I thought, "Wouldn't it be interesting..." You know how people say positive thoughts make a difference and da, da, da. I was like, "Well, I wonder how true that is." So I thought, "What if I wrote every day for a month, a suicide note?" I'm going to end it all note. You every day wrote a gratitude note what you're thankful for. And then at the end, we would compare how we feel. How long did we get into it?
Beth Demme (21:29):
I think I did it for almost a whole month.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:32):
Oh, I didn't do it for a month. I think I did it for a week. I felt bad. I did not like it at all. That was horrific. That was a really failed experience. I mean, I think we knew how it was going to end up.
Beth Demme (21:47):
It failed faster than we thought.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:49):
Beth Demme (21:50):
I did not remember that this was in the book. So, if I had remembered that your speed bump for yourself was to never write the note, I think I would've approached that project idea differently.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:04):
No, but see, that was what I thought was interesting about it, is I was in a really good space mentally and I was just like the act of actually writing one, what would that be like? Also, they all ended up being the same and then it just put me in a bad mood. Yeah. Sometimes you have to try something to realize that was dumb.
Beth Demme (22:25):
All right. Let's get back to the book.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:28):
While driving to class one day, the song What Are You Waiting For? played on the radio and really spoke to me. It was the summer of 2006, and I was about to graduate community college with my associate of arts degree and move on to UCF and major in television production. The reality set in that it could not move from everything I'd ever known with my secret cutting life. I knew I would not make it on my own. I had to tell my mom. I knew she would be supportive and get me help, but to tell her about my secret world of depression and coping, that would be the hardest thing I ever had to do. I stopped at Target before class to buy the Natalie Grant album that the song I just heard on the radio was featured on.
I listened to every song, which calmed me and gave me the courage to talk to mom. I was just two months away from moving to Orlando. A few days later, I was sitting in the passenger seat, a little warm because it was summertime and mom had turned the car off. We just sat. We were waiting for our usual Sunday after church restaurant to open. Then I got even hotter because I knew this was the moment. "Mom, I have something to tell you," I said. I told her that I was depressed, had been cutting my arm, and wanted to get help. She sighed in relief and said, "Is that that it? Well, we'll get you help this week." Mom scheduled an appointment with my primary care doctor who prescribed me Zoloft for the depression.
Then my parents found a psychologist and I started seeing her for counseling within a week. Before my first counseling session, I didn't know what to expect. I wondered if there would be a couch I'd have to lie on and if the doctor would ask me, "How do you feel about that?" All my therapy references came from TV shows, and the shows never really got into how the healing happens. Dr. Jill's office was on the second floor of a law firm. So, after I checked in at the desk, someone directed me to the stairs. I walked in and saw a couch with an armchair right across from it. Dr. Jill welcomed me and invited me to sit on the couch. From the very first session, therapy went really well. It was freeing to have dedicated time to talk to a psychologist and not feel judged. I told her about the cutting and the feelings I couldn't explain.
She listened closely to me, asked questions, and took it all in. Dr. Jill told me that I'm not a cutter and not suicidal. "My cutting," she said, "was classic self-injury." I injured myself to feel not to end my life. This news brought me huge relief. I didn't think I wanted to kill myself, but I was scared and didn't understand the complexities and differences in mental illness. She agreed that the selective serotonin uptake inhibitor, SSRI, medication should help with my depression. I could tell she didn't think self-injury was a great coping skill, but she also didn't make me feel bad about it or try to spend too much time correcting the behavior. Dr. Jill wanted to know about my life, my feelings, and what had happened to stir my emotions in the past.
She encouraged journaling as a way to get my emotions out, which I have continued to use as a release ever since. I had six sessions that summer before I left for university. These sessions freed me up to talk about whatever was on my mind. I did not fear any of it getting back to my parents or being used against me. When I began to cry in a session, I would work hard to stop. One day, Dr. Jill looked at me with her kind eyes and said, "Why are you working so hard at not crying?" "I don't want to be weak," I said, still fighting tears.
