There are no words

I listened to S Town this week.  I knew early on in the first episode what would happen to John.  He said he couldn’t describe his darkness in words, but I think he did a damn good job.  Maybe that is because I could relate to the darkness John experienced at times.  I could relate to the highs as well.  Manic Depression, Bipolar, is a beast.  It will alter your life.

Unfortunately, I believe some people battling this beast will not ever respond well to the solutions of this mental health world.  Not enough medicines or therapy can “cure” those genius’s who suffer so deeply at times.  John was one of these people.  So were Einstein and Van Gogh.  Don Mclean sang it true in “Starry Starry Night”: “How you suffered for your sanity” and “This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you”.  John was beautiful.  Beneath his crude language and disparaging look on life, was a genius.  He was an artist.  I believe true, genius artisans suffer from this world the most.  John expressed the beautiful side of  him through his hedge maze, gardens, and especially his clock “work”.

Minds like John’s, Einstein’s and Van Gogh’s just do not understand this world.  I’m not a genius by any means on their level, but I totally get it.  Those of you who do not experience the darkness as these men have, and so many people today, do not understand.  Your practical minds cannot understand the beast that can tear up your mind and skew the world into this dark, tornadic hell.

John tried to cry out for help so many times.  Bibb County did not have the means to help someone like John.  They do not have access to the medical community or even the literature to help someone like John.  I believe he tried medications once early on, but they dulled his brilliant brain and he could not express himself as well as when he is without the meds.  I have experienced that throughout my life.  I have been over medicated at times to the point I was a hollow shell, numb to the world around me, almost as bad as the depression I battle.

A large group exists that believe you will go to hell if you commit suicide.  To those living in the darkest depths of this world are essentially in hell.  The world can be too much for them.  Any place would be better than this living darkness.

For the majority of those battling mental health, I believe solutions do exist.  Research and medication have  come a long way.  More people, famous or not, are speaking out and trying to reduce the stigma.  However, it is still not enough.  I was looking at a company the other day that sponsored three different cancer fund raisers and nothing close to any mental health fund raising organization.  Mental health touches just as many people.  But it will take time.  It took a long time for people to recognize the scope of cancer.

In many instances, it is too late.  Teenage suicide attempts and completions are on the rise.  They are the second leading cause of death in this age group.  The Jason Foundation (jasonfoundation.com) is one such entity battling the epidemic.  Many states, including Alabama, have passed the Jason Flatt Act.  It requires school to include training and education in suicide awareness during the in-service training.  It stands to reason since educators, coaches, etc. end up seeing  our kids more often than we do as they get older.

Suicide is tragic no matter how you slice it.  I am not saying that it cannot be prevented with those like John, Einsten and, lets not forget, Robin Williams.  I just think that the darkness in these brilliant minds is too much to bear.

Remember, it is Mental Health Month!!!!

 

FULL CIRCLE

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I had a date with my husband for the first time in FOREVER last night.  It was the perfect storm.  All the kids were out and about and taken care of.  Well, John was laid up in bed after having his wisdom teeth taken out:)

We didn’t go far; just down to Billy’s.  We wanted to stay close in case John needed us.  It wasn’t fancy either.  It was just us.  There are times when Dennis and I are the only ones at home but that is not always conducive to really sitting down and talking about what is going on.  There is always a pile of laundry or bills to pay or sales calls to make.  Their is too much clutter at home to clear your head and talk about us.  These are the times when we reconnect, recharge our marriage and find out something new about each other.  I wish we could do it more often but in reality, with four children, we just don’t have that time.  We have to wait for the perfect storm:)

In the past week, I have had lunch with my high school English teacher whom I have not seen since 1985 and  with my cousin who is like a sister to me.  My sisters don’t live in town and my cousin and I are just as close if not closer. I used to be her nanny.  Her youngest child’s diaper was the first one Dennis ever changed:)  I also got to spend some time with one of my oldest BFFs doing flowers for the church.  This is the church in which my grandmother, mother and  I were all married.

Between AWARE, my church and my friends and family, I feel like I am truly able to give back now.  When you are sick, be it physical or mental, your only option is to take from those who can give it to you.  When it is a physical illness, it is easier to take the help given to you.  That is not the case when it is a mental illness.  It is hard for people to understand why you can’t just go fold those clothes or make up the bed or unload the dishwasher.  Those are easy things to do right?   Why can’t you just do them?  Because WE CAN’T.  WE NEED HELP.

