For Those Left Behind After Suicide

foggy

This post is written for those of you who have been left behind. Those who have suffered the loss of a child. A brother. A sister. A parent. A friend. Those who endlessly carry the emotional devastation that comes when you lose someone whom you love to suicide.

***

Delilah’s beautiful and kind voice comes through my radio every year as Christmas approaches. This sweet soul has helped countless people to work through their hurts in hope of making their holidays a little brighter.  I was heart-broken to read that she lost her own son a few days ago to suicide. As a parent, I don’t know how you are able to keep breathing when this happens to you. I deeply honor each person who continues to do so after suicide has stolen your love out of your arms and out of your life.

Two decades ago, I walked the path of a young adult drowning in the darkness of depression. I tried to end my life and very nearly succeeded. In a moment of true divine intervention, I survived. I am going to try to put a voice to the misguided perspective that I held up until that moment. I don’t pretend to speak for everyone who has made this choice. Not in the slightest. But I can tell you that these were my genuine beliefs then, and I have since heard the same from others who also survived those darkest of hours. I am going to attempt to respond to the question that people so often ask whenever someone whom they love commits suicide.

How could you leave me?

It was never about leaving you. It was about forgetting the pain. Ending the darkness. Releasing the weight. It was about not wanting to hurt anymore. I couldn’t ever be normal and my inability to do that made your life much harder than it needed to be. I thought that my struggles made your life more difficult than you deserved. I knew that you would hurt a great deal when you lost me, but I also believed that you would heal with time. Depression clouded my perception of reality, so it made sense to me that you would be so much happier without me and my problems. I frustrated everyone around me no matter what I did. I always messed everything up. After I was gone, you wouldn’t have to spend money on medicines or treatments for me. You wouldn’t have to waste anything else trying to fix something that was unfixable. It would never get better. I would never get better. In the long run, it was the best choice for everybody.

That was what I thought.

But it wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now.  Suicide is the last choice anyone would ever wish for their loved one to make.

The people whom I believed would have been better off without me would have given every cent they had to spend one more day with me. They would have sacrificed their own lives in a second if it would have meant saving mine. They would cry for years and years, and although the tears might slow, they would never stop coming. When your heart is stolen from you, you never fully recover from that loss.

I would have sacrificed a million beautiful experiences. My children wouldn’t have been born to bless the world with their spectacular light. I would have cheated my nieces and nephews out of having the biggest bad ass of an aunt EVER (graded on a sliding scale from awesome to hell yeah!). My husband wouldn’t ever have learned what it could be like to be simultaneously loved and nagged into insanity. Also he would probably still be walking around in those damn holey t-shirts and goofy jean shorts. Clearly that man needed me to save him, too. At a bare minimum, his wardrobe needed me desperately.

Depression does not have to be a life sentence, and even the healthiest of people struggle immensely at times. Despite what you may think you see when you look at others, there is no such thing as normal. But there is always hope, and there is always a chance for a better day to come. I understand with every fiber of my being that sometimes it REALLY doesn’t feel that way. But it’s true. Hold on a little longer. Please.

There are many directions you can take if you feel like you are going under. Seek medical advice to determine if you need pharmaceuticals to realign a chemical imbalance. Find a solid counselor who specializes in mental health diagnoses. Talk to your family and friends, or call the suicide prevention hotline to speak to people who understand how to help you find your way out of the helpless weight of the darkness. Think of anything and anyone good that you care about, and if for nothing else, stick around for the sake of not hurting them. No matter what you tell yourself, if you take your life, you will break their hearts beyond comprehension, and it will never be a better choice than your continuing to hold on.

Never give up and never give in.

Each of us is more precious than words could ever convey. You must believe that there is light behind the clouds, because even if you can’t see the sun, it is always there.

I love you truly my darling friends. Please hold on. Please don’t give in. You matter in this world. You matter to me.

Love and light to you all – Joanna

***This post was not written as a personal call for emotional support for a path I once traveled. I am truly okay now, and I’m not sad about the struggles I once faced. They made me who I am today, and I’m good with that person – hot mess queen and all. I write these entries for those whose broken hearts have become the collateral damage of this disease and for those who are currently struggling with depression. We all experience tremendous ups and down. Thankfully the darkness will disperse eventually, and life truly will get better. You just have to ride out the rough waters until it does.

If you are battling severe depression, please don’t hide what you are going through. You aren’t alone, and it does get better. Just give yourself and your life a little more time to let the clouds clear so you can find the sun again. If you feel like you are on the edge of taking your life, please get honest and please get help. You are important to someone, and if you think that you aren’t, I promise you that you are extremely important to me. If you are reading these words, they were meant for you. Even if we don’t know each other, I can tell you now that my world is infinitely better with you in it. Please hold on and please don’t leave me behind.  Love to you always – Jo

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK / 1-800-273-8255

 Believe

Glow

2017 Favorites

It Does Matter

We are being pummeled by terrible news.  It’s heavy duty stuff.  Hurricanes and more hurricanes, earthquakes, massive fires, terrorism, and on and on and on.  I understand when I hear someone say that they feel helpless to do anything because there’s just too much to do.  It’s exhausting, and it’s overwhelming.