Stephanie, there's no weakness in tears. It's the body's way of cleansing and getting emotions out. Crying is very important to life and recovery. I would like you to work on letting yourself cry at least once a week. There is emotional freedom in it. I did work on crying and sharing my feelings, but there was only so much progress I could make in the six sessions we had as I had 20 years of emotions to work through. I wanted to mention that this really made me feel old when I went to Target to buy a CD.
Beth Demme (26:35):
I'm glad that you mentioned that because I was thinking that too. We probably should date stamp this, but you do say it was summer of 2006.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:44):
The iPod was out, but it was right in that time period when iTunes was a thing, but not truly a thing and people were still buying CDs. So, it was right towards that transition. I didn't buy a ton of CDs after this point, but isn't that weird? I would never even think to go to a store now to buy a CD. I didn't actually realize they still sell them, but Taylor Swift just had a new album come out and I obviously got it on... I use Amazon streaming and I got it on there, but then they have actual records. That's what people are buying.
Beth Demme (27:18):
That's what people buy now.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:19):
Okay, you go ahead. Get your little record, but there's also CDs. Because I was at Target and they had all this Taylor Swift stuff. I was like, "Aren't people streaming it? What's happening here?"
Beth Demme (27:29):
I mean, even if we're just thinking about storage space, folks, come on. CD cases take up a lot of room.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:35):
Yeah. Oh, man. I got rid of CDs so long ago. Yeah. Wow.
Beth Demme (27:41):
Well, I would just say I still spend a lot of my life in church world because I am a pastor and I work at church and we still have VHS tapes. Yeah. It's a thing. All right. So, when you told your mom, you're sitting in the restaurant parking lot.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:55):
Waiting for Sonny's, by the way.
Beth Demme (27:57):
Waiting for some barbecue, and you tell her and she sighs. I want to make sure that we understand her reaction, because my understanding is that you received it as very supportive. But then when I reread it, I was like, "Oh, all she said is that. It could be dismissive." Oh, is that all? Well, we'll take care of that this week. What's wrong with you? But that's not Ms. Vicki. That's not how it is.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:24):
Yeah. It wasn't dismissive feeling. I put it in future drafts, but what happened was she thought I was going to tell her that I was a lesbian. At the time, she would've been fine with. She would even be way more fine now. If there's something pride, she's like, "I'm buying it." She's very supportive.
Beth Demme (28:52):
A lot of us have been on a journey to acceptance and inclusion.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:55):
She would've been accepting at this time, not as she wouldn't have understood it. Anyways, I'm not a lesbian, but it was just totally cool if you are and she would've been supportive. But I guess that's what she thought because she told me later. So, I think her reaction was, "Oh, okay, well that's not like-"
Beth Demme (29:14):
It wasn't what she was expecting.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:15):
Yeah. Because I guess if I was, then maybe it was she thought... I don't know how that would've been easier than depression, but that's what her reaction was and it was the reaction I needed. I didn't know how she would react, but it was definitely a reaction I needed.
Beth Demme (29:31):
Yeah. Well, it definitely sounds like it would be comforting because she was not at all overwhelmed or afraid. So, she was like, "Okay, this is something that we can address."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:41):
She wasn't judgmental. She wasn't like, "What? How long you've been depressed? Why didn't you told me?" Nothing like that, which I didn't think she would, but you have no idea. You just don't know what could happen. That was what was playing in my head and the anxiety and depression of it all.
Beth Demme (29:57):
All right. And then you mentioned a few minutes ago that when you went to the doctor and you got the Zoloft prescription, that the doctor was hard on your mom?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:04):
Yeah, I actually don't remember it. My mom remembers it better. Yeah, I was just like, "Okay, I need what I need. Okay, whatever." But she said, yeah, the doctor really came down on her and just really made her feel like a bad mom. It's like, "Oh, my gosh. That's not okay."
