Benevolent Bubbles Founder
I moved to Baltimore in 2018, about one year before founding Benevolent Bubbles. I realized very quickly that the thing I loved most became increasingly difficult to pursue in the city. This “thing,” is cycling. I grew up most my life in Delaware where flat land stretched out for miles. I’ll admit in a sense I’m newer to cycling in comparison to many others. Prior to 2017, I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in at least a decade. I often hear compassionate stories of how bicycling can save lives. However, it wasn’t until I swung my leg over the crossbar again that I realized that it could save mine.
For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with uppercase “D” depression. At the young age of 12, I made my first attempt at suicide. Throughout my life I’ve battled endlessly to maintain a level of function and normality. I was ashamed to lean on others for support and to aid me in my illness. I thought that what I was going through was ordinary and that I needed to “suck it up” and grow stronger. In ways I did, in others I did not. Around June of 2018, having not been in the city for very long, I hit a wall. Depression demanded my fullest attention, driving my life to a complete halt. Since then, I’ve seen in total five psychiatric medical professionals, all of whom declared that I was suffering from a major depressive disorder, along with a mood disorder, chronic anxiety and PTSD. My husband and I grasped for solutions to keep me alive. After trying literally dozens of medications that either had unbearable side affects or just didn’t work at all, we began to lose hope.
However, I’ve decided to undergo a procedure called TMS (Trans-cranial Magnetic Stimulation), which has amongst the highest success rates in helping to decrease depression. We’re still unsure if this is the right next step for me, but I’m going to keep pedaling and fighting for my life anyway.
Please join me in this fight for happiness.
-A very special thanks to my husband Daniel Sprechman for holding my hand through it all.
Benevolent Bubbles Co-Founder
The love of my life suffers from depression, and while I cannot describe the pain first hand, I’ve witnessed it, and I’ve been with her through the worst of it. I hope the story of our journey will convey the seriousness of this mental illness, and give others hope that they can survive and find relief too.
Morgan and I had only been dating for a few weeks before we realized that this relationship was different than any other relationship we’ve experienced before. She moved in to my house almost immediately, a few months later we adopted a rescue dog, and six months later, we were married.
Despite the happiness and comfort we found in eachother, Morgan's condition began to make itself known. There were days where Morgan couldn't leave the house, frozen by a mix of anxiety and self doubt. There were moments where Morgan slipped into a paralyzed state, and I would hold her and reassure her while she suffered through a deluge of dark, self deprecating thoughts. The constant feeling of hopelessness that depression can bring is daunting to consider. There's also the frustration of not knowing why you feel this way, and the embarrassment associated with admitting there is a problem and reaching out for help.
Morgan and I did reach out for help. We went through her insurance initially. We found a primary care physician, had him recommend a psychiatrist, tried a medication that needed to be increased slowly and would take a month or two to see results. We were in crisis mode at this point, and needed better, more understanding doctors. We found an incredible therapist that Morgan would meet with weekly. She helped us get set up with another psychiatrist. We tried a number of different medications over the course of a few months. Morgan's body rejected all of them. We eventually found a combination that seemed to give some relief without significant side effects, but still weren't in the clear.
Determined to find a better solution, we began an intensive 6 week procedure called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. Every week day we drove to a location outside the city, where magnetic pulses were administered to Morgan's head for 30 minutes. She found some more relief after the procedure ended.
Aside from the medical assistance Morgan received, perhaps the biggest contributors to her path to recovery is the love and support she gets from the people in her life. She had suffered in silence most of her life, and when the two of us began this journey, we maintained that silence. We would cancel plans with friends unexpectedly, or skip out on obligations and not provide the real reason for doing so.
When we finally started telling friends and family about what Morgan was going through, we were relieved to see how accepting and understanding everyone was. This idea of talking about mental illness, and supporting those who are suffering was at the forefront in our minds when we starting coming up with the idea of Benevolent Bubbles. It's hard to seek help, confide in others, and confront your own mental health issues. Our hope is that we can build a community of acceptance through Benevolent Bubbles, spread joy and positivity, and connect people with resources to help themselves and their loved ones.
I am so proud of my wife. She continues to be an inspiration to me and others. I'm excited to see Benevolent Bubbles grow, and to embrace this movement with all my heart.
