Writing Submission for MEND

I belong to a support group called MEND, which helps families who have experienced the loss of a child. They put out a newsletter, and they take submissions from readers. The next newsletter is about Holidays, and that is something that really resonates with me, so I want to submit a piece.

It’s is a modified version of something I wrote last Christmas, and it means a lot to me. I hope it touches someone’s heart and helps them heal. Even if it doesn’t get published, I hope it helps someone here.

 

Today is Christmas, but it’s not how it is supposed to be.

You’re supposed to be here.

We were supposed to make cookies together, get to watch you unwrap presents, and take you to see Santa. We should have gotten to help you decorate the tree, hang up the stockings, and unwrap your presents. We were supposed to get to hear you laugh at all the Christmas fun and see your eyes light up at all the wonders you would be understanding for the first time. We were supposed to feel our hearts fill with love and joy when you ate the frosting and candy toppings while decorating cookies, when we helped you hold your candle at the Christmas Eve Service, and when we all snuggled up to read The Night Before Christmas together.

But that’s not how it is.

Because you’re not here.

Instead we try and hold it together when we see the kids at the mall, excited to see Santa. Kids that would be about the same age as you. Instead, we feel an ache in our heart because the traditions we wanted to share with you make us miss you even more. They just remind us that you’re not here.  Some days are easier, and some are so much worse, and so to cope with the holidays, we cling to each other. We tell each other that’s it’s okay to struggle, that Christmas never will be the same, but some years will be easier–maybe even almost ‘normal’–and this just happens to be a rough year. We know you are having a wonderful Christmas in Heaven, and it soothes our hearts to know you are there, but oh, we wish you were here. So we spend time together, just the two of us, because even though it’s been years, the loss of you still hurts as much as it did the day we lost you.

Because we never stop missing you.

Frustrating Fish

So a few weeks ago my co-worker friend T told me about a program called Pets in the Classroom, where you can apply for a grant to get a pet for the classroom.

Super cool right?

Well, the only catch, was that my boss wouldn’t let me get anything other than fish (lame), but I really wanted to add more nature to my room, so I went ahead. I’ve had fish and I’ve never had any trouble with them, so I wasn’t too worried. I filled out the forms, got the confirmation, and got my coupons in the mail. I was super excited, and so were my kids.

So Robby and I went to the pet store and picked out the tank and all the supplies and set it up in the classroom. We let it sit for a week to get acclimated, like you’re supposed to, and went and got our fishies the next weekend. We picked out a snail and a green cory catfish to help clean the tank, and we also got fancy guppies, thinking they would be a simple but pretty fish and they could have babies for the kids to watch.

Boy were we wrong.

One male died before the weekend was over (we purposefully got them on a long weekend so that if any kicked it we could get them out before the kids saw them), then another died later that week after some really weird symptoms. She would swim upside-down, fall to the gravel, only use one fin. It was weird. Then the kids and I noticed that the other fish had cuts in their fins and were missing some of the color on their fins. The male used to have a big beautiful polka-dot tail and by the end of the week the center of it was completely plain.

Robby came in Saturday and looked at the fish (he showed fish tanks in 4H, cause apparently that’s a thing) and he said he thought they had fin rot, so off we went to the pet store again. The fish lady agreed, and said if we wanted to try and save them we could use a medicine tablet, so we got it, gave it to the fish, and went home. The next day (Sunday) they all looked way worse. Huge chunks of their tails and fins were missing, and a few of them were swimming wrong. The fin rot was too advanced, so we ended up doing a mercy flush, and went back to the pet store again.

This time we got 2 mollies and a platy. I had mollies when I was in high school and I loved them. They lived a long time, they had lots of babies, they were easy to care for. But the male dalmation molly died later that week. The other two seemed to be doing well, and the kids named the fish; Molly for the black female molly, and Swimmy for the platy.

Well, we noticed that Molly kept biting Swimmy. And every time, the kids would completely freak out. I mean, yelling, screaming, the whole nine yards. Crazy levels of freak out. And, of course, today Swimmy died.

So now I get to explain, again, that we lost a fish.

