Category Archives: Suicide Survivors

On Stealing Joy

(There is a brief, non-graphic reference to suicide in this post. If you are sensitive or thinking about suicide, please consider avoiding. Also, if you are considering suicide, know that there is help available, you are not alone. Call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to be connected to a crisis center near you or visit their website by clicking here. Please do not suffer in silence when help is just a click or a phone call away.)

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Peter Pan and the Lost Boys symbolize the importance of never completely growing up despite a society which constantly tells us and expects the opposite of us. There are dreamers among us who manage to hang on to the childlike wonder and awe of all that occurs within our paltry world. Then there are those who prefer we be nothing but straight laced, dry, and act our age, the haughty people who believe life is meant to be lived according to a rule book instead of according to our hearts and souls.

Dead Poets Society captures the very essence of this battle.

Robert Sean Leonard is brilliantly cast as Neil, an artistic soul desperately trapped in a straight-laced life by his father. In fact, the opening scenes foreshadow the weight Neil’s father holds over him when he is forced to quit the school annual after a discussion Neil’s father has with one of the headmasters. Neil quits the annual because as he puts it, “What choice do I have?”

Yet, after meeting Mr. Keating, who dares his classes to do more, to be more, and to ultimately walk to the beat of a different drummer, Neil finds his soul set ablaze. He spearheads the resuscitation of the Dead Poets Society meetings at Welton Academy. He takes his artistic defiance a step further when he auditions for a role in a local theatre’s production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. This time, instead of worrying about his father’s reaction, he pens a note of permission from his father on the typewriter in his room. Neil is growing, walking to the beat of a different drum, and daring to be his own man. He is embracing the spirit of carpe diem.

Why the change of heart? Is it really Mr. Keating or is it simply that Neil has given himself permission to be who he is finally because for the first time, he has been exposed to someone who says it okay to do so?

Neil’s father predictably discovers his son’s deception and calls him on it the day the play is set to open. His father attends the play, dragging him home afterward. There’s a discussion during which Neil is firmly told he will not be returning to Welton but will instead be attending a military academy. That’s all there is to it, he’s told. The family goes to bed, the father putting his things in their places before he lays down under the covers.

Then, the scene.

It’s a chillingly well done scene, actually, one which draws you into Neil’s mind and the process of suicide one goes through. Each movement, each act, very deliberate. It is this scene during which Neil lets go of his inner child forever, now that he sees only a future ahead of him filled with stuffed shirts, windows of opportunity and doors leading to open fields of passion slamming shut all around him. This life, the one without his inner child, it is not for him, and therefore, he must leave this world.

You see, when we take away the choices a person has, we take away their independence. We steal the very essence of their being, their joy. In a sense, we jack open their mouths and yank their inner child right out when we force someone to conform to a certain methodology of being. If we were all meant to be exactly alike, we would not have originated anywhere other than a factory. Instead, we sprout up all over the world in all sorts of environments, even the most impossible ones.

Our lives are meant to be lived despite our environments. We choose to thrive, we choose to fail. We choose to grow up or remain children. We choose joy, we choose sorrow. We choose to wallow and ruminate or do what we can and let go. Are these easy choices? Hell no. Are they possible choices? Hell yes.

Life is a choice. Thriving, a choice. Stretching yourself way beyond your comfort zone – a choice. Our overall path may not be a choice, but the steps we take along it are our choices to make. We can choose to trod along the muddy road or skip in the rain, stopping to jump in the puddles, giggling as we are covered head to toe in the slimy brown dirt.

What will you choose today? Will you choose to harrumph, put up your umbrella and frown angrily at the gathering clouds?

Or will you pull a Gene Kelly and go singing and dancing in the rain?

Green Shoes, The NFL, and Mental Health Stigma

The NFL is making a “Crucial Catch” this month but it has nothing to do with Mental Health. Instead, they have been partnered with various breast cancer organizations to raise awareness and funds for battling breast cancer.

