Tag Archives: suicide

Why We Need to Shout

medic-708125_640When I go to the gym to hit the pool (which hasn’t been as often as it needs to be at all lately), there is a gigantic sign explaining CPR methods for children and adults on the wall of the pool room.

Defibrillators in schools and malls. Emergency phones on the highway every few miles. Emergency numbers on signs everywhere for you to contact the police if anything goes wrong. Call. Text. Instructions on where to go and what to do if a fire breaks out. Fire extinguishers.

But.

No signs explaining what to do if someone is suicidal.

No numbers of hotlines or therapists or psychiatrists plastered in public places commanding us to call them for emergencies.

No emergency break glass here in case of mental health crisis.

These things – they are not part of our society. They are there, lurking, in the background, but they are not mandated to be part of our everyday scenery. Things we whisper about to other people when we need them because heaven forbid we talk about them out loud.

Breathing – that’s important. Of course it is, you say, because without breath, you die.

BUT.

Without life, you die.

And when things get really really really bad because of our mental health and we feel all alone? We die inside. For us, we have no life and for some of us, death is the ONLY WAY OUT.

We don’t reach out because it’s difficult. We stay silent because THE WORLD TELLS US TO. It tells us that we are selfish. That we are capable of snapping out of it. That we should be happy and therefore we should just BE HAPPY DAMMIT and stop being depressed because it’s a fucking luxury. As if being depressed is something I’d rather be doing than oh, I don’t know, anything else?

What if.

What if, right NEXT TO THE SIGNS EXPLAINING CPR, there were signs explaining MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID? WHAT IF right under the #77 to reach the state police, there was a shorthand number to text if we were feeling vulnerable emotionally and struggling with a severe mental health episode?

WHAT IF WE MADE MENTAL HEALTH JUST AS NORMAL AS PHYSICAL HEALTH?

I’m tired of the bullshit. I’m tired of the stigma. I’m TIRED OF LOSING MOTHERS BECAUSE NO ONE WANTS TO TALK ABOUT IT OR ASSOCIATE WITH MOMS WHO AREN’T HAPPY.

WE can do better.

We NEED TO DO BETTER.

We can’t do it alone. We shouldn’t do it alone. We are raising up. We are casting a wider net. It’s still not where it needs to be – and we need your help. We need those who don’t battle our demons to speak up. To not let us flounder. To check on us when we begin to creep back under the covers.

It’s okay to not be okay but it’s not okay to not be okay alone. Reach out. Even if it’s just to a loved one or a trusted friend. YOU are worth it. We are ALL worth it.

Things you can do every day to help combat the stigma of living with mental illness:

Speak up. Share your story. Be honest about how you are feeling and the challenges you face.

Ask businesses you frequent if you can share promotional/supportive materials from organizations such as Postpartum Progress, Postpartum Support International, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Make mental health support accessible.

Share posts from various organizations battling for increased mental health awareness via social media. I am constantly sharing Lifeline’s posts on both FB and Twitter. Why? Because someday, it may just save a life. Suicide is not a bad word – it’s an emergency.

Get trained in Mental Health First Aid. Heck, make a day of it with friends. The more you know…. (Find a class here)

Bottom line – live your life in a mindful way of others and their feelings. Of course, keep your own in check as well, but you never know just how far a smile at a stranger might go one day.

In the meantime, visit MHA’s Screening site. Share the graphic below. Let people know they’re not alone.

Depression Screen pic

Fighting The Battle Against Suicide

The post below may be triggering for some. I blatantly discuss suicide and my own brushes with it as well as the recent news of the loss of Robin Williams. If you are fragile, you’ll want to skip this post. If you need to find some happy, go watch this video. It’s all of the awesome and then some.

The sun floated above the house in a swath of the kind of blue sky I long to see when I wake in the morning. The wind played with the trees, swishing the leaves and branches to and fro as birds and butterflies danced along with the melody Mother Nature played for them.