Beth Demme (30:18):
Right. I mean, at this point, you would've been like 20 years old.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:21):
Yeah. I wasn't 21 yet.
Beth Demme (30:22):
Yeah. So, in this chapter, you talked about your first appointment with Dr. Jill. Dr. Jill has been a guest on the podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:27):
Beth Demme (30:28):
So we'll definitely link to that in the show notes too.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:30):
I just saw her this week actually, and I just was remembering, I was like, "Wow, it's been a long time. I've come a long way." She's not in the loft anymore. She has her own office now.
Beth Demme (30:43):
I appreciated how you described her approach to it, because she gave you some context for what you were feeling and what you were experiencing. But then you say, "I could tell she didn't think self-injury was a great coping skill, but she also didn't want to make me feel bad about it or try to spend too much time correcting the behavior." It's like she understood that the coping mechanism was just a presenting symptom and that she was going to be working with you on what was underlying.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:11):
Yeah, because that was just a result of the things I hadn't dealt with. That's something that I couldn't understood at the time, but she understood as a professional. So, she realized if we deal with the underlying stuff, then the self-injury is going to be way less and less, which was all true. I still was dealing with it because I had so many things that I had to deal with that was not going to be dealt with in successions. It took me years to really uncover every layer of what the issues were, but at the time, I didn't really know.
All I knew was I was going to her for depression and what I thought was cutting, but she called it self-injury. That's what I thought I was going to her for, but she actually specialized in women's issues and specifically women that have been abused and those sorts of things. I was like, "Oh, well, that's not my issue, but maybe she can still help." But in actuality, those were exactly my issues of why I was dealing with the self-injury. She was the perfect person actually.
Beth Demme (32:17):
Right. And then when you were crying and you were trying to not cry even in a therapy session, right, because you thought that it made you look weak.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:28):
Yeah. I still hate crying, but I still understand the importance of it. I also encourage other people to cry. I still remember when my grandmother was here and my papoo had recently passed away. She was talking about it and she started to cry. She apologized and I was like, "No, never apologize." That's what I learned during that session. I still personally don't like crying, but I also know the importance of it and will allow myself to cry and I won't apologize for it. That's something that I don't think any of us need to apologize for crying and it makes so much sense. It's like it's a way to cleanse our body. What does rain do to the earth? That really helped me understand that process better.
Beth Demme (33:12):
Probably a lot of us, maybe all of us have had a situation where we've had that ugly cry and then you feel better because you've gotten it out. So, yeah, that resonated with me for sure.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:26):
At the end of the summer, I was as ready as I could be to venture into my new life in Orlando. My Volvo tightly packed with my belongings, but before I left, my friends threw me a surprise going away party. I had never had a true surprise party before and they really made me feel special. As most of them were staying in Tallahassee for college, it was a big deal that I was leaving the group. We had been so close for so long and no one knew what the future held for our friendships.
When the time came, my parents drove down with me and helped me move into UCF. My dorm was brand new and apartment style with my own room and bathroom and a shared kitchen and living room. Three other roommates shared the common area. It was the best of dorm life on campus. So, I was thrilled it was available. My parents left, and for the first time, I was truly on my own. I would like to say those friends that threw me the party, I am still friends with them. How cool is that?
Beth Demme (34:24):
That is cool. Is that the ladies?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:26):
It's my ladies, yes. So, we've had a couple of them actually on the podcast, Emily and Megan. Yeah. I'd have to look at pictures to see exactly who was there, but I think I'm still friends with all of the ones who were at that party, so that's pretty cool.
Beth Demme (34:40):
That is cool. That is cool. So, when they were throwing you the surprise party and you were saying goodbye to everybody, did anybody know that you were using non-suicidal self-injury as a coping mechanism?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:52):
I don't believe anyone knew in that group. I actually made a really good friend that I didn't mention the book, but I made a really good friend at Tallahassee Community College and we bonded over Gilmore Girls. We both love that show and we were really close for those two years and a little bit after. I told her. She knew about the self-injury and I don't think my other friends knew, my high school friends, I don't think, because this wasn't right after high school. This was two years into college. So, they were two into years into college as well. We weren't super close for a long time. We would see each other on holidays and stuff, but we were separated. So, I don't think they knew.
