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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Dad do you have a few minutes

Do you have a few minutes to talk? – my son said when I picked up the phone. Three months later thinking about the conversation brings me to tears. 
Hello
Son:  Do you have a few minutes to talk (crying)
Of course, what’s wrong
Son: (short pause) Dad, I am calling you, um because I promised you if I ever felt this way I would let you know
Suicidal?
Son:  Yes…            I didn’t want to let you down
Son, can you please wait for me to come home so I can talk to you in person
Son: No, I am just calling because I promised you I would, I don’t want to let you down

I had so much fear, I wanted to say “Son please don’t do this to me.” I wanted to call the police to my house – to get him safe. I was thinking, “Is this the last time I will ever get to talk to my amazing son, who I love? How do I help him, how do I not screw this up? Will I ever get to hug him again? Please God help me.”  I felt a rush of insecurity. All these thoughts played in my head.
Then I started to think differently, “I have more training than most people in this area, and I have my own lived experience from a suicide attempt. What would I want and need?”

Son I am so sorry you are hurting, I can tell how upset you are, I wish I could take that pain away from you.
Son:  I know you do Dad.
First thank you so much for calling me, I love you so much.
Son:  I love you too.
Can you tell me about what you are feeling?
Son: (shares some things that brought him to where he felt like suicide was his only option) Dad I am so sorry.
Son, you have nothing to be sorry for. Again, I wish I could take this pain away from you, but we both know I can’t.  I can’t promise you any type of quick solution, but I can promise you, I will be with you while you go through with this.
Son:  I know Dad, but I just can’t do it anymore.
Have you decided how you would kill yourself
Son:  Yes. (tells me the means and that he was going through with it as soon as we got off the phone)
Can you do me a favor?
Son:  What?
Can you please wait until I get home and we can talk face to face and that I can give you a hug?  I am not saying you have to promise to never kill yourself, but can you please wait 90 minutes for me to come home and give you a hug?
Son:  I can do that
Thank you son, I love you.
I sent a text his sister who lived close by and let her know briefly what was going on and asked to her to go to the house and talk to her brother about anything until I could get there.
Son:  Did you tell Shayna to come over here?
Yes, I didn’t want you to feel alone.
Son:  Okay
Will you wait for me to come home?
Son:  Yes

We talked a few minutes, I told him I would call when I got on the road, but I needed to let my work know I was leaving and I would call back in few minutes. I called about five minutes later and he answered, I told him I was on the way. We talked for about 10 minutes, he was also talking to his sister. I asked him if he would please call me if things changed and he didn’t think he could wait till I got home. He agreed, I texted his sister and she was also going to call me if for any reason he tried to leave.

I arrived home.  I gave my son the longest and probably hardest hug of my life.

We spent some time talking about his suicidal thoughts and plans, we talked about future goals/plans. My son, daughter and I went for a late lunch and we talked about past and future vacations and family activities then that night we had dinner with some friends.
The next day my son said, “When my Dad got home we had a hug out and the reason I didn't kill myself was because I could truly see that my family including sister loved me.  Kinda brought me back to reality I guess.”

It has been almost three months since that call. Is there still a risk of suicide? The answer is yes. But having the open communication and respect for each other, I am very hopeful that that risk will continue to decrease. I know that he knows I will always be there to talk to.

Lessons Learned
·         I am grateful I talked to my kids about suicide and other mental health topics, including my own suicide attempt
·         I am glad I have had training in what to do and how to do it.  Otherwise I would have panicked and may have said things that made the situation worse
·         That being a suicide prevention advocate does not exempt me or my family from mental health crisis
·         Truly just being there with someone is the best thing you can do, letting them know you are there with them and not being judgmental
·         Not rushing to extremes is important
·         That I don’t know what the future holds for sure, but I believe that my son and I having this experience has brought us even closer together. When he says he will call me if he ever has a plan to kill himself, I trust he will call me. And I hope he knows when I say I will be there with him through the pain, that I really will.
·         There really was not a clinical skill needed (I wasn’t being a therapist), the intervention I did was listen, not panic, and be there

I encourage everyone to get training such as Mental Health First Aid and/or ASIST.

If you are having suicidal thoughts please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
You can also visit NowMattersNow.org for strategies to build a more manageable and meaningful life.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Day My World Changed Forever






As I was trying to decide what to blog about this weekend, I had many things I thought about writing, but deep down I knew what I needed to share.

March 21, 1993 was the day that changed my life forever.  I can remember that day like it was yesterday.   That was the day my youngest brother and only sibling,  Mathias died in a car accident at age 17.   I was 19 years old. At the time I was living in North Carolina.   My brother was my best friend growing up and the grief of that loss put me in a downward spiral that resulted in my attempting suicide less than four months later.