I stood in my bedroom, staring out at the phenomenal glory just beyond my physical reach and well beyond my comprehension. I stepped closer to the open window, staring down at the retaining wall at the edge of the house, calculating the angle necessary to hit it with my head. As my fingers brushed against the roughness of the screen, I drew back suddenly, as if I had been shocked into reality. I scurried downstairs, to a room well away from the retaining wall, and texted with a friend until the thoughts faded away.

I was not interested in beauty that day.  I was interested, suddenly, as I stood in my bedroom all alone, in leaving this world.

My divorce was final. I was no longer with my children. I could not find a job. Nothing seemed to be going my way. There was no sense in continuing with things. It was not the first time I felt like ending things and it turned out to not be the last. I dance with these thoughts from time to time but thankfully, so far, I have managed to fight them off. Believe me, the battle to fight them off is FAR HARDER than anyone who has never experienced them could possibly imagine. Sometimes, it is a daily battle. Some days, it is an hourly battle. Then finally, sleep, only to wake up and battle all over again. But I fight because my will to live is powerful and I am not done with my work here yet. I fight because my kids deserve a mother they can reach out and touch or talk to on the phone. I fight because I matter, I love, and I am loved.

There has been a lot of discussion this past week about suicide. The causes, the loss, how to cope, how to survive, and most of all, the matter of making the choice to go through with it.

Is suicide a choice?

Yes.

It is an easy choice?

Hell no.

If you wade through research, the average amount of time it takes from initiation of “I’m really going to do this” to completion is 10 minutes. I wish I had the link to this research but unfortunately, I don’t. (But there is this article you can read which references it.)

10 minutes to save someone’s life.

10 minutes to convince them they matter. That they are bigger than whatever demon is swelling inside of them and convincing them they are better off on the other side.

10.fricking.minutes.

In the grand scheme of life, 10 minutes is but a millisecond, but it is a millisecond with a number of chaotic screaming thoughts flooding your brain in an attempt to convince you to stop the life you know because it has toppled over and there is no other way to fix things.

In those 10 minutes:

It is not a matter of joy.

It is not a matter of prayer or faith.

It is not a matter of therapy.

It is not a matter of medication.

It is not a matter of love.

It is not a matter of religion, resources, and whatever the hell else you want to throw out there as a simple answer to the complexity that is suicide which is, frankly, a sandbox full of all the demons you have ever carried at any point in your life fighting each other for ownership of your soul.

In the throes of the “choice of suicide”, it is all about YOU and that huge ass demon screaming at you that yes, you are better off on the other side as it hacks away at any sense of self-respect, faith, or common sense you previously possessed. The bastard wears you down until finally, there is only one way out.

We all know the story of David and Goliath. It’s like that only sometimes, David doesn’t win.

It’s like Frodo vs. Sauron but all on his own.

It’s like Picard vs. the Borg all by himself. (And we saw how that ended – Locutus!)

I wrote an off-the-cuff status update on Facebook about the passing of Robin Williams. At last check, it had been shared over 200 times. Here’s what I said:

“I want to take a minute (or more) of your time to say something important.

Suicide is scary. It frightens us, particularly those of us who are vulnerable and know these thoughts intimately. These thoughts dance with us and sometimes have done so on a daily basis.

For people who know suicide intimately and have contemplated it, news like the passing of Robin Williams can be very triggering. It causes us to wonder how on earth we will survive if he didn’t make it. He had money. Access to care. He had just been in rehab. Dear Lord. If he couldn’t get better, what hope do “we” have?

Here’s the thing. Choose life. Choose to reach out. Choose light. Choose to fight. Every time you reach out for help, you are choosing to survive. It’s about creating opportunities for hope instead of succumbing to the darkness.

Unfortunately, we don’t know why he chose to leave us, but he did. And we’re left wondering what went wrong.

So if you want to honor his life, honor his time here, take from his death what you can and make it okay to discuss suicidal feelings. Because until mental health is a normal part of every day discussions, we will continue to be shocked when something like this happens, claiming we “had no idea.”

Know this.

There is hope. There is help. And if you are struggling, there are hotlines you can call. Things you can do. Start by reaching out to a friend, then a professional, and stay the course, even when the light fades. It will return.”