Beth Demme (35:46):
This was a good chapter. This was heavy stuff, but I appreciated being able to read it with you and to ask you questions about this really hard time. I mean, this was a big deal to acknowledge the coping mechanism you were using, but then also to talk to your mom about it, to start meeting with Dr. Jill, all of that. That's big stuff.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:10):
Yeah. I mean, it's interesting to read the book so many years after writing it and experiencing it, but yeah, I do think that's a good chapter. If you need to read one chapter from the book, this is the one to read. I think it really sets the tone for the whole book, but it could get you excited about what's to come.
Beth Demme (36:28):
Yeah. I think it gets to the heart of the idea. I mean, the big aha for me is non-suicidal self-injury happens because you need to see the pain you feel inside. That's very clarifying for me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:45):
Why do you have that pain inside? Well, that's what you learn in therapy.
Beth Demme (36:48):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:49):
You don't know it yet, but if you dedicate the time to learning and learning through therapy, then you can get there. It's a process.
Beth Demme (37:01):
We are really getting into so much of what you have felt and experienced. This is not at all like that, but I did want to tell you about a really weird dream I had. I woke up upset about it. Actually, just before we recorded this morning.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:21):
Oh, no. Was I in it?
Beth Demme (37:23):
No. Maybe it would've been better if you had been there. I don't know. I was preaching-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:29):
Beth Demme (37:30):
No, no. Had on all my clothes, but I was preaching to a huge auditorium like a giant church. It was filled with young people.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:39):
Like me young or Hannah young?
Beth Demme (37:42):
Hannah young. Actually young, not formerly young.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:48):
Yeah. Okay, great. They always bought their music on iTunes. Never from a CD.
Beth Demme (37:53):
They never bought a CD. Although they're into vinyl. It's weird.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:56):
Yeah, I get it.
Beth Demme (37:57):
Anyway, in one part of the dream, I was preaching and then how you can have these weird time warps in the dream. And then I was back before the service had started and I was talking with people and everybody was so excited to be there. This was a church that was doing great things and just so much energy. You won't like this part. But for some reason, I was passing out stickers. I don't know, it was a thing. So, then I go and I'm up on the stage and I'm sitting down to preach, which is really weird. I would never do that in actual real life. People start raising their hand to ask me questions during the sermon, which is not a thing. Don't do that.
This one person, one young woman is like, "Well, you say that it's important to know ourselves, but my parents won't let me do the 23andMe DNA test." This is a weird dream. I was like, "Yeah, I agree with your parents. They're right. You should never do that test. That's a terrible test. You shouldn't do it." Maybe I said something like, "When you're older, you can decide if that's the right thing for you or something." And then the next person, remember guys, this is a dream. None of this makes any sense. The next person was like, "Well, we could all watch the movie Scream when we're 16. Don't you think that means we're old enough to decide if we need a DNA test?" I was like, "No, that's a terrible movie. You shouldn't watch that movie." I was just really being a jerk. So, hundreds of people got up and walked out on me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:29):
Aw, young people. Yeah. Well, I love that that's how they wanted to get to know themselves, was doing a DNA test, first of all. That's hilarious.
Beth Demme (39:38):
What is my mind trying to tell me? What does this dream mean?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:41):
That is so interesting, because when the person stood up and says, "You said I need to get to know myself," I'm like, "Yeah, therapy and deep reflection." It's like, "I want to do a DNA test." Wow. Yeah. That does sound like what a young person would want to learn. Yeah. So, have you done a DNA test?
Beth Demme (39:57):
No, I haven't.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:58):
You don't think they're good?
Beth Demme (40:00):
Truly, I don't think that they're a good idea, but I don't know why that was in my dream. I don't know.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:05):
Why do you think they're not a good idea?