I had struggled with depression most of my life, many times wishing I wasn’t alive, but it wasn’t until the days following my brothers death, that I actually wanted to die and eventually resulted in my suicide attempt.

This will be the 24th anniversary of his death and it has been a very long and tough journey.  "Mathias each year I mourn your death, I mourn my loss of your friendship, being your brother and I mourn that I won’t ever be an uncle to your children."   Each year I cry; sometimes externally, sometimes internally, sometimes both.  I usually try to keep myself very busy on this anniversary and this year will be no different.

In the 24 years since my brother died, I have felt  lost so many times.   I remember someone asking me many years ago to look for the good in his loss.   My response was pretty much "Fuck You".  

But as I sit and reflect the weekend before this painful anniversary, I can say I have learned a lot in this time. I’m not going to say it’s a silver lining, but I have grown as a person.   I am able to use the pain I have felt to allow me to better connect with the people I work with who are experiencing emotional pain.   Without my being suicidal and attempting suicide, I would have never gotten involved in suicide prevention and I would have never felt this passion, this drive to make a difference.

Clinically I have learned what risk factors  and warning signs are and which ones I had. I also learned what drivers I had as well shadow factors.   I know now when my sleep gets really bad I'm at risk, and need to make changes.     This knowledge allows me to help me look for these things, as well as other things, in others.

I have learned I will always hurt, I will always have this void, and that is okay. Your life was worth me feeling a void, but  I know that void doesn’t have to define me.   I can use this to help others who also feel a void.  I also no longer have to say what if, I can say, what can I do.


So to my brother, "I always will love you.  I will always miss you.  Your death has forever altered me.   I will choose to continue to move forward and you will always be a part of this with me."

(Note:  the picture was taken in January 1992 when I was at home after completing boot camp)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Is Today the Day?


Is today the day that I am able to eat a meal and enjoy it or will I have extreme feelings of guilt and thoughts of failure for eating what others consider a reasonable amount of food?

Is today the day that I can look at my body with pride for what all it has experienced and overcome or see it as a myriad of little parts that need to be fixed?

Is today the day that I will be able to adequately verbalize my experience with an eating disorder or will I be met with confused looks and misunderstanding?

Is today the day that I will be able to be vulnerable in sharing my thoughts that are ever present in regards to my eating disorder and be met with compassion and an attempt at understanding or will I  be dismissed and told to love my body?

Is today the day that I will be able to go through the day with little to no thought about food, body image, or my eating disorder or will those thoughts and feelings come crashing back with a vengeance?

Is today the day that I will be able to receive a compliment and believe the compliment or will I assume that the person is being patronizing?

 

This is what my recovery from an eating disorder looks and feels like to me. There are days, weeks, and hell even months that go by when I think that I have recovered. Then, when I least expect it, the thoughts, feelings, and even sometimes the behaviors come back with a vengeance. I have had to reframe what recovery means to me. Recovery used to mean to me that I would be 100% healed, cured, fixed, etc. However, that is, quite frankly, bull shit. My recovery is not that neat and pretty. My recovery is inconsistent, messy, frustrating, confusing, ever changing, and powerful. I choose to look at my recovery as powerful because I  have learned that although I don’t know what each day will bring, I also know that I am strong enough to overcome it. My recovery is powerful because I can use my recovery to empathize with others who are recovering as well. My recovery is powerful because at one time, I did not see or experience the strength that my recovery has shown me that I possess. So, even though my recovery is messy and frustrating, it’s mine. Is today the day I will struggle or is today the day I will triumph? The truth is today may be the day that I experience both.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The five things I hate the most about my depression

What I Hate Most About My Depression:

I am depressed – that is how I felt all weekend, with no reason.  I somewhat isolated myself, I was irritable and distant at times.  Despite the unseasonable warm weather on Saturday, I felt like I was in a dark and gloomy place and I felt very little happiness.   Friends and family noticed, and I knew they where there for me, but for the most part it was just a rough weekend.   After my son asked me if I was upset with him last night, it really made me think about my depression.  I wasn’t upset with him at all; I was just withdrawn and had put some walls up.   I went to bed saying to myself I hate depression.   I started to think about what I hate the most about it.

First I want to say that I am happy that my depression has decreased over the years, with the help of better coping skills as well as  developing and actually using my support group … at least most of the time.  I am also thankful that rarely do my depressive days lead to suicidal thoughts anymore.

