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.

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