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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

25 years later – what have I learned

Today, July 18th, is  my birthday, I am 45 years old.  July 18th is also the day, when I almost ended my life and would have altered so many others lives.   Whether it be luck, an act of God, or something else, my attempt was interrupted.  So today is my 25th anniversary of a second chance.

It makes my mind ache and my heart hurt to think of the effects my death could have had on the people I care about.   My parents would have lost their second child in the same year, my oldest son would have grown up without me.   My daughter, youngest son, and two bonus daughters, they wouldn’t even be here.   I would not have two granddaughters that bring such happiness to my heart.   So many amazing friends and acquaintances I wouldn’t have met.  What I believe to be my true calling in life never met.  

I will never understand, regardless of how much I read, research and train, what exactly could cause my brain to believe I was better off gone, that the people I loved would be better off, that I would be doing them a favor.   Sitting here with a mostly healthy mind, I know that isn’t true.   But in 1993, and especially the weeks leading up to July 18th, they were consuming, and it appeared to be the only true option that made sense.   I had to struggle so hard every day to stay alive. 

I am so thankful but will probably never understand why I was lucky enough to survive.   I used to have such guilt about this.   When I meet people that have lost someone to suicide, and I see their pain, their hurt, I felt guilty that I lived, even though I was glad I lived.  It also re-enforced the pain I would have caused the ones who cared for me.

This journey has been tough, thought provoking, I have learned so much, and realized there is so much I don’t know. 

This year I will spend my birthday working on last minute details for our 5th Annual Suicide Prevention and Awareness Conference - the eighth conference I have helped organize since deciding a little over eight years ago, I had to do something.

Getting to set up this conference is a birthday gift to me, it is part of my continued healing and continued resolve to help break down this discrimination towards mental health struggles that some call a stigma.  It is rewarding to know that I am part of these changes.   

It is my dream that it may also be a gift to someone who is struggling, struggled in the past, or has someone they know is struggling.  

When I celebrate my 45th birthday, I will really be celebrating, my 25 years of second chances, and hoping I can help make a world where many others can have their second chances.

Here are some lessons I have learned in these twenty-five years.

Lessons I have learned and want to share

Lessons I learned
Lessons I want to teach
       I am glad to be alive

       That when I feel overwhelmed or have impulsive thoughts, they will pass

       Being open and honest is so important to me. Once I was able to do that, my true healing began

       I am not alone, the dark painful feelings I have felt, so many others have

       The more I learn about suicide prevention and reaching out, the more I learn it is about just being there. I don’t have to have the answers, just let someone know I care

       That anyone can learn to help someone who is struggling. Let someone know you care and listen

       Never judge someone who struggles with suicidal thoughts, has attempted or died by suicide – they aren’t being selfish they are or have been struggling and in so much pain, a pain, I can’t even put into words

       Have open conversations with the people you care about. Let them know, that suicidal thoughts can be very common, but that they don’t have to act on it, they can go away and that you are there for them

       If you are struggling it can get better. Let me or someone help

       You know someone who is struggling right now

If you or someone you know is struggling please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741, there are people who can and want to help you through this crisis.

If you are looking for some resources to help you through some tough times, please go to this website  you can see great examples of skills that can be used.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A Tale of Two Griefs

Within four months, two hugely influential women in my life passed away. Both women taught me life lessons that I will always carry with me. Both women taught me how to manage difficult situations. Both women taught me how to look past misconceptions and see the woman herself. Both women taught me how to stand up for what and who I believed in. However, I can only talk to you about one of those women.

Audrey was my supervisor, my friend, and one of the women in my life that was an example of strength, ferocity, and passion. She laughed with me, cried with me, pushed me, and inspired me to make changes in not only my world, but the world of mental health, suicide, and law enforcement as a whole. I can reach out to our mutual friends when I am missing her more than usual. I can reach out to her husband to check in and see how he is doing. I can share with the world how much she inspired me to “give ‘em hell little one”.

I can not tell you about the other influential woman that I lost. I can’t tell you how she challenged me weekly over the four years that I worked with her. I can’t tell you how her progress and growth inspired me to continue working with consumers that others deemed too difficult. I can’t tell you about how her resilience and strength inspired me to never give up on an individual. I can’t share with you how her humor and unorthodox affection changed the way that I viewed what a relationship between clinician and consumer can be.

Both of these women shaped me into not only the woman that I am but also the clinician that I am. I am able to see past barriers and challenges and instead of shying away from them; rather, I stare directly at them and push through. I routinely remember her statement of being an “iron fist in a velvet glove” when I am pushing another consumer to acknowledge some of their unhealthy thinking or behaviors. I still cry when I want to share good news with either of them. It is difficult when it is her regular appointment time or when I want to run upstairs to share something with Audrey. 

With one of these women, I am supported and encouraged to grieve and share my stories about our life together. With the other woman, I am not. Our life is over. The tears, the laughter, the growth, and the relationship are expected to just end. Be done. Move on.

            The grief I feel over the loss of both of these women is equally as powerful yet in some ways the grief that I experience from one these women is at times way more difficult. I can’t share our stories. I can’t share who she was to me. I can’t tell the world how much she meant to me. In fact, my grief over losing her can be seen as a hindrance and as a weakness. This is the reality of clinician grief. We are encouraged to create and nurture relationships that create change yet when those relationships are ended by death, we are expected to just move on.

            I am not dismissing either of those influential women. Each of them taught me so much about who I am, personally and professionally. I refuse to forget what each of them taught me. I will continue to draw from our relationship and the strength that each of them taught me. I remember you. I see you.