But do something good for someone else anyway.

There’s an amazing person who lives in my neighborhood.  Actually there are many of them, but this one is epic, and I seriously doubt that she even knows it.  She’s not trying to impress anyone.  She’s just doing her thing, and that happens to helping everyone she possibly can.  Before the last raindrop from the hurricane fell, she was in full gear organizing a local shelter for any flood victims in need.  The shelter has been closed for days, but she never stopped.  She just shifted to alternate relief efforts.  It’s just what she does.

We needed a break from the recent routine of incessant worry, so we took our kids to the beach yesterday.  While we were there, this beautiful story kept circling my mind.  It’s not a new tale, but I have always loved the message.  It makes me think of my amazing neighbor.  This is for you TG!

A child went to the beach with his family and saw countless starfish washed upon the beach.  As he played in the waves, he noticed a man walking along.  He would take a few steps and then toss a couple of starfish into the water.  A few more steps. A few more starfish. Over and over again. The child approached the man and said, “Why are you doing that?  You can’t save them all.  It doesn’t matter.”

The man smiled, reached down to pick up a starfish, and tossed it gently into the ocean.  He looked at the child and responded, “It mattered to that one.”

Don’t give in to apathy. Remember the power of hope.  If you can help someone, make the choice to do that.  Please note that I am not talking about enabling bad behavior or choices, but that’s a post for another day.

You know when you are acting with kindness, and the little stuff isn’t hard to do.  Your kindness matters to the one who receives it.  Good will in action may not save the world in a moment, but it does change it for the better right then and there.

Thank you to all of you who have changed my world for the better.  You inspire me to be braver, to be kinder, and to keep changing what I can for the better, too.

Love and light always – Joanna

Overcome

Day 12 – Keep Going and Never Give Up

prayer

This is a little snippet of a text conversation I had with my mom a few weeks ago.  Clearly I was ribbing her, but sometimes it feels true.  We pray and beg and cry, but we stay trapped in an emotional whirlpool where we can barely keep our heads above water.  I fully believe that our cries are heard, but we may still have to ride out the waves a little longer.  The key is to keep going and to just hold on a bit more.  Never stop hoping and never give up.

Thankfully I was able to spend yesterday out of the whirlpool.  I didn’t have to ride any major emotional roller coasters.  I wasn’t subjected to any blindsiding life events.  And I continued to take initiative to keep the good momentum going.

My three goals from yesterday were:

  • Assess and go into more detail on the division of labor on the home management scene (a.k.a. sharing the chores).
  • Take a little walk beyond the boundaries of my home and yard.
  • Write something honest that makes me uncomfortable to share but likely needs to be read by someone who could be helped by it.

These were the results:

  • Chore chat – On a scale of “Bleh!” to “Fabulous!” I would give this one a high “Meh.”  We talked about it.  We split up chores.  No big epiphanies, but no big meltdowns either.  Chores were knocked out with minimal drama by anyone.  That’s actually probably closer to a “Yay!” than a high “Meh.”
  • Take a walk – I circled the block to check the mail.  That was probably somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 of a mile.  Task complete.
    • This seems like really small potatoes, right?  But allow me to add these deets for the numbers nerds out there.  If you walk 1/3 of a mile every day for one year, that comes to 122 miles.  In ten years, you are at 1,217 miles.  If if really committed and did this for fifty years, that would mean an extra 6,100 miles.  Bumping it to 1/2 a mile a day would mean an extra 183 miles in a year, 1,825 miles in a decade, and 9,125 miles over fifty years.  Dat’s a lotta meat-a-balls!
    • If I went totally bananas and walked 1 & 1/3 miles daily for fifty years (51.17 years for you fact checkers), I would walk the same distance as the circumference of the Earth (again allow me to save you the lookup time – 24,901 miles).  Amazing!
  • Write something raw – I wrote about problems, labels, and disorders I have wrestled with my entire life.  I wrote about what I am doing to work toward booting any remaining freeloaders off my train for good.  I don’t like putting this stuff on paper (electronic or otherwise), but I believe that it’s important that we recognize any negativity we have been empowering, and at times, embracing.  We wear our labels like they are fresh off the rack.  Even if I can’t fully extricate them from my emotions and my behaviors, I can stop allowing them to define me.  I have to be willing to see them for what they are, and hopefully in doing that, I can recognize that they are not who I am but rather attributes and experiences I have meandered and learned from.  Taking that a step further, my prayer is that my revealing my own struggles and successes may help someone else keep swimming through their emotional whirlpool until their waters subside.  They always do.  Just keep swimming.  (Now imagine Dory singing those words in “Finding Nemo” – it’s catchy!  A bit annoying but catchy nonetheless.)