Participation started back in 2008 with a myriad of events as evidenced in this article, “NFL Supports Breast Cancer Awareness Month”. This year, the awareness campaign continues. Not only do players wear pink gear, but it is also auctioned off to raise funds for research. Which, in theory, is a great idea, and as someone who has lost a family member to breast cancer, I understand the desire to increase awareness and provide funds for research.

As a football fan, however, I hate the month of October. I cannot stand pink. I have hated the colour ever since I brilliantly decided at age 7 that Pepto Bismol Pink was a terrific colour for my walls and I lived in that Pepto “Abismol” Pink room for nearly 5 years before escaping it into a soothing forest green room with merlot trim.

My point here is not about the colour. It’s about the NFL ignoring an awareness week which occurs during the month of October.

In case you do not follow mental health news OR the NFL, there has been a lot of discussion regarding Brandon Marshall’s desire to wear green cleats during tonight’s Bears v. Giants (don’t get me started on the Giants’ 0-5 giddyup to the season because that’s a whole ‘nother post) game. The NFL flat out told Marshall he couldn’t do it. Then they said he could but that he would be fined. Marshall plans to pay the fine and match it with a charity donation. A donation most articles make clear will go to a cancer-care organization with the mention that he is also trying to work out details of donating to an organization making a difference in the Mental Health World.

Here’s the thing, though, from my perspective – with the big brouhaha the NFL has made regarding Marshall’s desire to wear green cleats, it seems to the casual observer as if they do not want to raise any awareness regarding Mental Health issues. On the other hand, however, their very refusal and the back and forth with Marshall does have people talking about his condition and desire to raise awareness. The NFL’s aversion to Marshall’s desire to raise awareness on the field also makes it seem, to me, that the NFL cares more about the state of a woman’s breasts vs. the state of her mind.

Marshall struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder, something an article in SI from May 2012 describes as evidence of the strides the NFL has made in making the mental health of players matter:

The hope is to create a stigma-free environment in which players feel more comfortable working through their mental health issues. Bears receiver Brandon Marshall reached a breakthrough of sorts last July, when he announced that he had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder; the moment hints at the strides engagement programs are making behind the scenes.

 

The NFL also runs a Life Line specifically for players, former players, and their families, accessible on the web and via phone. The Life Line was launched in 2012. I wasn’t aware of it until today as I was Googling for this piece.

“There is no higher priority for the National Football League than the health and wellness of our players,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter to personnel and fans at the time. (quoted from CNN) 

In addition, the NFL has been adding more and more psychologists to behind the scenes team rosters, something the previously mentioned SI article details.

With this internal attention to the mental health of their players and families, isn’t it time the NFL brought some of their powerful presence in the psyche of the American male to the table and made mental health awareness an issue? With the loss of Junior Seau, last year’s incident with Kansas City’s Jovan Belcher, Paul Oliver’s recent suicide and the loss of several other players in the same manner, the NFL needs to do more than just support mental health behind the scenes because without public action, it is all too easy to assume that nothing is being done. It is also extremely easy to assume there is no support when you have the NFL threatening a player wanting to do something as simple as wear a different colour cleat to raise awareness for Mental Health issues, something said player struggles with himself.

I get that October is taken for Breast Cancer Awareness.

All I’m asking for is one weekend where the players wear Green, as Brandon Marshall wants to do tonight, to raise awareness for Mental Health Issues. If they can do it for Breast Cancer and raise millions of dollars for research and awareness campaigns, imagine what they could do if they dedicated the same amount of energy to Mental Health research and awareness, particularly in a sport with a hard-core dedicated male audience taught by society NOT to talk about their emotions.

For now, though, I guess we will suffer through the month o’pink and hope everyone has healthy boobs instead of healthy minds.

WAY TO GO, NFL.

Saturday Sundries: When Suicide becomes reality

Saturday Sundries Banner

Morning y’all.

