Tell Me Where It Hurts

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Time flies between suicides.

Or at least that’s how it feels these days.

When I heard today that Chester Bennington had ended his life, I immediately thought of Chris Cornell.  And it feels like Chris Cornell took his life last week.

But it was May.

Chris Cornell has been gone since May.

And then in June, Chester Bennington dedicated Linkin Park’s ‘One More Light’ to Chris Cornell during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel.

And now it’s July and Chester Bennington has joined Chris Cornell in what I imagine is a great band of pain-free rockers in heaven.

I can tell I’m feeling well because I’m not obsessing over the details of Bennington’s death.  I’m not researching story after story, only to reread the same few quotes from close friends or a family spokesperson.

I can tell I’m feeling well because I don’t wish it had been me instead of Chester Bennington. And I don’t think there’s a message in his death that’s meant for me.  I don’t think I’ve been dared to do something similar or to do something that will add impact and meaning to another artist’s death.

But this is the year that I decided to start sharing more about my own journey living with suicidal thinking.  I decided to start sharing in order to start giving back.

For years, I’ve relied on the experiences of others, finding inspiration and hope in their stories and their words. Maybe now, if I give some of that back, someone else can benefit from my experiences.

So let me tell you about what it’s like when I’m not doing well.

Like when Robin Williams ended his life in August of 2014.

I wasn’t doing well that summer. I was struggling with a particularly rough period of suicidal thinking and major depression at that time and Robin Williams’ death really struck a chord.

If you know me in real life, you might be thinking back to that summer and wondering what was going on then to make me miserable.

Nothing.

The answer is nothing.

The answer is always nothing.

I live my life as a high functioning professional and my brain lives it’s life as a chemically and stress-challenged nut.

That would have been a ‘regular’ summer – nothing out of the ordinary except a worse-than-usual brain.

And Robin Williams’ death hurt deeply.

I related to Robin Williams as an artist. I related to the many dark characters he had played. I related to his contrast of humor and high emotion. And I felt like I could understand what it was like to have a life that appeared to be in full swing and yet be suffering with a condition that others could not see or appreciate.

I remember reading so many tweets and Facebook posts that asked how someone with so much to live for could end his life.

#ihatethat #ihatethat #ihatethat

I hate that.

I hate when people connect the quality of one’s life or success with their propensity for suicide. I get particularly upset at the lack of understanding about suicide when I’m feeling suicidal.

At that time, I went to the few people I trusted on the topic and ranted about suicide having very little, if anything, to do with what a person has.

It’s the inability to continue living with constant pain,” I explained to the few people who had witnessed me living with constant pain.

I yelled at television’s morning personalities who went on and on about all that Robin Williams had and questioned why nobody was able to stop him.

And I got frustrated.

Because it’s really hard to help people who don’t live with suicidal thinking to understand suicidal thinking.

When Robin Williams ended his life, I thought it was a message to me. I thought it was a sign that the time had come for me to do it too.  I thought, as I tend to think, that maybe if I left a really good note, people would understand the pain behind suicide better.

That’s something that happens to me that doesn’t happen to normal people.

Normal people don’t feel dared to die.

Sometimes, I get an overwhelming feeling that it should have been me and not the person who died.

In the summer of 2008, we lost a number of household names whose time was not meant to be – and I then spent the summer trying to figure out how I could take the place of someone who didn’t want to die. First Tim Russert, then George Carlin and then Tony Snow. It was a hard summer for my brain. I was certain I was supposed to be a part of the puzzle unfolding before me.

It’s that type of thinking I’m used to because my brain engages in it so freely.

It’s kind of like my brain has a life of its own – a life that has little to do with the normal functioning life people see me living.

I can feel my brain engaging in all of this nonsense and sometimes it is more intrusive than other times.  Like in that summer of 2008 when I could not get a break from the noise in my head.

But now, in times like these, when I’m doing well, I just watch the show going on in my brain and I do a million little things to make sure that my brain doesn’t get too loud or too inappropriate.

When I first began writing about the suicide stuff, it made some people nervous. I think it made them wonder if writing about suicide was actually *the sign* that things were bad.

But no.

Talking about suicide is a positive way of helping to manage the condition.

Writing about suicide is a positive way of helping to manage the condition.

And no, talking and writing about suicide aren’t triggers.

But silence is a trigger. And hiding is a trigger. And keeping secrets is a trigger.

So if you know someone who lives with pain – any pain – get to know their pain. Get to know what they look like, talk like, act like when they’re in pain.

And make their pain part of your routine.

What?!?

Yes, I said ‘make their pain part of your routine.’

Make it part of your routine to ask them how they are doing so you can tell when they’re not doing well.

