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.

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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.)

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!)