I still get depressed and manic.  That is just a part of myself I have come to terms with.  But I have tools to get better and I know when to ask for help before things get too bad.  I am not cured.  I am in remission.  There is no guarantee that I may not have to be hospitalized again.  You will know it when I do because I will share my journey with you.  I have a new voice now.  I have a new outlook and a new goal:  to help you understand that DEPRESSION IS AN ILLNESS.

AWARE is out of the honeymoon phase now.  The momentum of the tragedies has waned.  The number of new members on the AWARE page has dwindled.  BUT WE ARE NOT GIVING UP.  We are in it for the long haul. We have some great things planned for the fall.  If you have seen the comedian on Ted Talks who talks about his depression you are in for a treat.  He has agreed to come speak in September.  We need help though.  We need you.  We need you to help on a planning committee.  We need help finding a venue and someone to sponsor that venue.  Let us know if you want to help.

Being a Birmingham native and being gone for 10 years, I see things with a fresh eye.  My experiences from my time away have pushed me to help this community make some changes.  My English teacher laughed and said she may be embarrassed to be seen with me.   I know I have ruffled some feathers but change doesn’t happen without growing pains.  Every single person in the community if affected by mental illness and suicide.  Don’t kid yourself.  That mom next door who is perfectly made up each day and has her children dressed to the nines each day is absolutely miserable.  I know because you have told me.

We need the city’s and school’s support.  We don’t want them to cure depression or prevent suicide.  We need them to work with us and let us use their venues and email lists.  If they don’t I will be entering in every single contact I have from all  6 school’s directories myself.  Anyone want to help?:)

A plethora of reasons exist as to why we moved back.  One of the main ones is my illness.  I needed to be near better hospitals and doctors.  It has been a hard move on the children.  I will not sugarcoat it.  I second guess myself all the time whether this was a good idea or not.  But I don’t think I would have been able to fight this illness had we not been able to make some changes.  I know God had his hand in it. I know deep in my heart that this move will have a positive lasting impact on my family and this community.  It already has.  I have come full circle.

Enjoy this beautiful day.

 

 

 

 

Tragedy, Loss and Insensitivity

Yesterday, Birmingham lost another soul to a senseless tragedy. My heart goes out to his wife and children. My heart hurts for them profoundly.
I mentioned before, how could a “caveman” be depressed? He provides for his family. He has responsibilities to put them through school and pay for their activities. It is for those same reasons he can be despondent. This man lost his job. How was he supposed to take care of everybody? I am afraid he expected it and had planned this. I cannot say for sure because I am not him. But statistics show that some thought goes into it and a particular instance causes a person to act on it.
What truly broke my heart about this was the insensitivity of certain people who chose to post this on facebook. One who claimed to be a friend posted a picture of the parking deck yesterday morning. I was stunned. They noted they were close to the family but couldn’t say who it was because not all family had been notified. Why put it up there at all? It was already posted all over the news as some gunman out to harm others. We talk about sensationalizing suicide as being harmful. This was harmful: to the family and friends of this troubled man.
I am so sad about this tragedy.
It hurts deep in my soul because I understand the despair this man suffered. I also know it could have been stopped. Not by his wife who was almost too close to the situation. It could have been stopped because more could have been done about information being put out their about depression and suicide. This is precisely why AWARE was created. We want to erase the stigma about depression. We want to notify the community of ways to battle it and survive. We want to discuss the reasons why people turn to drugs and alcohol to mask their depression. It also gives them courage to attempt to take their lives. We want every one to be AWARE of the signs and symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses and challenges people face that cause them to see the only option is to take their life.
Their is a questionnaire on villageliving.com about what you as a community want to know about these issues. Please take the time to fill it out. Let us know your concerns. Help save a life. NOT ONE MORE is our “motto”. Let us keep our friends and family members alive by being AWARE of what is going on in our community.

Pain Shame and Loneliness

 

In the past year since I have moved back to Birmingham, Mountain Brook has been plagued with a number of needless tragedies.  Because of this, I cannot stay quiet any longer. I posted something along the lines of this article and I got an overwhelming response, I feel compelled to embellish and hopefully I can touch a few more lives.  I may ramble my way through some of this so bear with me.