Make it part of your routine to ask them the questions that lead to information about their condition.

What music are they listening to? What shows are they watching? What foods are they eating?

Are they sleeping at night? Waking up when they should?

Getting out? Exercising? Seeing friends?

My inner circle folks know what my dangerous behavior looks like. So they know to always ask specifics regarding what I’m up to.

Because one day I can look like I’m doing great, but that can quickly turn.

And one last thing.

If you know someone who lives with pain, don’t pretend they’re not in pain when they are  pain.  Ignoring the pain won’t make it go away, but acknowledging the pain can often help.

Well, this essay doesn’t flow all that well, but neither do my thoughts about how to talk to others about suicidal thinking.

Maybe the flow will get better as I get more comfortable uttering some of these hard-to-say thoughts out loud.

xoxo, d

www.livingbroken.org
Giving power to personal stories of thriving
through wearable, shareable art.

 

 

 

 

Flash Cards for a Functional Year

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I’m sorry the title of today’s offering isn’t better.

I should have written something about a happy or joyous year, right?

But seriously, happy and joyous aren’t my goals.

I wouldn’t mind being happy and joyous, mind you.  It’s just that I don’t generally set out to be happy and joyous. Generally, I set out to be functioning and, hopefully, very high functioning.

So far, it looks like this could be a good year for high functioning.

The basics appears to be in place in that respect, so I’m pleased.

Wow.

How’s THAT for some jumping-up-and-down, crazy, out-of-control positivity, eh?

So here are my basic rules for achieving my goal of having a high functioning year.

And yes, I keep them on note cards.

(1) Ignore my brain

Well, I can’t really ignore my brain, but I can try to step away from messages my brain sends to me.  I can try to avoid getting hooked by bad brain messages.  And I can try to avoid getting caught in the swirl of my brain activity…when my brain activity is swirling.

(2) Question my brain

I can ask whether my brain is being helpful or unhelpful at any given time. If it’s being helpful, I can work with it.  If it’s being unhelpful, I can choose not to engage with my brain…or at least try.  Some days are better than others, but it’s a good exercise to disagree with my brain and practice rejecting it when it is not helping me.

(3)  Ignore others

I can’t really ignore my brain, but I can definitely ignore other people.  I don’t need to be rude or disrespectful toward them.  I don’t even need to let them know I’m ignoring them. I can just discount their input, their perspective, or their words (or their texts and emails).

I should probably mention that I don’t mean all others. I just mean those few others who tend to be unhelpful. Let’s ignore them.

(4) Don’t Feel Bad

Number Four pertains to Number Three.  I can ignore those few others I ignored in Number Three without feeling bad about the fact that I’m ignoring them or wondering if I’m hurting their feelings. And if I worry about them at any point, I can remember that there are plenty of people out there who are ignoring me.

(5) Move

I need to move everyday.  Whether its a few miles of running or 10,000 steps of walking or something more structured, I need to move.  I’ll assume you’ve experienced the difference between moving and not moving.  Moving just feels better. Period. It feels better, it looks better, it works better.  So I gotta move. Every day. In some way.

(6) Be My Own Police

I need to be vigilant about my environment. No moody music. No sad movies. No time spent alone around known triggers.

Policing myself is easy in some respects since I’m quite rigid and generally hyper-disciplined.  It’s a bit harder when others are around and I have to bow out of an activity or conversation topic that triggers me.  It’s especially hard when I’m in a place – physically or mentally – where everything’s a trigger.

When everything’s a trigger – or when it just seems like everything’s a trigger – it’s important not to take on big thoughts or big decisions.  During those times, I try to call a personal time out and I declare privately that everything’s on hold. I take more hot baths than usual and eat some comfort food (i.e. oatmeal for dinner) and I just allow time to pass.

(7) Regroup, Reorganize, Reimagine

This is the story of my life. I do this all the time. I do it every weekend. I do it every month. I do it anytime I need a do over or a new start.  I make lists and charts and graphs and spreadsheets and then more lists.

I always know the most current priorities. And I always feel like I can be on top of things.

It might not be that I’m actually on top of things, but hey, at least I feel like I am.  And I have to think that feeling there is part of the way to being there, right?

(8) Fantasize

I imagine fantasies that are partly based in reality so that they can serve as positive visualization.

These days I imagine that Leonardo DiCaprio likes my style of painting and commissions me to paint for him. In the advanced fantasy, he provides me a studio in which to paint.

I always wanted an actual studio.

Then I imagine that my art becomes wearable as yoga clothes and I pass people wearing them in airports.

You know you’ve made it when you see your products in airports.

(9) Initiate More Conversations

This one is tough for me but I’m going to do it. I am going to initiate more conversations. I tend to not do so and I know all of the neurotic reasons I don’t initiate conversations. Mostly I don’t because I’m an uptight workaholic Type A personality.