I hope you have imbibed at least one cup of coffee because today I am going to get serious. Life and death serious.

Over the course of my time as a peer advocate/support person for women and families struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders, I have faced suicidal mothers more than once. Each time it is draining. The first time I faced this issue I’ll be honest – I didn’t know what to do. The first time I faced it on Twitter, I recruited people to support me via DM, reached out to emergency contacts, and the mom connected with someone via phone. It wasn’t me but that did not matter. What mattered was that she reached out and held on to hope. She got help and is still here.

Over time I have grown more comfortable at dealing with someone in a suicidal crisis. Each time it still drains me though. But it’s part of what I do. I am very careful to ensure care for myself during and after an intense time of support. I watch a lot of comedy, exercise, and talk with others honestly and openly. I love that my support asks how I am doing if I’ve clearly gone through supporting someone.

I have had to learn how to help others. I have also learned how to help others deal with very real tragedies resulting from the often invisible illness that is a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder. Right now, our community, those who suffer from, have survived, and fight for those who are struggling, is coming to grips with the events which led to the death of Miriam Carey. There’s a wonderful article over at USA Today dealing with the situation. The article covers PMAD’s respectfully and take the time to differentiate the various types of disorders. If you read any article about what happened, make it this one.

Do you know facts and statistics about suicide? Would you know what to do if someone you loved or knew admitted to active suicidal feelings? Would you be able to recognize the signs of potential suicide? It’s important to be able to do so… think of it as basic first aid for the mind. Just as our bodies can hurt, our minds hurt too. And sometimes? Sometimes we’re not capable of recognizing the extent of the injury until it’s too late.

You are not at all helpless when it comes to suicide. You CAN do something. Start with this list over at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Know how to report suicidal behaviour on Facebook. Program the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number -1-800-273-8255- in your phone.

Start a discussion about suicide with friends. If someone jokes about it, correct them by saying that it is a serious matter and deserves serious attention, following that statement up with facts and statistics. It is absolutely not something one should ever joke about. Ever.

Despite all this, sometimes we lose people. Even if we know all the signs and know exactly what to do. We can’t put our plans into motion if we do not know the plans and thoughts of those around us. It hurts like hell to lose someone to suicide. It is a pain I know well. It is a pain others I know also know well. We can do everything right and still have suicide implode our lives. How do we cope then?

When we have lost someone to suicide, we are then termed as “survivors of suicide.” People who have survived someone who completed suicide. You are not alone in this, not at all. There are others out there who are going through the anger, the frustration, the sadness, the regret, the what if’s… the entire gamut of emotions one goes through after losing a loved one to suicide. There are a few online resources. The first one is at Suicidology on their Suicide Survivors page. Then there is Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors.

There are also friends and family. Some of them may not understand your grief. They may not understand the length of it or the manner in which you choose to grieve. But grief is different for all of us, just as life is different for all of us. Grieve in the manner which feels best to you and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Let it out, let it flow through you, and process your emotions in the best possible way for YOU.

Bottom line – suicide is not something we need to remain silent about. It’s not something we should continue shoving in a corner and pretending it doesn’t happen. It happens, to everyone in all walks of life. We ALL are affected by suicide.

Let’s get together and talk about it – open up, let people know they are loved, they matter, and we do care. Today, take the time to smile at a stranger. Say hello and ask how they are and mean it – stick around for the answer, don’t drift off into the crowd. Offer to help someone with something. Do a good deed. You may just be the one thing they’ve been needing to brighten their ever so darkened life.

After that good deed? Start a conversation somewhere about how important it is to discuss suicide and the issues that can cause it but also what to do when the mere thought of it is looming on the horizon. You may just save a life doing both. And that, my friends, is why we all matter.

To Write Love on Her Arms Suicide message

In which I thank a friend for saving my life

I shared the above graphic on my personal FB page tonight. You see, today is National Suicide Prevention Day, kicking off a full week of awareness. I’ve seen blog posts, links, graphics, etc, pop up all over the place. Hell, even Wil Wheaton shared about depression.