We are not designed to be “perfect” people (“perfect” per our subjective human standards, definitions and expectations).  We are going to be sorely disappointed if we require that of ourselves.  I believe that the real game at hand is figuring out that we are the way we are for a reason.  We always discover our greatest strengths whenever we overcome our greatest weaknesses.  And sometimes it isn’t even about overcoming those weaknesses or shortcomings.  Sometimes the actual truth (Truth) is that we have to recognize that they aren’t shortcomings at all.  These so called disorders and perceived personality aberrations are an intentional part of who we are.  They have a purpose in our lives.  We are not broken.

You are not broken.

With that said, I would like to highlight a few of the people who have deeply inspired me to keep going at various times this week.  There are so many amazing writers out there, but these individuals have a special kind of style when it comes to sharing their own experiences with adversity and how they tell their struggles to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.  The word du jour per the Daily Post is savage, and that is the perfect adjective for these writers.  They are honest and real and raw.  They speak from their hearts and are perfect just as they are.  I don’t share these with you for my benefit.  I share them for yours.

https://wakinguponthewrongsideof50.wordpress.com/ – Where to begin when describing this jewel?  She is absolutely wonderful on so many more levels than I could ever articulate.  Truly.  Amusing, heart warming, eclectic, and inspiring.  (Hello future me!  I utterly adore you!)

https://knockedoverbyafeather.wordpress.com/ – Bad assness at this level needs no introduction, but I will say that my world is infinitely better because she is part of it.  (Also I’m dying to see that giant feather!)

https://insidetherainbow.blog/ – She makes me laugh and cry and laugh again every single time, and she speaks to my heart whenever she writes. (I would gladly stand in a line for 4 hours to see “Grease” with this rockstar!)

https://carolrolke.com/blog/ – Introspective, clever, witty, and fierce – I appreciate her words on so many levels.  (I’m pickin’ up what you are puttin’ down.  Keep sharing all that awesomeness!)

https://authentically50.wordpress.com/ – We face different issues at this point in our lives, but her words transcend the individual scenarios.  (I’m truly thankful that I stumbled across your blog.  Such divine providence!  You are a blessing.)

never give up

My father gave me this little sign for my desk years ago.  Such powerful words.  Thanks for the reminder Pop.

Be fierce.  Be yourself.  Never give up.  Never give in.

***Joanna***

Savage

Waiting


I sit here waiting for a tropical storm to make its presence known sometime in the next hour or so. We need the rain, but in this area of the country, there is a fine line between getting a solid soak and getting a solid flood.

I’ve always loved the rain though.  I relax as the skies darken and the trees begin to rustle and sway in the wind.  I love to lay in bed listening to the countless droplets pelt the roof as the thunder grumbles all around me.

I am waiting.  Waiting for the rain.  Waiting for the calm it gives me.  Waiting for the white noise to drown out the concerns circling my mind and praying for it to clear away my fears, my doubts, and my worries.

I find myself waiting for so much lately, but a wiser part of my soul recognizes what I’m missing whenever I get lost in this pattern of waiting.  I’m missing the joy in what is because I’m so focused on what will be.  And someday, whenever those other moments come – those moments for which I have – I know that the waiting will just shift to something else.

I go over checklists in my mind.  I run through activity after activity after activity that needs to be completed.  I cross off ten items and twenty more take their place.  It’s a list that will continue to grow until I learn how to release it.

Life is meant to be appreciated, not completed and checked off.  Right now, I feel like I’m missing so much of it.  I don’t always feel this way.  I don’t usually feel this way. 

But for now, for tonight, I wait for the rain.

G is for Guilt

When the doctor hands you the teeniest human freshly removed from your hoo-hah, you immediately realize the incredible responsibility you are holding in your arms. You know exactly what to do.  You have read all the books, followed all the blogs, attended all the classes, and watched enough family rom-coms to let you be certain that there will be ups and downs, but overall, it’s all good.   Unfortunately you are cluelessly in the dark about how you don’t know anything about true parenting, how those same books will be covered in macaroni and crayon in two years or less, and how you actually picked up a super-sized bag o’ guilt when you agreed to personally cook (or adopt) and keep this harmless looking tidbit for life.

We have 3 tidbits of our own, and we learned long ago that sometimes they should really be called tidbeasts. To be clear, I love these beasties more than life itself.  More than cheesecake even.  Yes.  More than cheesecake.  They are my absolute most favorite things ever ever ever and are without doubt the best creations I ever was involved in – even better than the killer cupcakes I once made but can no longer have because I am now forcing myself to eat sadlad (No – it’s not a typo.  Salad just depresses me.).  Really – they are totes amazeballs yo (the kids and the cupcakes).

