For Those Left Behind After Suicide

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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.

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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

The Things We Don’t Say

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My husband took this picture of my daughter looking back at him from my car rear view mirror layered with dust. At that moment, we were lost on a country road in New Mexico. The scenery was amazing and the adventure unforgettable. I love everything about this photo.

Several years ago, I started a blog called Momentum of Joy. Almost no one knew about it, and I was adamant about keeping it that way. I didn’t write for long, and I was never comfortable with the idea that someone who knew me might read about my struggles. It got to the point where I felt like I could no longer find my voice. The words just disappeared. I allowed the domain to expire, and my desire to write faded away.

The stress of this past Mother’s Day led me (and my family) to the brink of ending up on the 5 o’clock news, so I decided to blog about it. I supposed that I did it for grins as well as self therapy, but that post unexpectedly reopened a part of my life that I had assumed was long gone until that very moment (https://momentumofjo.com/2017/05/20/mothers-day-a-day-of-relaxation-unless-of-course-youre-an-actual-mother/).  When I went to reactivate the site, I discovered that someone had nabbed my old domain and was effectively holding it for cyber ransom (Yeah – I’m looking at you China!), so Momentum of Jo was born (basically because it was available and close-ish to the original name).

Most of my initial posts were primarily comical or satirical in nature, but I still refrained from sharing it in a broader format with those in my life.  As I wrote more posts, I began to dig deeper, to delve beneath the surface layers, and to get more personal. There was no reason not to because so few people even knew about the blog. It was safe.

When the hurricane hit a few weeks ago, many of us became instantly connected in a way that I can’t adequately articulate. We shared extreme anxiety and fear for our families and homes for days, and we were deeply saddened at the losses that followed. We wept with friends and strangers, and we united to help those whose lives were devastated by the storm. That continues even now. Even though life will progressively fall back into the old patterns, something extraordinary happened in those days that changed me.

The protective walls I had been holding firm for years started to crumble, and to my own complete shock, I began to share my posts with family and friends. I recognize that this may seem inconsequential, but countless bloggers can confirm the freedom that comes with anonymity. No judgement. No questions. No explanations. Or at least none of that from anyone in your daily world. You can share the raw parts of yourself without having to worry about harsh whispers a few blocks over.

But after everything I have seen over the past few weeks, I’m tired of residing in the shadows. I see too many people hurting.

The more honest I become, the more people reach out and tell me that they have been or are in that emotional place as well. We all struggle with the nuances of being a human, but we rarely talk about the parts that hurt us the most – the fears, the losses, the despair. We paint over the pain as we cover social media with platitudes and plastic smiles.

I live a life that is overflowing with blessings. My children are wild and crazy and incredible. My husband is an amazing father, a wonderful husband, and a true partner in my life. I love all of my family more than they could ever imagine. I have genuine friends that have been at my side in my best moments and my darkest hours. I have a great job, and I sincerely love my colleagues. Our dogs are goofballs, but they are our goofballs. It’s the American Dream at it’s finest.

Except when it wasn’t and except when it isn’t.

I struggled desperately with depression when I was younger and almost did not make it out of my college years with my life. I still catch myself reeling from unexpected panic attacks, I feel consumed by loneliness at times, and I must work constantly to mitigate the irrational fears and behavior patterns that go hand in hand with anxiety disorders and expressions of OCD. As a bonus, I currently have split ends coupled with a serious mani / pedi deficiency. I’m a reflection of reality.

Most days are pretty good, but sometimes, I just get knocked on my emotional ass.  We all do. But we don’t talk about it.

So often, those raw and real aspects of ourselves and our lives are not reflected in the things we say.  Those can only be found buried within the things we don’t say.

If one person receives a minuscule level of validation or healing from something that is difficult for me to share, it’s worth my facing my own insecurities. If someone is in a dark place, and they can find a spark of light or a gleam of hope in my words in that heavy moment, I can handle judgement from those who don’t understand. I don’t need or ask for their approval or validation anyway.