I suffer from Depression.  There, I said it.  It is out there.  It stinks.  Some days I wish I could get a brain transplant.  It hurts so badly.  Deep in my soul it hurts.  Some days it just hurts to live.  Sound familiar?  Keep reading.

So many people suffer from this disease.  Yes, it is a disease.  Look it up on the internet.  NAMI is a good source.  They will give you the technical signs and symptoms.  They will tell you what to look for. This is my cancer.  People openly talk about all forms of cancer. I am here to talk about mine. I am here to give you the personal side of this disease.

 Moms, do you have those days you can barely get out of bed, empty the dishwasher or fold the clothes?  Climbing Mt Everest sounds easier than “whipping up” dinner.  How about all those PTA meetings and events, baking cookies and brownies that have to look like something on Pinerest.  What about the smocked dresses for church and the matching bows and outfits for your four children who must look like they did not scream and yell the whole morning you were getting everyone ready to praise the Lord? You didn’t sign him or her up for a private coach when he or she was in first grade.   It is hard enough for those moms who don’t suffer.  What about those of us who do?  I did all the smocking and yelling before church.  During the sermon I sat there quietly praying that God would give me the energy to be able to hang up all those fancy clothes that I feel like burning!!  What about finding the right decorator to make your family room look like a museum? I have a bad back and looked tirelessly for a recliner that would fit my small frame.  Guess where I found it?  Goodwill.  I still haven’t gotten it recovered.  It is my writing and reading chair.  My children are mortified when they bring friends home and foam is sticking out.  But it gives me that throwback feeling like I am an important writer who can’t think straight if all her stuff is in “order”

I am right in the middle of my children trying out for their prospective squad.  Some days the guilt consumes me.  Guilt is something that everyone deals with.  Believe me when I say it is ten times worse when you suffer from depression.

Men, sometimes you have it worse.  You are the soul bread winner.  You have children to feed, clothe, and put through college.  Shoot, rec league sports are so expensive now you are tempted to take out a second mortgage so your child can have the best bat and the best batting coach.  How can you let your daughter live without those $400.00 pair of boots? What about the country club dues and assessments and that house on Lake Martin that you can’t live without?  Heaven forbid you miss your dogfight on a Saturday morning.  How are you supposed to put one foot in front of the other each day when all you want to do is pull the covers over your head and disappear?  Cavemen aren’t supposed to be depressed are they?

Depression and suicide are tough when dealing with adults.  The thought of losing a spouse or close relative to suicide is horrible.  To know they felt there was no other option can send anyone reeling.

Now think about your child.  I can remember being depressed in fourth grade.  Can you imagine trying to deal with such dark feelings at such a young age?  These are supposed to be carefree years, making “S”’s on your report card, playing on the playground, taking ballet classes at Steeple Arts.  I am a girl so I don’t remember what sports were available then for boys.  All I remember is trying so hard to feel carefree and I couldn’t do it.  Boy did I play the part though.  My husband says that my best feature is my smile.  I started perfecting that smile at a very early age.  My parents had no idea.  I have three much older siblings who were dealing my parents fits during this time.  In my depressed mind, I thought my dark thoughts were not valid enough to warrant their attention.  So I suffered silently.  Depressed people can barely understand these irrational thoughts much less share them with someone.  Who would understand?

Middle School and High School were tough.  That first year in Jr High when all four elementary schools converge is frightening to even the most confident children.  It was my personal hell.  I remember having a lot of stomach aches on Mondays.  Somehow I trudged through it.  I put that smile on, made good grades, and danced my heart out.  Steeple Arts was my saving grace.  We all put that black leotard over those pink tights and tried to stay far away from Mrs Coates “stick”!  It is important for your child to find their niche during these crazy years.

I was a cheerleader and Dorian in high school so I made the “cut” in the hierarchy.  Inside, each day, I lived my own private hell.  I had it all, right?  I had good grades, made the “squad”, had dates, was in the “right” sorority.  And yet I was miserable.  I had no idea how I was supposed to express these irrational thoughts and deep pain to someone.  Who would understand such a thing?  I sure didn’t want any of my friends to know what I was thinking.  I didn’t want my peers to think I was crazy!  They would not like me anymore.