I understand that with depression, there comes sadness. However,  I can never wrap my brain around the why, and why the feelings of hopeless and doom occur at random times it seems.   Here are the 5 things I hate the most about my depression and the 5 things I do to manage:

1.  I hate that I feel sad, when there is absolutely no logical reason to feel sad.   I have a great family,     
     great job, and good friends.   I have a beautiful granddaughter who fills my heart with so much    
     happiness, but despite this  I just feel sad.   Not that I want something bad to happen in my life to give      me a reason, I just want it to make sense.
2.  I wish I wouldn’t pull away from those who care about me the most, especially when I need them the 
     most; However,  all I want to do is put a wall up.  It makes no sense, but that’s what I do.
3.  I hate that when I am depressed I come across as irritable and hateful. I am not, I am just hurting, yet      I can’t even explain why, because I don’t know why.  
4.  I hate that I can’t explain to others or myself that there is no rhyme or reason as to why I feel        
     depressed a lot of the time.
5.  I hate that my depression impacts others negatively.

The good news is that I do know that it passes, usually pretty quickly, and that I have great support system whom understands and respects me and  my depression.    I have also learned so much about myself and about other people as I have learned to live with my depression.  
Five good things I have done for myself:

1.  Truly invest some time into positive coping skills because  they matter
2.  Develop a support system; family, friends and mentors with lived experience
3.  Keep visual reminders around of things that remind me of happiness and hope
4.  I learn to reach out and talk. Sometimes I choose not to talk about the depression but rather about 
     something, anything else. This helps me not isolate further even though this is difficult because my 
     natural instinct is to shut down and isolate from everyone.
5. Try to relax, I know it will pass, and I will survive.  

Monday, January 2, 2017

Balance: Lessons Learned from 2016


Image result for balance photo

 

Y’all, I have been struggling. I have been struggling at trying to maintain some balance in my life lately. Between work, school, relationships with my children, my husband, my family, and friends,  teaching, and the other day to day stressors, I have felt as if I were just treading water and not getting anywhere. No. Scratch that. I feel like I have been water boarded….and I’m the one dumping on the water.

I thought I was maintaining balance well; I am doing well in school, my work has been good, my relationships with friends and family are great. However, I have had a sense of….doom? Pressure? Feeling overwhelmed? Anxiety? I consistently have felt as if I’m missing something or falling behind in some area, whether or not this was a fact. I have experienced these feelings for a couple months now and they finally resulted in my getting pneumonia and being physically and mentally exhausted.

Having pneumonia forced me to rest. Oddly enough, I was stressed because I was forced to rest.  All I could think about was how far behind I was going to be at work and in school. (Although the forced rest resulted in a renewed love of cheesy Lifetime movies. ) As a counselor and a Master’s student, we learn a lot about burnout. I am not a fan of the term “burnout”. To me, burnout  conjures visuals of burnt wood. That isn’t me. I’m not burnt, crispy, and weakened by the pressures of my job. Yes, at times my job is emotionally draining because I get to listen to people on some of their worst days. However, that is also one of the parts of my job that humbles me and inspires me.

After the mandatory rest and the Thanksgiving holiday, it clicked as to why I was feeling so….heavy. I was out of balance. I love the work I get to do on a daily basis with my clients. I love going to class and being surrounded by people who are bound and determined to make a difference. I love teaching Mental Health First Aid and helping someone realize that they can help save a life. I love advocating for mental health and suicide prevention. I love spending days not doing a damn thing but curling up on the couch watching movies with my husband, kiddos, and pups. How could I love each part of what my life consists of and still feel overwhelmed? I realized that even though I loved each ball I was juggling, I could drop everything I was juggling if I held onto one ball too long.

On Christmas break, I went down home to Louisiana. Not only did I go home, but I did something that I have never done before-I left work at work. I left work at work for an ENTIRE week. Weird, the world didn’t stop spinning. I talked with my Mama on the backporch with a cup of coffee. I visited with my Mom. I watched my kiddos interact with my parents. I laughed and talked with my siblings. I slowed down, experienced, and enjoyed each day home.

I would have liked to end this blog by stating that I found the magic key to balance but I didn’t. The antibiotic, PowerAde, and Lifetime movie trifecta didn’t result in any profound algorithms to suddenly create perfect balance in my life. However, the realization that I need (and probably so do you) need more balance in my life is pretty damn big. I also learned that SLOWING DOWN can have a major impact on keeping a more balanced life. So, going into 2017, I can’t promise that I won’t juggle too much or get overwhelmed at times. However, I can strive to slow down, focus on the small things, and know that it’s perfectly ok to not have the perfect answer to creating perfect balance in my life.