A year ago this time, I was dancing with Suicide. Tango, actually. Cheek-to-cheek. There was no rose, no romantic embrace, just chills, thoughts, wondering, wanting, yearning. It was a dirty affair with no promise of a happy ending.

But I had this friend. An online friend who recognized my fall from grace despite my best efforts to convince everyone around me (and myself) that everything was hunky dory. My divorce had just been finalized. I was still unemployed. Not with my children. My heart broken into a zillion pieces, scattered and yet still throbbing on the cold hard floor. Yet somehow, I fell asleep every night and awoke every morning.

Did I want to? No.

Every time I was in my car, I wanted to swerve in front of every 18 wheeler I saw, every sturdy oak, down every steep hill. But I didn’t.

Then there was THE day.

The day when I stood upstairs, in my bedroom at my parents’ house, staring out the window, calculating at what angle I’d have to throw myself out of it in order to hit the cement retaining wall which separated the house from the lower driveway. As my hand reached out and touched the screen on my window, I recoiled. Ran downstairs, phone in hand, and sat in the living room with my mother, silent.

I texted my friend.

“I am not okay.”

He responded. Wanted me to call him. I did. He talked me through it. Searched online for an agency which offered income sensitive help. I called them the next day. I was in therapy until this past May with an amazing therapist who constantly pushed the envelope and forced me to face life head-on, something I hadn’t done for years.

That friend?

SAVED.MY.LIFE.

Do you hear me?

HE SAVED MY LIFE.

For so long, and even now, I am *that* person for others. To be on the other side of the equation is impossible for me to fathom. It was then and it is now. But even those of us who *KNOW* about mental health and the toll it has on lives struggle from time to time. We are not perfect. We are human. We too need support when it gets dark. In fact, I’d even postulate that it’s sometimes more dangerous for those of us who *KNOW* about mental health because we tend to talk ourselves out of it without reaching out for help because dammit, we’re supposed to know our stuff.

Reach out.

If you’re suffering, reach out.

If you’re not suffering, reach out to those around you and ask how they’re doing.

Then LISTEN. Don’t listen and think about what you’ll say in response, just listen. Let them pour themselves out and wait for them to need a response. Sometimes? We don’t need a response.

Sometimes?

We just need a comforting and safe place into which we can pour our fear, our darkness, and let go of our terrors. We need a warm hand willing to lift us out of our miry clay into the light. We need to be rescued before it’s too late.

To the friend who saved my life, thank you. Thank you more than the number of stars in the sky, atoms in the universe, and more than all the bacon I will ever eat in a lifetime. Because of you, I am still here. I am still breathing. I.BREATHE.BECAUSE OF YOU.

Thank you more than I can EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER say.

If you or a loved one are thinking of suicide, there’s a button at the top of my sidebar on my homepage here at the blog – click on it for resources. You are not alone. Suicide is a very permanent answer to a very temporary problem. There IS light, laughter, and love on the other side – I’ve found it and I will never again take it for granted.

Postpartum Voice of the Week: @zrecsmoms’ Missing a Friend Today

A year ago this past Saturday, on October 1st, 2010, the world lost a wonderful person. A mother. A wife. A friend. A daughter. A passionate person dedicated to fighting for inmates on death row in Texas. How did we lose her?

To Postpartum Depression.

Her best friend, Jennifer, writes:

“A year ago today, Kristi died after nearly five months of torturous depression. She was seeking treatment and had a strong support system, but depression is not always cured by popping a Prozac. It’s often a long experiment to see which drugs have an effect on your body while trying to be convinced that the thoughts coming from your mind are not your own.”

