Saturday, April 30, 2016

You Are Not Alone

Out of the Darkness Walks are sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and take place across the country on campuses and in communities. I actually attended one in Galesburg, IL with a friend several years ago and was impressed with the message of hope, the collective spirit, and the focus on bringing a difficult topic out of the dark. A favorite cousin of mine had ended her life about 10 years before, and I walked with her in mind, chalking her name, Laurie, along the path. It was reflective, spiritual, healing. The main message I took from that day was that survivors of suicide loss don't have to be alone.

And so now, here I sit with more impetus to participate in AFSP walks than I ever imagined. Springfield, IL, where Adam lived for 8 years and died has their walk September 10, 2016. I am excited to have registered Team Tut and hope to join our family and Adam's friends together for this walk. This is my page:

http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donordrive.participant&participantID=988284

Information about the Springfield walk in general can be found here:

http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donordrive.event&eventID=3861

The super exciting news I also have to share is that there will be an Out of the Darkness walk in Macomb/McDonough County IL October 1st, 2016!!  The location is Lakeview Nature Center, where the natural prairie path will be fashioned into a huge Labyrinth which will be a perfect way to reflect, meditate, and heal while we honor our loved ones we have lost to suicide. Final details are still in the works, but I am your Walk Chair, so if you have questions or would like to help, walk, or participate in any way, please contact me.


*The AFSP is the leading organization for research, education, advocacy, and support for suicide prevention in this country. They operate a national suicide crisis hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mental Health

I took yesterday off. Up at 4 a.m. I mostly spent the day listening to sad music and looking at photographs of Adam. I wept. I don't think I realized the toll "holding it together" was taking on me until a full day with nothing planned and no one around lay before me. I did invite a friend over at 10:00 for coffee, one who knows something about grief. That was a good call on my part, but I now realize there is always an internal pressure to stop the tears when someone is there, and apologize, stupid as I know it is.

The rest of the day I just let everything pour out. The sobbing, wracking tears didn't stop for long until I went to bed, medicated, knowing I had to sleep in order to finish my work week. "Holding it together" for me has seemed easier than you would think. Looking a young man in the eye and asking him about his suicide attempt without flinching. Explaining to a child who lost his father that grief can hit you when you're not expecting it. Listening to a mother's valid concerns and helplessness about her adult child's mental health. Weekly crisis staffings. All in a day's work. By the external looks of it, I am unfazed. And truthfully, I have cut myself off emotionally more than I ever thought possible. My co-workers must think I am made of granite.

I believe I would have to employ the same coping mechanisms in any job, cutting off emotionally in order to function, but I hadn't considered the cumulative effect the level of suppression involved in doing my particular job might be having.

I don't know how this story is going to turn out. Staying home for an extended period or quitting my job certainly wasn't the answer as yesterday proved, much as I needed the release and the space to mourn.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Lighter

Yesterday after months of feeling an array of emotions, none of which I would categorize as happy, I told Eli, "I feel happy." The setting was Chandler Park, Earthfest, with Marissa on one side of me chatting up Mattie, and Eli on the other side, soaking up sunshine, perfect weather, and Hannah's jazz combo playing in the gazebo. Young hipsters with frisbees, dreadlocks and Grateful Dead tee's wandering by and occasionally dancing, a welcome sight not usually seen around our small town.

The day continued to go well, with Marissa and I getting a successful lesson in hula hooping, and then at home making crafty decorations for the rehearsal dinner coming up in less than 45 days. I was having such a good time, I forgot to take pictures!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Introduction to Tollywood: Indian Culture

I found this in Adam's room, something I had hounded him to write for several years, in fact. Unfortunately, he never completed it, but I think it's a good share.

In August of '11, two months after completing my Bachelor's degree, I set out for what I thought was the adventure of a lifetime. I recently had been hired full-time at the Japanese restaurant that I had worked part-time at for the previous 6 months. I was ready for a change, and in search of exciting opportunities. Opportunity materialized when one of my roommates was tapped for a job working on an Indian film in Los Angeles.

A childhood friend of my roommate, a recent USC film school Master's recipient, was hired by a big-name Southern Indian film director as the producer for a high-budget film, shot partially throughout the U.S.'s most iconic locations. This producer needed four people, with valid driver's licenses to work on the production crew. We were to transport the crew of 28, along with all the production equipment, as well as negotiate film permits, lodging arrangements, and guiding the crew throughout the country. Only four of the crew had visited the United States before, and many spoke no English. It is worth noting that this film was not a Bollywood film, the world's largest producer of films, but its southern Indian sister called Tollywood, as the region's most used language is Telegu. 

Anyway, we were to travel the country, shooting in San Francisco, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Chicago, D.C., Boston, and NYC over a 3.5 month period. It would be long days and short nights for relatively mediocre pay. But, it so strongly appealed to my sense of adventure that I had to take it. My roommate informed me that upon accepting the offer we must leave in two days, which actually made it even more appealing to me at the time. 

I accepted and received the plane ticket the next day. I knew if I did this, anything really could happen, but I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.


*****


What  ensued on this trip was short-lived, but made for some of the funniest stories ever told by Adam. From fetching take-out three times a day to driving a large SUV in downtown LA (fender bender included) to driving out to Vegas where the main actor injured himself in a national park which stopped production to the shouting match in the LAX to get Adam the money for a ticket home, it was definitely an adventure.






Okay, this is NOT the film but maybe what Adam had in mind when he left on his adventure. 