And I am worn out. I thought getting fish would be a fun thing for the class. That the kids would go “cool, fish” and move on to the next thing, and if one died, then I would eventually replace it. But they are FLIPPING OUT over EVERYTHING. And they want me to fix EVERYTHING with these fish. I get that some of these kids haven’t experienced loss, and that’s fine. But I can’t handle 15 kids screaming and yelling at me about the fish every 2 minutes. I can’t take the guilt that I couldn’t save the fish. Again. I can’t take the pressure that I have to be responsible for not only the fish, but for making sure all of the kids are okay.

And I feel like I’m failing.

Because I can’t keep these stupid fish alive. I can’t explain why they are dying. Or I can, but I can’t do anything about it. And I can’t keep the kids from being upset, or help them feel better. And I can’t handle the kids freaking out about the fish and do the rest of my job.

I’m getting grouchy and short tempered. I feel like I’m unravelling at the edges. I just want the fish to live, for things to be simple. For the kids not to freak out.

I just want peace.

I don’t want to feel like I’m failing.

Inside Out

“The structural decision to do without a villain, and ultimately to do without one of the easiest elements to make entertaining and marketable, means that the process Riley is undergoing — adolescence — is visualized as … normal. Her mind is not a space that’s been invaded by something that must be driven out, but a new environment to be mastered. And if other kids’ stories are there to teach kids how to be brave when they see witches and giants, Inside Out is there, maybe, to teach them how to be brave when there’s no witch and no giant, but things can feel broken anyway.”

Linda Holmes, NPR

Today, Robby and I saw Inside Out. If you haven’t seen it, go see it.

Seriously.

I’ll wait.

.

.

.

So, assuming that you watched it, I’m now going to talk about it, so if you haven’t seen it, go see it now, cause otherwise I’m going to blow the plot for you.

*Spoilers*

In the movie, a young pre-teen girl (Riley) starts to realize that her days aren’t just filled with joy any more. That she is growing up. But her mom–in an off-hand manner–asks her to keep being her ‘happy little girl’. So when Riley starts struggling, she begins to hide it, and that’s when her emotions get out of whack.

Sound familiar to anyone?

Through all sorts of adventures by her little inner-emotion cartoons, Riley starts to lose parts of who she used to be. When those pieces of herself start to be lost, she stops being goofy, she withdraws from her parents, she cuts off her friends, and she abandons the sport she has loved her whole life. In a desperate attempt to try and find herself again, she decides to run away, back to a place where she was happy.

Through all of this, Joy has been desperately trying to keep Sadness at bay, to keep Riley from being sad, but Riley is so mixed up that she ends up not being able to feel anything.

She goes numb.

Until Sadness steps in.

When she was a child, Joy had always been able to cheer Riley up, but she can’t go from feeling numb to feeling joyful. She has to feel the sadness. The pain.

Because it’s part of life. It’s normal.

It’s not fun, but it’s normal. And as she realizes that the different emotions can mix and form new emotions, Riley rebuilds the pieces of herself.

Riley’s Personality Islands at the beginning of the movie

To be honest, I cried a lot during this movie. I remember those days of joy as a kid, and I remember feeling my world fall to pieces. And going numb. Except that I was numb for years. I didn’t get to rebuild thepieces of myself right away like Riley did. I didn’t start learning about those ‘new emotions’ until I was in my twenties.

And seeing the childhood that most people had, the emotions that they went through just hurt so much. Because it’s not fair. It’s not fair what I lost, what I missed. My personality ‘islands’ broke and I was just blank for years.

Riley’s Personality Islands falling apart

My ‘Friendship Island’ turned into ‘Distrustful Island’. I shut down my ‘Athletic Island’ because people kept making fun of me whenever I would do anything athletic. And my “Girlie Island’ was completely buried under self-loathing and fear of attention. I used to love to wear pretty dresses and jewelry, and having my make-up put on for dance recitals was so much fun, but once that island broke, I ran from all of that. I couldn’t bring myself to be a little girl anymore. I hid behind baggy boys clothes in dark colors. Nothing bright, nothing that would draw attention.