I have never had anything shared that much on Facebook before. The comments on the shares are tremendous – people are talking about mental health. But most of all, they are scared.

Because if Robin Williams, a man who had access to it all, committed suicide, then what hope do *we* have in surviving when we don’t have the access to care he did?

I questioned whether or not I should write about this here. I am not writing for page views. I am not writing to take advantage of a horrible situation. I am writing because until we make mental health check ins with each other part of normal, everyday conversation, things like this will ALWAYS shock us. Until we make mental health as normal as physical health, it will always be stigmatized, it will always be taboo, and it will always scare the shit out of us.

My heart has been heavy this week, along with millions of others. Not for the loss of Robin, but for HOW we lost him. I know that pain. I know what those moments of absolute desperation feel like as they strike terror into your very soul. Watching your body and hands go through the motions as your brain screams NO and questions your sanity but you are helpless to stop yourself. I’ve blogged about it before – here, here, and here. The second and third posts references the situation I used to open this post. There have been other times too, times in the car where I wondered what would happen if I just let go of the wheel and let myself drift into oncoming traffic – or into a tree. It’s been awhile since I have fought with these thoughts but the shadows of them are always there, lurking, waiting to spring forth and attack when the darkness threatens to swallow me.

That weight, the weight of sheer terror, isolation, and helplessness, is what spurs me to do what I do – to reach out to mothers struggling with Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders. No mother, hell, no human, should ever surf the tides of mental health alone.

So how do we change things? How do we make suicide less of a threat to ourselves and to those we love?

I wish I had the answer to that question. I have some answers, but not THE answer. No one does. All we have are suggestions.

We talk about our struggles, we don’t cover it up in polite speech or hide it in dark rooms and beneath whispers or under judgmental tones. We stop sensationalizing the horrors and instead write mindfully about the issue at hand. Let’s start there.

Suicide is not something we should dismiss. It is not something we cover up, and it is not solved by choosing joy, reaching out, or praying harder. It goes far deeper than any of that for it is insidious, tenuous, and a gut-sucking leech upon the soul of many of us who have walked this earth. Our lives, all of them, sooner or later, will be touched by suicide – someone we know, a friend’s friend, or our own. Is that acceptable? Hell no. Can we change it? Hell yes.

Baby steps.

Start here, with how to talk to a friend or a loved one about suicide. Carry resources and hotline numbers in your wallet or program them into your phone. Know the signs. Run toward the chaos and the danger instead of huddling away from it. Bring suicide into the light. Make it okay to not be okay. Not cool, but okay. Let them know you hear their pain, you acknowledge their hurt, and do what you can to encourage them to seek help. Don’t judge them. Don’t act shocked. Be compassionate. Be patient. Be understanding. Don’t justify their desire to end it but instead, talk to them about their reasons to live. Be their speck of light, as my good friend and amazing blogger John states in his own post about depression and cancer. Be the warm blanket they need to survive. Be the hope for them until they can be their own hope.

Will we still lose people?

Yes.

But those we save through our own daring to speak up may just be the ones to ultimately change the world. And in the process, we are already changing the world because we’re breaking the stigma of silence around suicide.

And that, my friends, makes the hell worth fighting through.

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.)

_______________________________________________

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.

A love letter of sorts

Dear #PPDChat Mamas,

I know yesterday was all sorts of hard for some of you.

That it was particularly hard for one of you in particular.

Just as last time, we rallied around you. We loved you. We tried to protect you and keep you safe. We did what friends do when they see a friend struggling. They reach out to anything they can in order to keep the car from crashing. To keep the crisis from escalating. We were not alone in our reaction. You are loved. By so many. You matter. To us. To others. To your children. To life. You.MATTER.

I am sorry if we upset you. But you see, it was out of love. It was out of caring. It was with good intention. I realize these are just words. That they may not change how you feel about what so many of us did together yesterday to SAVE YOUR LIFE.

To those of you who did what you could to save a life, do not place blame on yourself for the outcome. For the reaction. You did the best you could with what you had at the time. You rose above what most would ever do when faced with someone who so clearly stated suicidal intent. You bravely ran toward the crisis screaming STOP, gathering an army along the way.