Depression is not always cured by popping a Prozac. Kristi had a support system too. Depression can kill. It’s not a term to be used lightly as Jennifer points out later in her deeply emotional post. It’s not something we get when it’s raining. Or when our favorite team loses. Or a candidate we’ve been pulling for loses the election. It’s not when a sports season is over. It’s not when Starbucks isn’t carrying Pumpkin Spice Lattes anymore. Depression isn’t some term to be bandied about in jovial conversation. We aren’t depressed because our grocery store was all out of our favourite kind of chocolate. That’s not depression. That’s disappointment. It may feel intense and you may be upset but it’s not depression.

Depression lingers. For weeks. For months. For some, for years. It hangs over you like a cruel fog, blocking everything and everyone from you. You reach out but all you see is the mist. You don’t see the family and friends desperately reaching toward you. You don’t see the doctors. You don’t see the world beyond what’s inside your head. You feel trapped. Hopeless. Lost. You panic. The fog gets darker and thicker. Eventually you break down. Can’t function like you used to – it’s like trying to walk through a pool of molasses. You know you can do it but the energy to push forward just isn’t there.

Some of us are fortunate to survive. Others are not. Those who don’t survive leave behind friends and loved ones filled with guilt, confusion, struggling to wonder if they could have done more. Thing is, we can only do as much as those who are suffering will let us. We can do everything right – get them to the doctor, help with therapy appointments, chores, childcare, medication, we can cross every T, dot every i, mind our p’s and our q’s, and some will still slip away from our fingers regardless of how tightly onto them we hold. Guilt, confusion, and wondering if we could have done more is a natural reaction to losing someone to suicide. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It means you’re grieving a loss you don’t understand. A loss you blame yourself for… know this though, the blame is not yours to hold. It’s okay to let go of the blame too. Letting go of the blame doesn’t mean you’re letting go of the person. It means you’re not blaming yourself for their disappearance. They will always live on in your heart and through your actions.

This is where I really love Jennifer’s  post. She’s walking in an Out of the Darkness walk for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She wants to help increase awareness. To make it okay to talk about suicide. So, in her own words:

I’ve found somewhere to start that works for me: Raising money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I’m going to walk one of their Out of the Darkness walks, because I’m committed to making suicide an acceptable topic of conversation. I’m going to help them raise money for education and awareness. And slowly, as I put the pieces back together, I’ll see what I can do to raise awareness for postpartum depression. Because no one should feel that desperate. No one should see suicide as their only way out. And because babies deserve mothers and mothers deserve help.

To read her post in it’s entirety, go here. Once you’re there, I hope you’ll consider donating to her walking team for AFSP. They’re a terrific organization dedicated to raising awareness and increasing research and education regarding suicide. They support people struggling with suicide as well as educate their loved ones on how to help and how to cope after a loss. I hope you’ll support Jennifer as she strives to continue to make a difference in the world. Show her some love while you’re over there too. She could use it. I remember supporting Jennifer last year right after she lost Kristi. I remember the pain she felt – the pain she could barely express at the time. Over the past year, she’s struggled. She still mourns for Kristi. But Jennifer? You’ve come so very far. You’re doing something I know Kristi would be so very proud of you for doing. I know she’ll be there with you, walking with you. I know we’ve never met but I’m proud of you. Keep moving forward. Through the easy and through the hard. You’re not alone. You’ve got us right there with you and I know you’ve got Kristi too. You are loved. You, my dear, are awesome.

Suicide inside out

This week is Suicide Prevention week. If you or a loved one are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please visit AFSP for more information regarding suicide, the symptoms, how to help, and how to cope if a loved one has completed the act. Know you are not alone in your struggle and there is hope, there is help, and above all else, you are loved.

 

Yesterday, my Twitter feed burst at the seams with tweets about @TreyPennington. I had no idea who this man was but quickly learned he had quite a following on Twitter and was well-loved.

Trey is no longer with us. According to reports, he took his own life in a church parking lot in Greenville, South Carolina at some point yesterday morning. Despite his connections both online and off, he felt alone.