By my senior year, I did want to die.  Everyone was so excited about going to college.  I was expected to attend Alabama like all my family, pledge one of two sororities and experience the perfect college life.  I knew in my heart I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t pretend anymore.  I tried in some meek way to explain to my parents that I couldn’t handle that life.  My mother loved college!!  She couldn’t understand why I didn’t want that same experience.

That summer I went too far and became suicidal. They labeled mine a cry for help;  which it was.  But still It was not something anyone talked about then and still people don’t want to face the fact that their spouse, loved one or, heaven  forbid, child could feel so bad that they felt no other option was available than to end their life.

It is real and it is here to stay.  Unfortunately there is no cure.  Drugs can only do so much.  The rest is up to us to want to step out of our own private hell and take the steps to get out of our heads and begin to enjoy life the best way we know how.  There are counselors who have years of training and working with people with depression and suicidal attempts.  There are some really good ones out there.  It is a tough road to find the right fit for you.  You may have to explain yourself over and over until you find that one who can help you personally.  That right there can be a huge reason not to go for help.  Don’t give up. 

Teenage depression and suicide is a tough topic to face.  I gave you my scenario. I hope I have given you some insight on what might be going through your child’s head.  Every trained counselor and youth educator can give you a list of signs to look for.  Unless they suffer from depression, they can’t tell you what is going through these kids’ minds. The pressure to have perfect grades, the perfect friends, the ideal high school “experience” is very high.  Some of this pressure comes from within. I believe this is a birth order thing, but I digress.  Top that off with depression and it is even tougher for these kids to handle.  We want our kids to be perfect!!  They can’t be depressed.  I can’t send them to a therapist.  What would my tennis team think, what would my garden club “friends” think?

Tell them to stuff it.  You are going to fight for your child.  If you have any suspicion that your child may feel this way, get help.  School counselors are paid and trained to be discreet.  They know the best therapists in town to deal with your particular issue.  These kids hide behind every façade they can.  They are the valedictorian and the homecoming queen.  They are also the quiet ones who slip through the cracks:  that “good” child of yours who never makes any waves or seeks attention in anyway.  He makes good enough grades, plays a sport or is on a squad and always tells you everything is FINE:  Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional.  That is a dangerous word.  I use it myself on many occasions.  My sister has caught on though.

Don’t forget your elementary child.  I am witnessing through my children how much pressure these young kids are under to excel at an activity.  Hours and tons of money are spent with special coaches in ALL activities.  Ask yourself: “Is my child going to play at a D1 school or the pros?”.  Ask those kids who played for Saban and left early so they could feed their family, how much extra money their mom had to pay for special coaches.  Give your child a break.  Let them be a kid.  We have these great small neighborhoods around but no one is home anymore to play.  They are all out perfecting their “swing”.

Depression is genetic.  Social and economic factors don’t help.  I believe situational depression does exist as well.  My mother suffered from the genetic kind but I never really knew how much until after she died.  No one talked about it.  I wish I had known. Maybe I could have better understood why she laid in bed some days or forgot to pick me up from school.   If you suffer please talk with your children about it.  They need to understand why mommy is still sleeping or Daddy is always snapping at them.  They need to know that if they feel this way, they are not alone.  This is where we break the cycle.

Parents, if you suffer, give yourself a break some days.  The dishes and laundry will be there when you get back.  That sales quota is going to rise in six months again any way.  How many more hours can you bill this week?   If your spouse suffers, bear with them.  We know you want to shake us and tell us to snap out of it.  We wish it could be that easy.

I know I may have rambled.  This is an important topic for me.  I am almost 47 years old and I am tired of being quiet.  You may think I am even crazier for writing this, but I hope I can at least touch one hurting soul.  If you have read this and can relate in any way, please know you are not alone.  Talk to someone.  I am in the school directories.  It may be one of the hardest but most rewarding things you could do for yourself and your family.

 I am so far from the perfect parent. Parenting teens is like trial by fire.  I know one of my children suffers and I want to build a wall around them to protect them from the pain.  All I can do is keep pushing them to talk.  As with any illness, I can get pretty mad at God.  People tell me that God has a plan for me.  Maybe this is it right here by sharing my story.

I would like to make a special shout out to my husband, Dennis.  You are my rock.  I love you to the moon and back.  Thank you for sticking with me through this roller coaster.