The reaction? The outcome? Is not yours to own. It is hers and hers alone. You can still love her. You can still care for her. But she must process what happened to her in her own way even if that means walking away from us, walking away from Twitter. She needs to own that, not you. I’m not saying it will be easy. I’m not saying anyone is right or anyone is better. I’m just saying that all of us are only responsible for the behaviours of ourselves, not of others. As long as you know in your heart you did the best you could with what you had at the time and it was with good intention, rest easy. You’re not responsible for the outcome. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to let someone else own their behaviour when you feel you had a hand in causing it. But right now? Let go. Breathe. Know we have done every thing we possibly can to help. And now? It’s time to breathe. It’s time to let ownership lie where it may.

We’ll still be here should she ever decide to come back. With arms full of love, hearts open and willing, and minds free of judgment. I hope she does come back. In the meantime though, I wish her all the best. I wish her healing, peace of mind, and a stop to the downward spiral she feels stuck in at the moment. I know it’s dark there, we all do. Don’t ever forget you are loved. And don’t EVER forget that YOU.MATTER.

We love you. No matter what.

Love,

Me

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.

All alone in a digital world

The following post is not meant to make anyone feel guilty or wonder if they should have leaned on me for support over the past few months. Everything I’ve done to support others has been of my own volition and if I needed to step back, please know I did so. It’s because of what i do that I’m writing to you today.

It’s been a helluva summer over here in my world.

I’ve not talked publicly about the details and will not do so now but I am now divorced. So when I say it’s been a helluva summer, I mean it. Over the course of this past summer, I’ve had a lot of emotional upheaval come my way. There have been things in addition to my divorce, which, I also will not divulge the details of, but these things have shaken me to my very core. I’ve gone to bed in tears. I’ve screamed. I’ve cried. I’ve wailed. I’ve wondered why I have to wake up. If I wanted to wake up. And yet… here I am.

In Nashville, I arose at 530a CT, made my bed, got dressed, drove to a nearby park and hiked 1.5-3 mi, showered, ate breakfast, made coffee, then onto the job hunt. I didn’t find a job. So at the beginning of July, I moved back home with my parents. Which, hello, humbling.

I lost my drive. My routine. I’ve been job hunting but I’ve also felt frozen. Frustrated. Scared. Rejected. Dejected. Alone.

Me? Alone?

But you’re a well-known blogger. The founder of #ppdchat. Giving. Compassionate. Funny. Awesome. One of the best friends I could ever imagine. Always there when people need you.

Surely you have people.

I have people. But I type to them on the computer. On my phone. They’re electricity, phantoms at best. In person?

I have my parents. People with whom I have been close with from a distance for the better part of the past 11 years. And let’s face it – you really don’t want to sit down and share everything with your parents.

Here, in person? I have no friends. I’ve lost touch with them all and really, at this point, don’t want to reconnect. I haven’t had an in-person best friend (other than my former husband) in nearly 11 years.

Then.

Trey Pennington.

Well known. Over 100k followers on Twitter. Committed suicide.

Alone.

Trey’s death scared the shit out of me.

Why?

Because there have been thoughts. A lot of thoughts.

Oh look. That tree is sturdy. I bet it’d destroy me and my car if I hit it going 70mph. Or… A steep hill… a ravine…. And trees. Surely I wouldn’t survive that.

But the one that scared me into really reaching out to someone?

Standing in front of my bedroom’s second story window wondering if I had what it took to fling myself out of it – at what angle would I have to do this in order to hit the cement wall? How long after I hit the ground would I survive for? Would I feel anything? Surely that pain had to be better than living in constant anxiety and frustration.

As I reached out to push the screen, I recoiled and rushed downstairs. Too close. Too.FUCKING.CLOSE.