When depression or severe mental illness strikes it can be hard to do something as simple as “reach out.” Yes, we urge people to think of mental illness as if it were a broken leg in order to encourage them to seek help. Thing is, it’s not that simple when you’re truly lost in the depths of darkness. The dark will swallow you whole before you have a chance to realize what is going on in your mind. For many, the darkness is a good friend. It becomes a safe place, a haven, a comforting world. In the midnight black we are blissfully numb. Nothing hurts. The pain is behind us. But it’s also in front of us because we know all too well how much it will hurt to leave our numb bubble. We convince ourselves, mistakenly, staying in the numb bubble is our only choice. But to stay in the bubble seals our fate. It grants us an audience with Death.

 

Those who survive suicide often speak of the decision to commit the act as one of the most peaceful decisions they ever made. To decide to end one’s life is the ultimate act of letting go. We are letting go of everything inside of us. Of everything around us. Of the very essence of being. We let go. I know this because I have entertained suicidal ideations several times throughout my life. In college after both of my grandfathers died just 19 days apart. After the birth of my first daughter. After the birth of my second daughter and her subsequent NICU stay. I did not have a plan after the birth of my second daughter. But I acted after my grandfathers’ deaths. I waded into a lake in the middle of a thunderstorm. Prayed for a lightning strike. Dunked myself under the water with the intention of drowning myself. After the birth of my first daughter I drove to a nearby lake and sat on a deck willing myself to slip under the water. Kids from a family reunion at the same park kept coming down and standing right next to me. Those kids saved my life.

 

I’ve participated in suicide interventions on Twitter. I’ve seen people hurting and jumped right in, determined to keep them alive. A cousin of mine completed suicide. It’s not something with which I am at all unfamiliar. Suicide hurts. It’s also preventable. But sometimes it’s not. The number one reaction to suicide is “I wish I could have done more.” Sometimes though, you can’t. Sometimes you do all you can do and it’s still not enough. Sometimes you reach out and reach out but unless the person to whom you are reaching is willing to hear you and willing to reach back, there’s nothing left to do.

 

I’m not saying to give up on trying to save people. Don’t ever let that go. Always hold on tightly. Jump into the fray and let them know they are loved. What I’m saying is we need to talk more about suicide. Discuss mental illness without judging. Not fear receiving anything other than the standard “I’m fine” response to “How are you doing today?” Be okay with hearing someone say “You know what? I’m not okay. I hurt and I need to talk about it.” Be selfless enough to stop and listen compassionately. Be brave enough to say “Yes. I hurt. Help me.” Find the strength to survive. Fight the pain. Revel in life, in both the good and the bad. If we all shut down and stop caring the world will become a very cold place.

 

Today, take the time to do as Twitter has been advising in the wake of this tragic loss. Take the time to ask someone how they’re doing. Don’t accept “Fine.” as an answer. Don’t pretend to be okay if you’re not. Open the door to your heart. Let someone in. We may not be able to fix others but we sure as hell can love them.

 

Love someone today. Let someone love you today. Especially if you’re stuck in a dark scary bubble. Let love in and let it free you.

Just Talkin’ Tuesday: Defining Postpartum Mood Disorders

Welcome to my blog if you’ve traveled here from 5 Minutes for Mom’s Ultimate Blog Party for 2010.

This is my second year of participating.

The following post is meant to spark discussion as well as explain why I blog.

Won’t you come on in, sit down, and have a cup of tea?

I’m so very glad you’re here.

And if you stick around, there’s a meaningful giveaway at the end.


Since my first brush with a Postpartum Mood Disorder, I have come to learn so very much about this world I consider myself fortunate enough to have stumbled into.

Fortunate? To have stumbled into a Postpartum Mood Disorder? What the hell is wrong with you?

Isn’t that a bit like being thrilled to pieces about stumbling into a briar patch?

