Those Times In Between

Album art from Dramatic Lunacy, In between. Retrieved from http://got-djent.com/content/dramatic-lunacy-in-between-instrumental-progressive-metal on July 26, 2017.
Album art from Dramatic Lunacy, In between. Retrieved from http://got-djent.com/content/dramatic-lunacy-in-between-instrumental-progressive-metal on July 26, 2017. Use of this image here does not convey the artist endorses the words within.

My heart ached with the news regarding the suicides of Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell. I started writing this post then and walked away. Now Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have committed suicide so I face this page once again.  As is always the case, blogs, tweets, articles and radios chant, “Please get help.” And my response is, “People who have never been depressed just don’t get it.”

The energy it takes to fight these demons is enormous. We fight them and fight them and fight them. Then one day, we realize the fight is never going to end. The monsters will always return. It is a disease much like cancer. It eats away at you. You either can’t feel anything or you feel everything ten fold. You are exhausted. You fight it by telling yourself, “It’s the depression. These feelings aren’t real. It will pass.” You wait it out. Time and again. Until you finally ask yourself, “Does it even matter?!?!” You are cut off from feeling things so your only motivation for staying alive is seeing that others love you and you do not want to hurt them. But, to be honest, you hate them a little bit for not just letting you go.

In my latest struggle with severe depression, I found myself operating like a robot. Just trying to get through every day, hoping maybe the fog would clear tomorrow. It never did. I knew I needed to get help. I tried to get help. I did exactly what I was supposed to do. Research psychologists to find the right one for you. So I researched. I contacted them. I was told they weren’t accepting new clients. I researched again. I contacted again. I was again told they were not taking new clients. I did this again and again for six months. All the while sinking deeper and deeper into a world of black and white, live or die. I personally know of seven people, not including myself, who have been suicidal within the last year. There is an epidemic right now.

I even contacted the employee assistance program thinking they could find someone better than I could. They couldn’t. After three days of them researching they were only able to identify two professionals taking new clients and one of them was an hour away. It felt like I was trying to get help and the universe was giving me a great big, “FUCK YOU.” I had insurance. Great insurance. I was trying to get help. Yet, I couldn’t get it. It seemed like the only way to enter the process was to check myself into a mental ward. I wondered to myself, what about all those people who’s depression had already numbed their resolve to push through this? Those who were weakly seeking help but for whom the desire to die was stronger? Those who were just so tired they couldn’t cut through the bull shit? How many of them have survived? Recent headlines reveal many have not… With many more not making headlines, I’m sure. I was strong enough to be asking the right questions. I was trying to get the help I needed. I didn’t feel like I needed to be locked up for my own safety. Why was that seemingly the only way to get help then? It felt like I was begging for help. Eventually, I found someone local but I was her last new patient until 6 months out, at least.

It has been an incredible and eye-opening experience.

“Please get help.” Sure. But from where?!?! And how?!?! The professionals are overwhelmed with an epidemic of depression. Even with insurance, it is exceptionally hard to get in for help. You are pretty much out of luck if you have no insurance. I have no idea how to fix that but the system is broken and it needs to be fixed. We will continue to see suicides and violent crime until mental healthcare is easily accessible. I scoff at the phrase “please get help” when it is just thrown out there and left wherever it landed. Depressed people are too tired to deal with this system. One does not go it alone with cancer. Imagine having a heart attack and someone says, “the defibrillator is over there, go get it.” Only the depressed person can do the work to heal but they probably need help getting the ball rolling. Keep checking in and insisting they get help. Stress how important it is to keep trying when the system doesn’t seem to want to let you in.

With the insistence of my husband and friends, I came to realize medication was necessary for me. I knew all the tricks of the psychology trade so to say, all the coping techniques they teach you, and they were not enough to bring me back to, well, ME. I had gone through three pregnancies and all the hormone changes that entails. Apparently, it messed with my brain chemistry as well. I was terrified to start the medication because it came with the warning: May cause thoughts of suicide or cause existing thoughts to worsen. At that point, I was at least stopping to think, “Do I really want to kill myself?” Would the medication push me so far down I would stop asking that vital question? Luckily, they are helping. The past few months have been brutal and yet I have been able to cope. I just have to hope they continue working. And if they don’t, that I have the wherewithal to seek help yet again.

By Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez (Lmbuga Commons)(Lmbuga Galipedia) Publicada por/Publish by: Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez (Lmbuga Commons)(Lmbuga Galipedia) Publicada por/Publish by: Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
I do not know Chris Cornell or Chester Bennington. I can’t say I know what they went through or what kind of professional help they had. But oh how I can empathize with their pain, their struggle and their defeat. We do know we love you and you love us. We do know that our absence would create heartache. We do know that our deaths would leave an unfulfillable void. The burden of the illness is just so great that we wish you DIDN’T love us, that our absence WOULDN’T cause heartache or a void. We are so encased in the depression that we wish we could just sacrifice our bodies in the hope for peace. Imagine it as if we carry a giant boulder above our heads. It continually presses down until we are hunched over. It presses down upon us until we are either crushed or we have found a way to extricate ourselves. It is not like a real rock you can just lay down. It has grown into our skin and has become one with us. Extricating depression is like removing a tumor deep within the brain. It requires expertise, precision, caution, time… And follow-up.

If you want to be productive, urge your loved one to get help, then follow-up until they do. Make sure they know you love them. Find ways you can help them get help. For instance, I needed someone to watch my children so I could research doctors and make appointments without the constant interruptions inherent with kids.

I suffered with depression for a year, maybe more, before I even mentioned it to anyone. I remember holding my youngest child, cognitively knowing how wonderful my life was but not being able to FEEL it. I realized this was never going to go away. So what was the point of fighting? It is like living in a flood plain. You can only rebuild so many times before you move away. The older generation of depressed people know how hard the battle is to get out of depression. We’ve been there, a few times, and it is easy to doubt whether we have it in us to do it yet again.

I write all this in the hope that it might bring some understanding to those who have never suffered from depression. I write even though I suspect the chances of that are slim to none. I also write for those still struggling with it… The clouds always part. Sometimes it is interminably long but they do. The storm may or may not return but we need to carry on. We do. We just do. Those times in between. They ARE worth it.

As I am prone to do before publishing, I seek feedback from other people. My husband asked me, What would you have said to Chris, Chester, Kate or Anthony had they called you on the day they ended their lives?” The first thought that popped into my head was, “They never would have placed a call.” I guess this is the point I am really trying to drive home, if you are on the ledge, you do not want to get help. You want to carve distance between you and your loved ones so you can slip quietly away without harming others. I think the most effective thing you can do is help them bridge the times in between. Make sure they know their death would be excruciating. Make sure they know you love them. Make sure they never forget you are there. Never let them forget they are connected to life.

Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/draganbrankovic/25896672620/in/photostream/.6b73 License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Retrieved from flickr user d26b73 on July 26, 2017: https://www.flickr.com/photos/draganbrankovic/25896672620/in/photostream/.6b73                 License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/                                                                                       Use of this image here does not convey the artist endorses the words within.

94 Lives.

94 Lives Lost. 94 Lives Matter.
94 Lives Lost. 94 Lives Matter.

I was recently moved by an interview with a police chief who lost his composure in what I felt was a most eloquent way. (Chief Flynn after Nov. 6 police commission meeting.) He said, “if some people here gave a good God damn about the victimization of people in this community by crime I’d take some of their invective more seriously… They know all about the last three people who’ve been killed by the Milwaukee police department over the course of the last several years but there’s not one of them can name one of the last three homicide victims we’ve had…”

His statement got me thinking. I can’t name any of them either. I began to wonder how many other deaths had there recently been? Besides the high profile ones? I recently held a gun for only the second time in my life. As I held it, all I could think was, “Wow. How can so many people be so cavalier about guns?”  This sent me down the rabbit hole where I learned there were 101 deaths in a 72-hour period between July 16 and July 18 at 3 pm. You can review any of the latest 72-hour statistics by visiting http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/last-72-hours. By the time I came up with the idea to give these statistics back their names, the data had shifted. Luckily, I suppose, a hot Monday yields less deaths than a hot Saturday. Between July 17 and July 19, 2016 we lost 94 lives due to gun violence. Even with fewer numbers, that still works out to over 1.3 lives lost per hour. There were an additional 255 people injured by gun violence in that same period or 3.5 injuries per hour.

I do not want this post to be about gun control. I don’t want this post to be about anti-gun control. I want it to be about potential. 94 lives lost. 94 lives gone forever. Someone’s child. Someone’s husband. Someone’s wife. Someone’s friend. Someone born full of hope and potential. Someone who could love and be loved. Some of these people were victims. Some of them were the perpetrators. I grappled with separating them out of respect for the survivor’s of the victims. In the end, I decided to list them in the order they died, often meaning a victim was listed next to the perpetrator. I did this because we have to be able to do more to stop this violence. And that has to take place before the violence occurs. We have to be able to stop the perpetrators from wanting to hurt others.