The issue I believe I am ultimately facing is this – I estimate that I require roughly 10 hours per day per kid to really do everything right by that little one, so that’s 30 hours in the day.  As I expect is the case in your own world, the universe miscalculated and erroneously agreed to allot me a mere 24 hours in total per day.  Consequently everyone gets the shaft.  It’s like my boob to hiney ratio.  I should have been given more boob to balance out the hiney, but that wasn’t the lingerie layout I was dealt.

I struggle to keep our lives on schedule every day. I work crazy hours, run errands constantly, take the kids to activities, and wash and wash and wash.  Seriously – what is it with the endless laundry?  It’s like gremlins, but you don’t even have to add water to multiply it.  How many items of clothing are these kids wearing, and why do they still reek of that outside kid smell despite the incessant baths and nineteen daily outfits they must be wearing?  Also why do kids feel the need to get strep at 4:30 on Friday afternoon in conjunction with every three-day weekend known to man?  Why children – why???

But once again – I love them. No really.  I totally do.  I cart them to sports they actually adore, I help them with projects, I make pancakes with chocolate chip smiley faces – the whole bit.  I also have a husband who is an amazing dad who does tons with them, for them, and for me.  Nevertheless is still it feels like we are on a hamster wheel, but unlike the hamster, I feel much less okay with the endless loop.  I want every bit of my life.  I just want a little extra sleep, too.  I try so incredibly hard to keep it all afloat, but it sometimes feels like the waves are coming over me.  I could probably handle it if those waves meant that I was getting a shower in the process, but no.  Those waves don’t work like that.

So earlier today I played “Which Activity to Knock Out from My Innumerable Task List” and tackling the kids’ end of school year notebooks won that round. My son’s stuff was relatively uneventful with a few beautiful exceptions of poetry and emotional contemplation pieces.  I see such potential for true greatness in him at times, and then two seconds later he will put his underwear on backwards, rub toothpaste on the mirror, and leave his fly down.  The greatness sentiment will briefly be put on pause, but it’s still there just the same.

I then went through my middle daughter’s school work, and this is where the steaming pile of guilt came barreling through my emotional doorway. I have always enjoyed working – well I enjoyed working normal hours – but my hours have been terrible for many months and my exhaustion has been stomping on our mornings and my corresponding ability to be patient (my version of patient is probably more like patient lite), supportive, and mostly upbeat.  Our before school happy mornings have been circling the drain for way too long.  Thank heavens summer is here at last.

My daughter’s daily morning routine at school began with a brief journaling session on her thoughts about her day.  At that point, her day had typically consisted of being forced out of bed before the sun even considered making an appearance, being chased around to get ready (despite every attempt on my part to prepare in advance, getting ready easily appears to be almost insurmountable in the kid world), and racing to school in hopes of not being late (again).  Thanks super much for that one Teach.  I have no doubt that other kids also spilled their family sagas in these morning dish sessions, but it still bites when you read it and the dish is aimed squarely at you.

Being the analytical girl that I am, I could opt to recognize that my name came up in a negative way in a statistically insignificant amount of journal entries. I could also remember that she never said that she hated me and that she talked about many happy moments.  But you see – the rational mom in me gets pimp-slapped out of the picture by the overwhelming mom guilt.  All the guilt allows me to see is the post about terrible screamy parent (In case you are asking which parent she meant, my hand is raised.) followed by a very detailed drawing of a fire-breathing dragon with the name MOM written on it.  There were other posts mentioning how I was mad at her or her brother or just generally grouchy, but that one in particular had a special ring to it.  It was fun with a big fat F and U pointing straight to me.

Most of this past school year’s mornings were relatively good.  Some were fantastic even.  I did lots of cool things with and for the kids.  I worked hard to give them a very good life.  I know all of this.  It just hurts my heart to see how I sent her to school feeling so upset and hurt on some of those days.  I don’t want her to remember me, our mornings, or our life like that.  I am a good mom most days, and a great mom on others.  Unfortunately, I also sometimes utterly stink at the job.

Naturally, I now see my own memories of stressful times growing up as a child with my parents through very different eyes. Being a parent isn’t as obvious and easy as it seems – not in the slightest.  There isn’t any book or blog or class that will tell you how to get it right every time.  I just hope that someday my kids will see all that I try to do for them with each moment that passes.  I want them to really see me, and I want them to know that I have always seen them, too.  They are always my blue behind the darkest of clouds.

So as always, I will keep trying, I will keep working to be better, and I will definitely keep taking caffeine.

***MoJo***

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