While I certainly wouldn’t wish a Postpartum Mood Disorder on my worst enemy, I am eternally grateful for the growth it has brought to my life. For the changed relationships, the maturity, the amazingly strong women it has brought into my life. I am eternally grateful that because of my Postpartum Mood Disorders, I have rediscovered my passion for writing. For supporting new mamas as they navigate the very dark and frightening valley of Postpartumville.

For me, as a recovered two time fighter, I define Postpartum Mood Disorders as the source of my strength. As the fertilizer from which the bloom I am constantly reinventing each and every day relies upon. My Postpartum Mood Disorders do not define me anymore. They used to – they used to fill me with a deep sadness, shame, anxiety, fear, hopelessness. I feared sharing my story. The very thought of having to tell one more person what happened to me made me want to crawl into bed, pull up the covers, and never come up for air again. Until I realized I could turn and fight. Turn and kick my PMD’s ass. So I did. And I kicked it hard.

So many women out there deserve to know they are capable of the same strength. They need to know that deep within them lies a spring so full of strength they can’t even see it or sense it until they desperately need it. Then, and only then, will the waters filled with strength begin to flow. Once that flow is turned on, there’s no turning back. Some of us need help turning it on and will need to take medication or talk with a therapist. Some of us will find help and hope in exercise and natural approaches. But just as there is no one size fits all for women, there is no one size fits all for Postpartum Mood Disorder recovery. You have to do what is absolutely right for you, your situation, and your family. And you should NOT be made to feel guilty about that at all by anyone.

This is why I blog, why I wake with the goal of connecting at least one mom with the feeling that she is not alone as she decides to turn and fight her Postpartum Mood Disorder. I have not failed in my daily mission in over three years. That’s over 1000 women and counting! There are no plans to stop this train anytime in the near future either. In fact, there are blueprints on the way to expand this bad boy.

Postpartum Mood Disorders have made me incapable of taking any moment with my family for granted. Incapable of not grasping the deeper meaning of my life and the lives of those around me. My PMD experience has brought a silent clarity to my life. And for me, it’s been absolutely instrumental in bringing my relationship with God back to where it needs to be. And for that, I am certainly eternally grateful.

When you are faced with any illness, you have a choice. You can turn and fight or you can succumb. There are those who have succumbed to their Postpartum Mood Disorders. And for them, for their families, their loved ones, I mourn. But I understand. I know how they reached that point. Because I got dangerously close to it myself. And if you ever wondered what someone who has considered suicide or held suicidal ideations is like, that person is like me, like you, like the barista at Starbucks, the Judge at the courthouse, the Principal at your kid’s school, like the cashier who just smiled at you at the grocery store – the bottom line is that mental illness, just like cancer, can hit any of us at anytime. It’s unpredictable and extremely difficult to prevent even if we do everything right.In order to help prevent suicide, it is important for us to understand the warning signs. It’s important for us to be a friend to those who are struggling. To not judge them when they open up to us. It’s especially important to continue support as they are in the early stages of healing.

I bring up suicide because it ties in with my giveaway. Steve Krupnik over at NoBlu has graciously agreed to give away one of their gorgeous Sunstone Pendants. The design was settled on

“After countless hours of research, collaboration and design we created our organizations symbol, the noblu eclipse. The design is our interpretation of a solar eclipse created to inspire people to support others faced with the challenges of all form of depression and suicide prevention. If you think of the sun as the light within each one of us and the moon as the “visitor” that may block the light of inspiration you can see why we selected this glowing option. The eclipse is a reminder to look for help when we need it, to help others when they need it and inspire everyone to make a difference.”

Those of you who are regular readers know that I’ve never done a giveaway before. But I feel very strongly about the mission of NoBlu and want to share it with you. In order to be entered, leave a comment here. A winner will be chosen on April 19th at 8:00pm EST via Random.org.

So let’s get to just talking – how do YOU define Postpartum Mood Disorders? What has your experience meant to you? How have you grown?

Not had a Postpartum Mood Disorder? Have any questions about them? Want to know how to help a loved one? I’ll answer those too.