WE HAVE TO.

Oh, it is so very easy to turn it off. It’s too much. We feel powerless in the face of such enormous problems. We need to stop the poverty. We need to stop the alienation. We need to stop the humiliation. We need to stop the anger. We need to stop the hurt.

We need to love. We need to care. We need to help.

When my boys ask me why someone is being mean I often say, “Well, I just don’t think they got enough love today.” And if these perpetrators had received enough love in their lives, maybe, just maybe this list would be shorter. And maybe, if whole swathes of our society weren’t made to feel like second class citizens, this list would be shorter. And, maybe, if we just take a few minutes to read these names, every last one of them, we’ll stop focusing on the forest and start  noticing the people standing among its trees.

Forest and the Trees
Forest and the Trees

The youngest of these victims was a 4-year old boy. Another was a brand new father, accidentally shot by his brother. Another was a teen playing basketball on a community center play ground. Another was a mother of four. So many murder-suicide combinations. So many related to drugs. So many related to anger. So much pain. It will not be ignored. Like a festering wound, it just spreads until the body can ignore it no longer. If we want to heal, we must face the wounds.

I do not want these people to get lost in the shuffle. Let’s not forget their names. Let’s not forget there are people behind all the debates.

So here they are. Above, in an image format. Below, in a text format. There are a few where I have simply listed the gender and city as their names have not yet been released pending notification of next of kin. I have done as much research as possible to put names to the incidents. Where not possible, please know that I respect your loved one’s life. THEY MATTERED. YOU MATTER TOO.

If you wish to add a name to this list, please feel free to contact me and know that you are in my heart and prayers. ♥

EMILIO FLORES ~ DONZIE TAYLOR ~ LARRY STEWART ~ CAPTAIN ROBERT MELTON ~ DAYRON STATEN ~ TYRONE JOHNSON ~ HENRY VARNADO ~ KENT FRANKLIN ~ ALFRED MATTHEWS ~ JERRY BRIMER ~ SHERIC ANDERSON ~ NAME WITHHELD, KANSAS CITY, MO ~ SUZANNA PEREZ ~ EBONY SMITH ~ BRAHEEM QUEEN ~ MIKHAL DELOVE BAILEY ~ KEVIN DAVID POWELL ~ LUKE SMITH ~ RON EASTERLING ~ JOVANNI SIMS ~ BRANDON HANSFORD ~ FERNANDO MONTANO ~ ANNASTASIA MACKIN ~ ADDISON “HOLLYWOOD” SHEARIN ~ SETH MARTIN ~ ANGELICA FISCHER ~ EMMANUEL COACH ~ NAME WITHHELD, MALE, CHICAGO, IL ~ JERMAINE SMITH ~ DERRELL PEDEN ~ MICHAEL BROWN ~ MARK CUMMINGS ~ MARK FLETCHER ~ NAME WITHHELD, MALE, GARDEN GROVE, CA ~ JOHN STOWERS ~ NAME WITHHELD, MALE, BALTIMORE, MD ~ SHANE MCCORMICK ~ JESSICA ARRENDALE ~ ANTOINE DAVIS ~ CHUEMO GATEWOOD ~ KRISTI MAXWELL ~ RICHARD MAXWELL ~ KEVIN WHITE ~ KEVIN VILLEGA MELENDEZ ~ RAYMOND GONZALES ORTIZ ~ FRANCISCO ORTEGA MARTINEZ ~ EDWARD LONG ~ TOMAS URIEGAS ~ PHILLIP BANK ~ JESSIE GARCIA ~ MICHAEL RAY RAMSEY ~ NAME WITHHELD, FEMALE, ROCHESTER, MI ~ JACOB COMSTOCK ~ LOUIS TATE ~ JASON AQUINO ~ CYNTHIA ZINGSHEIM ~ CARRIE ROUZER ~ NAME WITHHELD, MALE, CARROLLTON, GA ~ TYISHA AUSTIN ~ LAQUITA ROBINSON ~ SHERIDAN THOMPSON ~ NAME WITHHELD, MALE BROOKLYN, NY ~ JERMAINE JOHNSON ~ PATRICK DEWAYNE DECKER ~ JOSEPH BROWN ~ 4-YEAR OLD BOY, SULPHUR, LA ~ KENNETH BACQUE ~ MARQUES ADDISON ~ MAURICE BROWN ~ MICHAEL REED ~ KEVIN HIGGINS ~ JULIUS SMITH ~ MICHAEL LEON KING, JR ~ ATHENA NICHOLAS ~ DENZEL OLAJUWON MORTON ~ OTAVIOUS BROWN ~ CARLOS HARDING ~ ARTIVIS GLADNEY ~ SADIE ROBINSON ~ BRANDON BERNARD BOWMAN ~ NAME WITHHELD, MALE, CHICAGO, IL ~ COURTNEY TURRELL GUY ~ ATRAYU RAMAL DAVIS ~ OFFICER MATTHEW GERALD ~ OFFICER MONTRELL JACKSON ~ DEPUTY BRAD GARAFOLA ~ DEPUTY NICHOLAS TULLIER ~ GAVIN EUGENE LONG ~ CHEYENNE STEWART ~ NAME WITHHELD, MALE, LOUISVILLE, KY ~ BRANDON HANSFORD ~ HASSAN MCALLISTER ~ HASSAN AL-WATAN ~ NAME WITHHELD, MALE, SAN FRANCISCO, CA