Beth Demme (40:07):
I don't know what they do with the information.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:09):
Yeah, that's why. Yeah.
Beth Demme (40:11):
Also, I think that it maybe reinforces some unhealthy ideas that I carry about the value of race and ethnicity. That it's better to be something over something else. I just don't want to reinforce any of that in myself. I don't think that's a good idea.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:31):
Interesting. I really like that it tells you a lot of random information that I think is just so interesting. It tells you what time you generally wake up based on your DNA. It's like, "What?"
Beth Demme (40:45):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:46):
Yeah, what time you average would get up. And then it tells you whether you like cilantro or not, stuff like that. Obviously, you already know I hate cilantro, but it's just interesting that your DNA can tell you these things. So, I haven't done it. The first reason you said was, I'm not sure what happens with this data, but I do think it's really interesting. I may do it one day, because I've done it for my dog for Mac.
Beth Demme (41:15):
She likes cilantro?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:16):
That wasn't on the dog one, but what's so interesting is I was like... I mean, it was stupid because she's a greyhound. She came back 100% greyhound. I was just curious, but there's like 200 genetic issues that dogs can have. She had none of them. The one thing she had was bald thigh syndrome, which is really funny, because that's very common in greyhounds and it's just an aesthetic thing. Actually, she doesn't have it. Her thighs are fully hairy and it literally has no issue. So, that was just funny to get those results.
Beth Demme (41:49):
I mean, no judgment to anybody that's decided to get the DNA test done.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:52):
My mom's done ancestry, and she really enjoyed it. I think I got it for her for Christmas one year. She's really enjoyed it. I mean, there's a lot of them out there. I think if you're going to do one, do your research of what people are saying about them, but yeah, I might do it one day. That's so weird though, that it was in your dream.
Beth Demme (42:10):
It was just a really weird dream. I was very upset that I had ruined everything and that hundreds of people were walking around.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:17):
Beth Demme (42:19):
I singlehandedly destroyed the church.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:21):
Not sure how you got them there, right? Maybe free vinyl.
Beth Demme (42:24):
Probably with free DNA tests. I'm not sure.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:27):
Maybe. Wow, that's the secret. We do it right here. Everyone comes to the altar and we'll prick your finger. We'll stick this up your nose. Well, that was interesting. Thank you for sharing your dream. Did you fly at the end?
Beth Demme (42:41):
I didn't. I just woke up sad. Yeah, I was just sitting there.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:46):
Well, it probably has some long deep meaning.
Beth Demme (42:49):
It probably does.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:50):
Or it has no meaning. It was just what you were thinking about before you went to bed.
Beth Demme (42:54):
Well, if you happen to be a special dream interpreter and you can tell me what this dream means, please give us a call. Our number, you can actually call or text, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:02):
Beth Demme (43:02):
Call or text (850) 270-3308 and help me understand myself better.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:11):
If Beth really wants to understand herself better, encourage her to get a DNA test, because that's really the only way you're going to get to know yourself. We have learned, especially if you read my whole book, the only way to get to know yourself is obviously a DNA test. That was a joke. It was hilarious.
Beth Demme (43:29):
It was hilarious.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:34):
At the end of each episode, we end with Questions for Reflection. These are questions based on today's show that Beth will read and leave a little pause between, or you can find a PDF on our website.
Beth Demme (43:43):
Number one, have there been times you felt like you were playing the part of normal human in society? What was that like for you? Number two, have you experienced depression or mental illness and felt that you needed to hide it from other people? Number three, have you ever had thoughts of not being alive? How do you feel about that? And number four, do you apologize for crying? Why or why not?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:10):
This has been Discovering Our Scars Podcast. Thanks for joining us.
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Mental Health Advocate. Author. Podcast Host. DIYer. Greyhound Mom.
I'm a mom who laughs a lot, mainly at myself. #UMC Pastor, recent Seminary grad, public speaker, blogger, and sometimes lawyer. Learning to #LiveLoved.