A friend had reached out and told me if I ever felt Not OK, to text. So I did. We talked. He searched for some local agencies and found one for me. Today was my second therapy appointment. It rocked me. Hard. I drove for nearly an hour just to be okay enough to come home.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for almost a month now. I’ve been lying to myself. To you. To people who love me. I’m not okay. On my good days, I’m okay. But most days? Most days I’m a shell wrapped around shattered porcelain supports threatening to break any second. I rock, I pace, I can’t get my leg or my hands to stay still. I’ve been telling myself I’m okay, that I can do this, that I’m strong, that I have to make it through this because there’s no other choice but through. I can’t get out of this. It is my life. But – I’m alone in my life right now and I’m not so okay with that even though really, I have to be. There I go again.

Why now? Why today?

Because over the past week or so, I’ve had a couple of friends who have been in the same place come to me for support. I’ve watched myself type things to them I should be heeding but haven’t been. Words I need to live by but haven’t been.

It’s so very easy in this day and age to isolate ourselves. To live in an ivory tower connected to the world only with Wi-Fi. There are walls we put up, a lack of contact, a lack of true connection even if we try to impress upon others how much we care, they are, ultimately, still alone in their private hell. Our words are not three dimensional. They’re not hugs. They’re not “real” no matter how real they may seem or feel to those sending them. You can’t hug an email, a tweet, or a comment on a status update. Well, you can.  But it’s awkward. And you’re still alone in the dark. It hurts, y’all. Like hell.

Trey’s death especially hit home because again, here was someone who was not only connected online but in person and yet he felt so profoundly alone and lost that the only way out he could locate was death.What’s really scary is that from initial suicidal thought to completion, time lapse is typically only 10 minutes. 10 MINUTES, people! Which, in the Social Media Realm seems like forever but in the real world? It’s only 10 minutes. That’s not a lot of time to do anything. No amount of Klout in the world is powerful enough to prevent someone from going through with suicide if they’re truly determined.

I don’t want that to be my way out. I don’t want to be a statistic. I can’t let myself be a statistic. I’m fighting as hard as I can but it’s exhausting. Some days, I may be quiet. I may not be able to handle supporting you. I need you to be okay with that. I need to be okay with that. I need to be okay with not being okay right now and admitting that I’m tired. It’s a work in progress and I suspect will be such for quite some time to come.

I’m not posting this for pity. I’m not posting this for attention. I’m posting this because the more honest we all are about how we feel and the more truthful we are with facing the hard, the easier it is for us to make strides in healing the hard. The easier it becomes for the NEXT person to talk about the hard, especially when that hard is suicide or a mental health issue.

I’m refusing, once again, to remain silent. I hope my refusal to stay silent about this will help someone somewhere.

Know I’m on my way to my new okay. I don’t have a plan right now and I am seeking help. In the meantime though, and especially right after I post this, I’m going to need some time to myself because wow has this been hard to write. I imagine deciding to hit Publish will be even harder. Because once I hit that button there’s no more hiding this from anyone.  And also? I’m supposed to be strong. I’m supposed to be the support. Once I hit publish, that flips. Being on the opposite side of the equation is a bit scary… it’s territory I’ve not been in for quite some time. At least not publicly. Or ever, really, because I didn’t go through my PPD in real-time through my blog or on Twitter. Maybe I’ll just close my eyes and click. Like Pin the Tail on the Donkey except this is Bare your heart and soul to the entire fucking Internet and never take it back. It’s a pebble which, once dropped, will create uncontainable ripples.

Also? Make those connections. Online and off. Lean on them. BE HONEST when you’re not okay. Lying about your well-being only hurts yourself. I am SO sorry for not being honest but it’s hard to be honest with others when you’re not even capable of being honest with yourself. Now that I’m somewhat heading toward self-honesty, I will do my best to be honest with you too. I pray you’ll forgive my dishonesty and understand my struggles. I know most of you will. But I do worry some of you will worry unnecessarily about me as well or even wonder if you’ve done anything to add to my issues. Rest assured you have not, I promise.

I love all of you to pieces and hope you’ll continue to support me as I go through this new and not so stable time in my life. I know you’re going to want to help but a lot of this involves things I need to work through on my own. Just knowing you’re out there to support me as I’m moving forward will be more than enough.

I’m working to find my happy again. I promise.

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.