But not initiating is hurtful to people I love so I am going to really really really try to initiate more conversations with a few people I love and a few people I like.

(10) Number Ten

I feel like there should be a number ten.  Nine seems so wrong to end on.

Ooooooh! I know! I know!

I’ll reinforce a rule I made last year and didn’t do so well with.

I want to throw things out and/or give things away EACH WEEK.

Okay. I’ll journal that so I keep on track. Dump stuff each week. I really really really want to get rid of stuff.

Well, back now to working on the art business, which I never have to remember to do.  Same with painting…no reminders ever necessary.

And then out to walk the dog and knock out some steps.

I hope your 2017 is filled with meaning, passion, purpose, love, giving, hope and inspiration….and laughs, hugs, cuddles, and all that mushy stuff too, of course.

xoxo, d

The Mother.

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I can never speak for anyone else’s experience.

I don’t know how the deaths of celebrities affect others.

I can see that others are affected by the outpouring of emotions and thoughts on Facebook, obviously. But I’m not sure what experience, if any, is common among any particular groups.

I’m always hesitant to share my experience because I view the world through the eyes of someone who lives with chronic major depression (i.e., it lurks around every corner) and obsessive suicidal thoughts (i.e., my brain only owns one record and loves to play it). I worry my experience is too weird, too worrisome, too depressing or too something that will make others scared of me.

I especially question whether anyone would share my thoughts about death since death is a real trigger issue for me.  But then I remember how helpful it is to me when someone shares their  own thoughts and I relate to those thoughts and I am comforted by the knowledge that I am not alone.

When I’m doing well, which is, thankfully, a lot of the time if not most of the time, I respond almost “normally” to deaths like those of George Michael and Carrie Fisher.  I feel very reasonably sad while I remember how much I love George Michael’s music and Carrie Fisher’s books and movies.  I get appropriately sentimental about the times in my life that their respective works were most important to me.

George Michael is a bit of a potential trigger because I listened to Listen Without Prejudice on a loop during a period in the 1990’s when I was feeling particularly down.  I can easily get a bit weepy thinking about that album and a summer when my brother gave me that CD and it provided the soundtrack for an entire summer of sorrow.

But mostly I’m able to feel sad and blue in a normal way…the way normal people feel sad and blue.  I don’t have to allow the feelings of sadness and blue-ness to go to an extreme. I don’t have to view the deaths of others as a sign or a message or anything more than an awful thing that happens in life …. because awful things happen in this life.

So, anyway, I was mourning fine.

But then Debbie Reynolds went and got sick.

And I thought Debbie Reynolds would be fine. Exactly the way I had thought Carrie Fisher would be fine.

And then, of course, she died.

And well, it got a little harder to keep being the normal kind of sad.

But I still maintained a ‘normal’ reaction.

I remained sad and blue in a normal way.

Even though now I had to think a lot about my own mother who has, throughout the years, told me a million times that she could never go on without me.

My mother is not on social media, but she does read my writing. Even though it’s not easy writing to read, obviously.

But, really, as difficult as my writing is to read, it’s far more difficult to live through. And my mother has had a front row seat.

Actually, she’s been backstage.

So not to worry. I can’t write anything that surprises, shocks or upsets my mother.  We’ve come too far for that.

And luckily, when I’m writing about what we’ve been through, it’s generally a good sign that I’m doing well. So there’s that… as they say.

At times in the distant past, when I had not been doing so well, my mother would say things like “I could never go on if something happened to you.”

It’s odd to talk about this now. It seems like many lifetimes ago.

But back in the past, I never asked my mother whether she could go on without me. I never even wondered.

But she told me.

And I always responded the same way.

I always told my mother that if I ever took my life I would know that she, of all people, would be okay and would understand why I had done so – since she had seen the most of how much pain I lived with when I was in pain.

I sincerely hope we never have to test either my mother’s theory or mine.  In my healthy mind, I hope that’s not a reality ever. I don’t even want to come close, which is a very healthy thing to be able to say, by the way.

But honestly, I can’t imagine how Debbie Reynolds could have gone on without her daughter.  I can’t imagine how much pain Debbie Reynolds would have been in.

And honestly, I can’t imagine that kind of pain ever subsiding.

I hope Carrie and Debbie are lunching somewhere wonderful in Heaven.  I hope they see my Grandma Freda, who LOVED Tammy and the Bachelor. I never would have wanted Debbie Reynolds to die, but it’s oddly soothing that she went on to be with Carrie.  I’m glad about that.

Damn. That mother-daughter thing is really really real.

Damn.

xoxo, d