Our struggles forge our characters and bind us together, and our lives are too important to be lived disingenuously. Life is like my family’s journey down that dusty country road. We get lost at times, but we are never alone. It may take us a good while to figure it out, but we will find adventure along the way, we will always have each other other, and ultimately, we will find our way back home. This journey is meant to be shared, and all of our experiences happen to help us to grow. If we can stop hiding so much of our true selves from the world around us, perhaps we can embrace more parts of this human experience we are having.

Hopefully my truth will resonate with another who still can’t find the words. I’ve found my voice again. Maybe I can help someone else find theirs, too.

Love and light always – Joanna

Layered

What I Would Have Missed

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Over the past couple of months, I have not written about my strong belief in angels.  I don’t ask or need for you to believe what I say in this entry, but I can’t share my experience without doing so here.  Not that I would want to anyway.  I owe them my life.

Twenty years ago, I almost died.  There was no accident.  I wasn’t suffering from a terminal illness.  I just didn’t want to fight against my tormented mind and my broken heart anymore.  It wasn’t worth it, and I wasn’t worth it.  I was lost, and I attempted to take my life.

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When the roller coaster of emotions was climbing upward, I could recognize that everything would be alright.  I could see possibilities all around me.  But whenever the imminent crash would happen, my ability to perceive the relevance of my existence wouldn’t merely fade – it would disappear.  The darkness would swallow me whole.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had struggled for years with the unpredictability of manic depression.  I read the books.  I met with the doctors.  I took the pills.  But I couldn’t make it stop.  It was as if I had no control over my life or my sanity.  I could see it. but I couldn’t stop it.  I wanted to turn off the noise.  Turn off the pain.  Turn everything off.

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I couldn’t hurt myself or anyone else anymore.  I couldn’t stay any longer.  I couldn’t hold on.  I took the pills.  Handfuls of them.  I was blind with confusion and hurt.  I was going under and I wanted to let go.

I stood in the little bathroom with the empty pill bottle in my hand, and I heard a clear voice that was not my own.  “This is it.  You have to do something NOW.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A switch flipped inside me in an instant.  Immediately my head became clear and my mind snapped to attention.  I knew what I had heard, and I understood exactly what it was saying to me.

I had to get those pills out of my body right away.  I tried to throw them up but I couldn’t.  I calmly approached my mother and told her that I needed ipecac syrup or some other medicine that would force me to vomit.  She was terrified but managed to track some down.  I can still envision the countless pills floating in the water.  Even though I had expelled the pills within minutes after taking them, I still slept for two days.

1kThat experience changed me on every level.  It didn’t make the ups and downs go away.  It didn’t stop my anxiety problems, my OCD tendencies, or my mercurial emotions.  I didn’t become the easiest person to be friends with nor did I become a dream family member at all times (or even most times, but I really do try).  However my eyes were opened.  I realized that I was supposed to be here, I was not alone at any point, and my life had value.  I didn’t have the slightest idea about the blessings I would receive nor did I understand those I would give.  I didn’t understand my true value, and I suppose, to a very great extent, I still don’t.  But I knew then that my worth was beyond measure.

I matter.  We all do.

There are moments in our lives that can change everything.  Our destinies can be shaped over time or they can be flip in an instant.  When you have depression, the finality of that choice can be lost when you are in the darkness.   It will pass.1g

There is more light around you and in you than you could ever imagine.  There is beauty and wonder and love and hope and magic.  And there are angels.

Your life is precious, and you are never alone.

Do not give in to the illusion of endless darkness.  There is no darkness without the light.  The sun is always there even when you can’t see it.  Just give it a little more time.1e

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Hold on a bit more.  Let the possibilities of your life become beautiful realities.  Never give up on hope.

You can’t fathom what you would never want to miss.

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In love and light always – Joanna

***There are countless photos I wanted to include of others who make my heart smile, but I didn’t need to ask permission from this crew.  🙂

 

Depression – Shifting Your Perception

Depression.  If you have ever worn that label, you probably felt a heaviness in your soul just reading the word.  It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue with a magical lightness, does it?