Suicide Researcher and Baltimore Resident
“Teen’s body found in bay.” The grayed newspaper clipping from my senior year in high school, still pinned to my corkboard with a pink heart thumbtack, serves as a daily reminder of something I do not have, the stigma of which was epitomized by one popular girl’s life and surprising death: suicidal thoughts. The devastation and grief were immense after the unexpected loss. We were naive teenagers facing an overwhelming sadness that permeated our community. My classmate’s decision sparked my interest in the study of suicide as a human struggle, a curiosity that I hope to one day reconcile.
Since then, in recent decades, my hometown has been wrecked with a teen suicide rate that is over twice the national average. The absence of education about suicide, a lack of empirical research on suicidal ideation and contagion, and well-intentioned yet inconsistent post-vention strategies leave me with myriad unanswered questions: ‘Why does this keep happening?’ ‘What can we do about it?’ ‘How can we equip the parents and friends of these teens?’ ‘How can we support each other?’
I have repeatedly witnessed the numbing effects of suicide on families and communities, as a public health concern, financial burden, and familial crisis. I firmly believe that our best starting point for improving the situations of those in crisis will be using the lived experiences of those who have experienced suicidal crises as a learning platform for cultivating human connectedness and obliterating the stigma surrounding suicidality.
Shortly after my classmate’s death, I met someone who formerly attempted suicide and survived. I knew this person wasn’t alone; this person’s parents, friends, and loved ones weren’t alone in her time of crisis and in her recovery. Years later, in graduate school, I lived with my best friend, and for a brief period I found myself with a suicidal roommate. While aftermath of my classmate’s death and the life of the young person whom I met inspired me to study suicide, I was not prepared to be the caretaker to a loved one in her time of crisis.
Loving a suicidal person was conflicting, particularly because I was trained at the time as a sociological suicidologist. Yet, I felt overwhelmed and helpless. My friend’s experience inspired me to be a better researcher, a more innovative academic, and a more compassionate interviewer. In the moments when she cried while I sat beside her on the couch, drenched in my sweat and her tears induced by unrelenting anxiety, I reminded myself not to speak to her as an academic. In those moments, I let the statistics about suicide and suicidal people run through my mind, as a form of comfort: that there is only one death by suicide for every 25 attempted suicides (CDC 2012), that some reports say that the chances of dying by suicide are less than 1% for young adults (Bearman and Moody 2004), and that women are less likely to die by suicide than men (Wray, Colen, and Pescosolido 2011).
I was involved in suicide studies long before depression overwhelmed my best friend. With her, I was not an academic, but rather, she needed a friend. In our friendship, I was to listen. As an academic, I was not to hug or offer physical comfort. As an interviewer, I probed respondents about their past, curious about the social mechanisms that guided their recovery from crisis. In a private office as an interviewer, my words and my actions were bound by contractual obligation to not endanger my study’s participants when they chose to share their stories of suicide with me. As a friend, I validated my loved one’s feelings, and supported her. In our own home, there was nothing, no precedent or contract, for me to rely on in response to her desperation.
Now, my friend is okay, but it is exhausting to navigate between personal compassion and professional understanding towards people who are suicidal. What obligation do I have? My home felt more dangerous than my office. I trusted the stability of my study’s participants more than I trusted my best friend. It felt like a betrayal to my friend, encouraging strangers to tell me about their suicidality for research purposes, but powerless to support her through the same circumstances. I imagine the irony of being a suicidologist whose best friend chooses suicide, and I wonder if the worst possible scenario would derail my professional career. I chose suicide as my area of study, and I chose this person as my best friend, but I did not chose for her to be suicidal. None of us choose this, but we love each other anyway, and we do the best we can.
I am passionate about empowering friends and loved ones with access to the knowledge and tools we need to support one another in times of crisis. The stigma, silence, and misunderstandings around suicide and mental illness are mutually reinforcing, but by sharing our stories, we can attack the stigma, break the silence, and gain an understanding of the suicidal experience in a way that builds empathy and compassion.
Your voice deserves to be heard
Benevolent Bubbles invites you to share your story. We believe that having an open line of communication may allow for healing. No need to suffer alone in silence. Tell your story, we want to hear it!
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