Prefer not to comment with either of those topics but want to be entered in the giveaway? Just visit NoBlu and post the first line of their mission statement as your comment.

Reclaiming the Anniversary: One Father’s Journey

On April 9, 2009, I posted a moving story from Joseph Raso over at the Postpartum Dads Project. Susan Stone had originally posted this at Empowher.com and I reposted with her permission. The piece stayed with me.

On Wednesday night, I received an email from Joseph. It included a link to a video montage of his daughter, Crystal, set to the Rascal Flatts song, “Why.” Crystal tragically shot herself shortly after giving birth to her second child, Max. No one knew she had been struggling. They simply thought Crystal was being Crystal and worrying just as she always did. No one was let in to help her. Her world turned upside down, inside out, and the only way she saw out was to leave her family behind in the most tragic way possible. Joseph has worked courageously and tirelessly to share Crystal’s story with as many people as he can in order to raise awareness of Postpartum Mood Disorders. And for that, I commend him. It is difficult work to take such a dark event and turn it into something so showered with light nothing can touch it.

Today, February 27, 2010, marks the second anniversary of Crystal’s tragic passing. Please join me in respectfully remembering her life. Join me in praying for her family, her parents, her husband, her children – praying they will continue to find strength and that God will bless them each and every day. Join me in sharing her story to raise awareness of Postpartum Mood Disorders. Click on the candle picture to light a virtual candle which will burn for 48 hours in honor of Crystal and mothers everywhere who needlessly lose their lives to Postpartum Mood Disorders each day.

I charge you with a simple task today. If you know an expectant or new parent, male or female, make a point of asking how THEY are doing. Encourage honesty. Don’t judge. Listen with compassion. Educate yourself and expectant/new parents about Postpartum Mood Disorders. Feel up to more? Challenge your local L&D to educate new moms if they aren’t already doing so. Please don’t let any more mothers suffer so alone and so silently. It’s just not okay.

(Before you click on the video below, please know that it made me bawl like a total baby after having read Joseph’s piece. And I don’t cry or bawl. Often. If you are not emotionally stable right now, you may want to skip the video. There is nothing graphic in it at all. It’s just very very moving. Kudos to Joseph for putting together such an amazing montage.)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYIRZbyXnu0]

The following is what Joseph shared with me via email when he sent me the video:

“This Saturday (02/27/10) is the second anniversary of Crystal’s passing.  Mary, I, and the whole family miss her so.  Seeing her children, Hannah and Max, almost daily is double edged sword.  On one hand, being a huge part of their lives brings such joy, but on the other hand, every time we see them we are reminded WHY we are such a big part…  it is because Crystal is gone.  I thought you might want to keep this video in your library.  Someday you might want to forward it to someone who could be at risk of postpartum depression.  This song “Why,” by Rascal Flatts, not only tells the story of how our actions can affect others, it is also so beautiful, anybody could enjoy it.  When I first heard it, I was  reminded of what we went through after Crystal died.  God Bless You.”

If you, a loved one, or a friend are coping with the recent loss of a loved one to suicide, please read this from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

If you are contemplating suicide, there IS hope. There are people who love you. People who care and want to help you heal. Need someone to talk to right now? Click here for a comprehensive list of resources in the US.

If you are struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder, contact Postpartum Support International‘s warmline at 1.800.944.4PPD. (I may just be one of the people to return your call – I’m a volunteer for the warmline in addition to providing support in my home state of Georgia)

Bottom Line here? There is hope. There is help. And above all, you are absolutely NOT to blame. And above that? You WILL be well.

Please feel free to share any of the above information on your blogs or within your networks. In fact, I encourage you to do so. Below is a button for you to place on your blog in remembrance of Crystal. The only rule is that if you download it and post it, it must be linked to Joseph’s YouTube video.

Here is a list of blogs participating in today’s remembrance event. A big Thank You goes out to all of them for great posts! (If you posted and you’re not listed below, please let me know so I can add you to the list!)