And I want to open those islands back up. I don’t necessarily want to dance on a stage like I did when I was 5, but I’d like to have the confidence to take a Zumba class now and then, because I genuinely enjoy it. I don’t want to be so afraid of ridicule that I don’t go to the gym on the off-chance that other people will be

Riley’s re-built personality islands at the end of the movie

there. And I’d love to be girlie sometimes. Maybe wear a pretty hair clip. I’ve always wanted to dye streaks of color, like blue or purple, into my hair, but I’ve never had the courage to do it, because it draws attention, and that’s something I am so afraid of.

I know that life isn’t all Joy, and that’s okay. I just want to rebuild myself.

Revisiting The Stigma of Suicide

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Asking for help makes you strong. Go ahead, ask.

                              Asking for help makes you strong. Go ahead, ask.

 

So I am updating a post that I wrote a while ago. Since writing the post below, my husband lost a friend a friend to suicide, I know of a teen who committed suicide and another two people who attempted suicide.

Tomorrow, this post will be exactly 6 months old.

In only six months, there have been 4 lives that felt so broken, that they felt that death was their only option.

And that is so heartbreaking.

No person should ever feel that way. Ever.

I have struggled with self-worth and depression, and I still do. Especially right now. Because I’m still dealing with my issues. I still have those voices in my head telling me that I’m not good enough, telling me I’m not worth anything. And I struggle. I struggle not to believe them. I struggle to keep living my life when I feel like all I should do is give in and break down, and just hide from the world.

But I keep struggling. Because I know that struggling is better than giving up. Because I have people who love me. And when I get through this struggle, I will be me again, and the Me without the struggle, I love her.

And you may be reading this thinking that you don’t know who you are without the struggle. Don’t you want to find out? Find help. Use the info below, and get the help that you’ve always wanted. It’s hard, and it’s scarey, but it’s worth it. I know, I’ve been there. And if the struggles come back, do it again. I’ll be doing it again with you. I’m doing it right now.

And if you’re reading this thinking that you don’t have anyone who loves you, I love you. I really do. If I can help your life through my writing, I want to. Oh, Lord, I so want to. Please let me. Take my words from the screen and put them in your heart and know that I am struggling with you. I am crying, I am hurting, and I am with you. Because no one should have to be alone. Message me, leave a comment, call a hotline, but don’t be alone. Because you aren’t.

 

if you are struggling with depression or other mental illnesses and need help or encouragement, use the resources below

The Bloggess– A fellow struggler who will make you laugh

Suicide Prevention Lifeline– full of resources if you are struggling, including instant chat and help finding a therapist

Suicide Hotline- 1-800-273-8255

Boggle the Owl– one artist’s beautiful advice on depression and self-love. The art for this post came from here

The Stigma of Suicide

Written 3/11/2015

I find it so strange that at a time in someone’s life when a person needs the most love that person can be being met with the harshest of judgements.

Anyone who has ever suffered from severe depression understands. You need love. You need comfort. You need desperately to talk to someone, to reach out for help because you can’t keep fighting anymore. But you don’t, because you know.

You know the friend will be extremely uncomfortable and try and change the subject, just so they don’t have to acknowledge what is truly happening. You know you’ll lose serve your nerve to go to the ER because you don’t want to be labeled as ‘the crazy girl’. When you say how you “can’t handle it anymore” your friends laugh tiredly and say “same here”,  but you don’t dare use the word ‘suicidal’ because you can’t take another the person looking at you with confusion, pity, and fear in their eyes, as if you expect them to “fix it”.

Because when a person does say they are suicidal, they know you can’t fix it. They know how lost they are. But they are trying, desperately, maybe for the last time, to reach out and find love. They want someone who cares. Someone who will cry with them for their pain, not back away from their own fear.

But so often suicide is shameful. We are looked down upon for struggling. For being so human that this world hurts us. Even for being sick and needing help in a way that many don’t understand.

I have a friend (we will just call her J) and her brother recently tried to commit suicide. I praise God that he lived, but it struck me as odd that this is how she told me.

Me: got your message about your brother. What happened so that he ended up in the ICU?

J: He tried to kill himself. He is feeling very ashamed. I’m trying to keep it private.

I hate that at this time in his life–when he needs love and support more than ever–he is isolating himself from everyone by not letting them in by telling them the truth.

And that is because of the stigma of suicide.