Something Like This

The weight of grief


Yesterday I signed up for the Springfield Out of the Darkness Walk. That felt good, organizing Team Tut. September 10th I'm hoping our family can walk with Adam's friends from Springfield. It was really hard being in Springfield the last time, but I'm looking forward to this. 

Whether or not I accomplish starting a walk in McDonough County I will have this. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Left Behind

Remember when the Left Behind series was BIG (I never read it)? Now we have Miracles from Heaven and Heaven is Real. They sound really schlocky so of course, I won't have anything to do with them. In the 90's, however, I did read Embraced by the Light and found it comforting? inspirational? intriguing? The Five People You Meet in Heaven was a good read, though not claiming to be anything other than fiction.

I am overwhelmed right now with the fear of leaving Adam behind. As life goes on and the "event" is further and further away I am terrified of letting go of things that tie me to him: a plant, a box of memorabilia, his car, his phone, his friends, visiting Springfield. I am terrified that he is alone and that somehow my hanging on to constant reminders is keeping us close.

Maybe it is time to begin a new phase and seek spiritual guidance in some way. I trust the universe will deliver this to me when I am ready to receive it. For now, I soldier on doing the best I can.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Depression

All through this, I have resisted applying the label of depression to Adam. It's not because of stigma or shame; I have worked in mental health for 20 years and almost consider it normal. It's not because I don't think it could happen in my family, I have taken medication for depression most of those 20 years. You would think I could spot it a mile away.

Anxiety, yes. That runs in the family, and he would talk about his own anxiety at times. I encouraged him to see a doctor or a counselor. Addiction, I didn't realize, but makes perfect sense. Again, family history. Adam didn't have the telltale signs of depression or changes in behavior (fatigue, trouble concentrating, crying spells, loss of interest in things he used to enjoy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt) that weren't part of what I thought was his personality. He told me within the last year that he hadn't cried since he was 14 or 15. He would literally get mad at me if he saw me crying. Depression never really entered my mind with Adam even with our family history and knowing that depression and anxiety often go together.

Well, there's one thing Pat has mentioned a couple of times. Adam said he wasn't really into the NBA this year. Should that have set off an alarm?

He was good at hiding feelings and things he perceived as weaknesses. Most of us with depression are good at functioning and getting along around other people. It's the inner turmoil or angst we tend to keep to ourselves. Adam didn't talk about suicide ever, and though I didn't suspect it, I wasn't completely surprised either. My hunch from the beginning was it may have been an ever present or repeating thought for a long time, but he would never let his guard down and admit something like that. If he was going to do something, it would be his decision, and it would be final.

Funny thing is, Adam was more communicative than ever, introduced a girl to us, came home more often, and seemed more comfortable being vulnerable. He went to Mens Wearhouse in January, got fitted for his tux for Eli's wedding, and put down a $100 deposit (something I thought he would have procrastinated on).

In the past, I have thought, anyone who takes their own life has to have a mental illness. It's not something a rationally thinking, mentally healthy person would do. I suspect mixing alcohol and pain medication as Adam did may have allowed him to carry out a plan he kept carefully secreted. I didn't know he had a gun. If I had he would have told me it was just a fascination, and I would have believed him. What flipped the switch on that day, we will not ever know. Did he quietly carry a deep depression that ultimately killed him?

Just because I didn't see it, doesn't mean it wasn't there. There are so many things I don't know.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

What I saw on Facebook moments after the last post


Can you say freak me out?

To Everything

Two recent interactions have pointed me in the direction of looking at things from the perspective of seasons. The first was a chance encounter outside my work building with a lady I hadn't seen in years. She definitely knew about Adam (her son coached Adam in wrestling many years ago) and offered her condolences (tearfully). She then proceeded to tell me about her daughters' battle with breast cancer. She kept telling me it was the Season, and I knew she was referencing the bible because she was also promoting the benefits of prayer and that only God could heal. I didn't really get what she meant but I nodded and struggled to comprehend through context what she was trying to tell me.

A quick check of Google yielded this result from a Christian sermon:

Our foundational scripture is Ecclesiastes 3:1 - 4. (it refers to times, which are seasons) .It reads..”To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up (harvest) that which is planted...

Of course, I have heard the song "Turn, Turn, Turn" by the Byrds. A time that has been allotted for something to happen is known as a season. "During a season, things around us are orchestrated in such a manner that our efforts are supported."  If I understand it correctly my friend was trying to say not to think of our trials as overwhelming obstacles but as natural passages that we can get strength from a higher power to bear. If anyone can elaborate or explain this better I am all ears. 

Grief itself can be compared to seasons. I can't find the article or blog that referenced this so I will just tell you my own experience. The seasons are not in order for me but the first 5-6 weeks felt like winter (the weather just so happened to coincide) to me. Unpredictable, cold, barren, uncomfortable, and wet are some words that come to mind that mimic my emotions during that time. Currently, I am experiencing autumn which for me has always been the onset of seasonal depression. I feel desolate, alone, blowing around like leaves swept up by the wind. Just listen to the song "Send in the Clowns" by Judy Collins and you will get an inkling of the melancholia that has overtaken my soul. I have no idea why that song comes to mind. Interestingly, Judy Collins recorded "Turn, Turn, Turn" also. 

I am hoping there will be a spring and summer at some point.





Hate

I hate that I have to write letters to companies saying my son is dead. I hate that I can't call him up and ask him what he thought of a certain teacher. I hate that I have to claw back in my memory to recall the day Adam met us at Lincoln Land Community College to watch Cal play baseball (it was a beautiful day, Adam was relaxed and in a good mood). I hate that life goes on and that I ever smile or laugh and that I don't know what to say when people ask me how I am.