The Potato Proxy

thepotato_umbrellamoms

Have you heard the one about the picture of a potato selling for $1M? The artist, Kevin Abosch, says the picture is an “ontological [philosophical] study of the human experience.”

I see commonalities between humans and potatoes that speak to our relationship as individuals within a collective species,” Abosch told CNN. “Generally, the life of a harvested potato is violent and taken for granted. I use the potato as a proxy for the ontological study of the human experience.” Epoch Newsroom. (2016, February 2). Potato Photo Sells for More Than $1M: Reports. Retrieved February 04, 2016, from http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1952097-potato-photo-shot-by-kevin-abosch-sells-for-more-than-1m/

Indeed.

This is clearly a man capable of deep thinking. I get it. I really do. I also see its sale, the sale of a picture of an ordinary potato, for $1M as an ontological study as well. I don’t mean to vilify the person who bought this picture for that amount of money or the artist who sold it. It is entirely possible they each donate an obscene amount of money to worthy causes. Clearly the abysmal state of some of our fellow humans speaks to them or they would not have thought to take the photograph or had an interest in buying it. It’s just the idea of all that money going to a picture instead of the proxy it is supposed to represent. Let’s be clear, I have always had feelings like this. When I toured the Tower of London at 14-15 years old I was left feeling sick to my stomach. I vividly remember seeing a giant gold and jeweled punch bowl with a golden ladle that required the strength of more than one human being to serve its beverage contents. All I could think was, “Why?!?!” Why not melt that opulence down and serve a few million starving people food? I don’t get it and maybe that’s why I will never be rich.

Ten things you can buy with a million dollars:

  • 10 high-end Habitat for Humanity houses
  • 45 new schools from World Vision
  • 66 deep wells and hand pumps (2,800 gallons of safe drinking water every day for 300 people) from World Vision
  • 7,000 pairs of glasses through Toms One for One program (one donated for every pair purchased)
  • 18,000 pairs of shoes through Toms One for One program (one donated for every pair purchased)
  • 20,000 antibiotic kits from Save the Children
  • 47, 619 family mosquito nets from World Vision
  • 20,000-50,000 symbolic adoptions of endangered species animals from the National Wildlife Foundation
  • 333,333-100,000 trees from the Arbor Day Foundation
  • 11 million meals through Feeding America’s food banks

That being said, I do have a sense of humor and I am willing to put money where the potato is. Therefore, bidding is now open for an alternate interpretation of the potato/human experience. I call it, “The Potato Sustains.” Should someone bid upon this picture, I pledge to invest/donate the proceeds as follows*:

  • 20% to a charity of the buyer’s choice
  • 20% to art school/art camp scholarships
  • 30% to food/anti-hunger charity
  • 30% to college education savings for my children (three kids, 10% each)

*Depending upon the bid amount, I am willing to negotiate the charitable recipients with the buyer. I will throw in a bottle of wine for free if the bidding goes to $1M!  

Now, if you will excuse me, for some reason I am craving a potato. 😉

Acorns and Love

Emerson's Acorn Phase
Emerson’s Acorn Phase

Love is a feeling as real as touching something. I like to soak it up when those moments hit me.

This morning I should have been worried about getting back home after the school bus picked up Silas. There are a million and one things I needed to do today. But there it was, that feeling of love.

Emerson has entered into what I like to call the “acorn phase.” He collects each and every acorn he comes across. Autumn is approaching, so that means a lot of collecting. Emerson is different than his brother was during this phase. Silas would collect them and they would find their way into the house, the basket on his bike, his pocket. Anywhere they could be stashed you would find an acorn. Emerson, however, loves to pick them up, treasure them for a bit and then find a perfect spot for the squirrels to retrieve them.

