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.