I wore that label on my heart and spirit since I was in elementary school.  I felt the weight of the diagnosis long before it was made.  It consumed me.  I would take flight only to be snapped back to the ground like there was a chain around my soul.  I barely scraped out of my college years with my life.

I hold no judgement toward anyone who has committed suicide.  None at all in the slightest.  Truly.  I remember believing with every fiber of my being that it would be better in the long run for everyone I cared about if I just died.  I understood that they would hurt in the short term, but overall, I believed that it would be a gift of true kindness from me to them.  They wouldn’t be stuck working through all the problems I brought into their lives each day.

I didn’t have a clue about how completely and utterly untrue that was.  If you ever tell yourself that others around you will be better off if you are dead, you are more wrong than you could possibly imagine.

The people who care about you – even the ones who may be angry with you – NEVER stop hurting.  The hollow aches in their chests don’t go away.  They will always feel a heartbreak that will never be mended.  They will cry every time someone new asks about you.  They will have to suffer thoughtless comments from others who don’t understand, and they will then have to go on the defense with searing pain or swallow the unkindness like broken glass.  They will ask themselves every single day what they could have done differently, and even though the clear answer is “absolutely nothing at all,” they will always wonder.  The part of their life that will be better off will never happen.  They may be able to forgive the choice, but they will never be able to be thankful for it.

I did not know this then, but I see it now.  If you have been impacted by suicide by a family member or a friend, my heart goes out to you more than I can tell you.  There are no words to explain the level of confusion and misunderstanding people stumble through when they are at that point. People who suffer depression feel like they are broken on the inside. Like something is wrong with them.  Like they are crazy.

But what if the crazy part wasn’t actually crazy at all.  What if instead of seeing yourself as being broken, you saw yourself as being made differently than the person beside you?  If you were to look at that person and compare them to any other on the planet, I assure you that you would find unique attributes of each one of those individuals – attributes you wanted to have and attributes that you were glad weren’t on your personal shame list.

What if instead of believing that you needed to be fixed, you recognized that the way you happen to think, feel, love and hurt in extremes actually allows you to experience the world itself from a wider emotional range?  When I was younger, my days were consumed by the highest highs and lowest lows.  My eyes were opened again and again to spectacular wonders as well as dark looming tragedy.  The incessant whipsaw of emotions made me tough on certain fronts and softened my heart on others.

I always find it amusing when I hear people say that this person is on “The Spectrum.”  I’m not implying that autism is comical to me.  I am saying is that the term “spectrum” is an interesting word to choose because it encompasses all the colors we can see with our human eyes, but it also refers to colors that are there yet remain invisible.

What if people with depression are able to see the invisible parts of the spectrum?  Perhaps in lieu of perceiving invisible light, they perceive an emotional range that is out of reach of most humans.

I would never wish a diagnosis of depression on anyone.  Never.  But I wouldn’t go back and change that part of myself or my life either.  I have a broader emotional view and intutive sense than many others around me.  I see people who have a complete inability to recognize the depth in another’s tone.  They can’t hear the unspoken message in the other person’s words, but it is crystal clear to me.  I have been in that emotional place, so I feel it with all the tangibility of a wave crashing into the rocks.  My ability to sense more has helped me to guard those I love, but it has also allowed me to see others who need a hand to prevent them from drowning.

You may feel like you are a stone sinking below the waves because of that label.  Just know that the label may be the broken part, not you.  Your perceived darkness may actually be a beacon of light to another.  It may be the very thing that allows you to shine.

Lose the label.  It doesn’t define you.  If you can’t release it now, know that it doesn’t get to steal your brilliance, passion, or ability to see with more depth and feeling than most will ever comprehend.  Take off the blinders when you look in the mirror, and recognize who you truly are.  Release the curse so you can find the gift.

We would never need light if we didn’t have darkness.  They go hand in hand.

 I write these words for those who suffer depression personally and those who have watched someone they care about be torn apart by it.  If you are reading these words, they are written for you.  Know that you are precious beyond measure.  You are dear and important and perfect just as you are.  You absolutely matter.

In love and light always.  Joanna

(Day 19)

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