As I watched Emerson search for the perfect spot this morning, I just stood there smiling, all Pepe Le Pew, marveling at that feeling. As real as if someone were hugging me, brushing my hair or rubbing my feet after a long day. It soothes. It brings a smile to one’s face. It relaxes you just as much as a lengthy professional massage. He walked all about our front yard in search of the perfect place. He walked from one side to another and back again. I just stood there wistfully smiling away, allowing my soul the joy of loving him.

My grandfather always used to say, “the tiny acorn grows into a mighty oak tree.” Well, the love I have for my boys feels like a mighty oak already. I can only imagine what the future holds but I tend to think of the sound of acorns falling from the trees as we walk together. I hope each of our boys will grow as tall and strong as the trees. I want them to then share their love and strength as freely as the oak shares its bounty.

I very much enjoy the acorn phase. And yes, eventually, he did find the perfect spot.

A Mom’s Survival Guide to the First Day of Kindergarten

My first born is heading off to kindergarten. Yes, that little one there in my arms.

IMGP00601The whole notion makes me feel like I could throw up.  I have read and been touched by all the beautiful, heartfelt, sure to make you cry blogs. If you haven’t, just log into Facebook. I think there is a new one posted every two seconds. Ironically, since I am a sometime blogger myself, I have started boycotting blogs on this subject because, frankly, I need to keep my $#!+ together! But this is a BIG milestone, isn’t it?!?! I should write something. So here it is:

A mom’s survival guide to sending your child off to kindergarten.

SUPPLIES:

Mirror. You are going to have to practice your game face. So log into your Facebook account, read one of those super sappy sure to make you cry blogs in front of the mirror and practice smiling. It has to be convincing so you know you are going to need practice. Smile. If you can’t smile, paint one on. Go all clown if you have to. You can’t let that precious child see your fear.

Man_making_a_grimaceYou can practice making silly faces too. You can use them to distract both of you from the “What the heck is wrong with me?!?!” emotions you are certain to feel. And if you still can’t stop crying, then you can just say you must have pulled a muscle making those darn silly faces.

sunglassesdogSunglasses. You are going to cry. Trust me, there are only so many times you can tell your child you got something in your eye or, “Gee, my allergies are bad today” before they catch on. Start covering those teary eyes up now. And, for God’s sake, make certain you wear them to the bus stop on the first day. Maybe every day that first week. Or month.

sunglasses-woman-girl-facelessIf you are failing miserably, as I expect I will, you could try the Cousin It look.

praline-182861_1920Chocolate. I suggest the good kind. Not even the good Lindt chocolate that you can get at the grocery store. I am talking about going to a real Chocolatier and buying the $2 a piece kind. And lots of it. Your survival depends on this. Don’t be cheap.

Flaming_cocktailsWine, beer, hard liquor. Your choice. Maybe all three if you are really taking things hard. Heck, I may make myself a flaming martini to get through the ordeal! If you have other children, you may want to hire a babysitter so you can curl up into a ball and cry as you reminisce upon every single memory you have had with your children in the past 5 years.

UmbrellasUmbrellas. All kidding aside, call your friends. Invite those umbrellas over. These people have been where you are before. They will assure you survival is not only possible but certain and often times pleasant. They will highlight the absolutely wonderful things to come in this new future. They will hug you when you dwell incessantly on all the things you will miss. They will cry with you, smile with you, laugh with you and then tell you it’s time to pull it together because you have been ruminating for so long it is time to go to the bus stop to pick up your kids.

mismatched_mothers_dayYour own mom. Whether it is a phone call or a visit. Touch base with your own mother. I realized tonight as I sniffed my way through bedtime songs and was hanging onto my good night cuddles WAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY longer than was necessary, the long and loving hugs are one of the things I will miss most about having very young children. It struck me, “When is the last time I hugged my mom like this?!?!” I honestly can’t recall. I am resisting the urge to drive over there right now just to hug her because that would be a little nutty. ~But I know just what I will be doing tomorrow.

grass-730399_1920Focus. Focus on your child’s joy. Focus on your child’s growth. Focus on your child’s love. Focus on your child’s needs. Just as you always have and always will.

GOOD LUCK!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

They hold the safety net that catches me when I fall. They hold umbrellas over me when the world seemingly crumbles all around us. They hold my hand and they hold my heart. They are my friends. And I love them. -Celeste McNiesh