Tag Archives: suicide

Holding On Through Rogue Waves of Despair and Other Stuff

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I read or heard that suicide peaks in the spring and summer.

The theory was that people hold on and keep their depression under wraps in the winter, because there is a hope and belief that things will get so much better come the kinder climes of spring and summer.

And then when it doesn’t, they attempt.

Since I’m in the field, I get a ton of facts and stats fired at me on the reg, so I can not for the life of me remember where I saw or heard this nugget of info.  It might not even be true.  It is possible I heard it on NPR, but it is also possible I totally made it up or saw it on an episode of South Park.

I’m pondering it, regardless of its source or verity.

Not because I’m suicidal, but because I kind of understand it.

So far this summer has sucked.

My children are out of sorts and no matter what kind of fun and enriching things I present to them, they fight with each other to the point of tears and tantrums.

My highly sensitive son had to transition to a summer camp about which he is not particularly pleased, and for which we are paying a shit ton of money we do not have.

My Spousal unit and I have been at odds with one another.  The weather hasn’t been great.  My knee hurts.  The list goes on.

I’m not into astrology, but everything just feels so out of sync, rocky, sea-sickening, that it seems there must be some greater universal force at play.  Something in retrograde or something.

You know I had a pretty rough winter.  There was blizzard after blizzard drama at work, and I had a near death experience in a parking lot.

My moods tanked, but I managed to keep my shit together because I was so looking forward to flowers, the beach, relaxing with my family, maybe taking up kayaking.  And none of that happy crap has come to pass, and my mood is still pretty rough.

The fact that shit hasn’t magically improved with the weather makes it feel like an extra wave of desolation is crashing down on me, plunging me underwater where my limbs flail helplessly and I my skin is burned by the sand and rocks.

It’s a disappointing blend of emotions I can’t quite name with enough accuracy.

It also makes me feel guilty I am not taking more pleasure in the gardens and butterflies, birds and bunnies.

I’m also pondering suicide because we recently had another child complete the act of killing themselves in the community where I work.

It is the second child to die from suicide that I know since January, and while I was not close to or the primary clinician for either kid, it leaves a lingering stain on the psyche, and creates a hyper-vigalence about the day-to-day of our already emotionally taxing profession.

Surgeons get used to losing patients on the table, or so I am led to believe from Grey’s Anatomy.  But I’m not sure if suicide is something that anyone in any walk of life anywhere really comes to grip with, especially when it is someone so young with their whole life ahead of them.

When I was in high school, I was a distracted and mediocre student at best.  I vividly remember feeling like the entire world was coming to a crashing halt because I was failing math.  Depression lapped at my toes, caught my ankles in her icy grip, and tried her best to drag me under.

But I never could have taken such a drastic step.

I do not mean that in a judgmental way.  I also am not attempting to compare my foolish first-world issues with another person’s true tragedy.  It’s just all swirling around up there in the wavy whorls of my grey stuff.  My brain simply has no understanding of the depths of despair a person must feel to end it all.  It doesn’t compute.  But it also isn’t my story. . .  It is their’s.

I took the first child’s suicide much more personally, for a messy combination of reasons which I’m not at liberty to get into.  I am kind of just sitting with this most recent one, trying to decide how it will affect me, my life, my practice.

I say I’m just sitting with it, not really reacting to it or feeling that same level of grief, shock, and horror, but am I?  I had an awful week.  I’ve lost my temper at home about 20 times.  I’ve been sullen, sulky, withdrawn, and argumentative.  I’ve overreacted to mundane events.

Is it coincidental my emotions are peaking?  Is there a subconscious trauma drifting up and being displaced onto my family like a rogue wave?

Either way, I guess being aware is important because through awareness I can come to a deeper understanding about stuff. . .  or so it is said.

Elephant Journal published a piece about a guy who had learned to transform difficult emotions using a mindfulness technique developed by Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.

The paraphrased gist of it is to become super present with whatever emotion you are experiencing, breathe with it, and visualize the actual emotions.  Then, whatever you visualize (for example earlier this week when I was fighting with my husband and did this technique, it was a pile of broken glass…), you imagine wrapping up in a blanket and holding it to your chest, as you would a baby.

With all the tenderness you would give a tiny baby, you tell the emotion that you recognize it is with you, and you will hold it safely with compassion until it is ready to go.

By practicing this, I’ve found myself softening to the difficult crap I’ve been feeling.  The trick is remembering to do it.

So, to all my crappy feelings about this summer, my sense of inadequacy as a mom because of my children’s behavior, my irritation with my husband, my compassion fatigue at work, my disappointment, and my sadness–

I know you are here.

You are like a soggy towel,

left in the bottom of a bag after an exhausting day at the beach.  

You are prickly with sand, and you stink a little bit.  

But I know you are here, and I will wrap you up and hold you,

and rock with you against my chest. . .

. . .  until we are ready to let go of one another.

Chasing Anger With Self Recrimination. . . and Then More Anger

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Yesterday I ranted about frustration with my husband.  He had allowed our daughter to do something after I said she couldn’t.

I stayed good and pissed for the better part of the morning, but I actually felt better after posting and hearing back from you all who left generous and supportive comments.

While surfing Facebook, I happened across a post from a dear friend who was reflecting on how she never deals low blows with her spouse, and how she thanks her family for this because her mother and father taught her how to fight fair.  It had nothing to do with me or my situation, but because all my stupid sensitive senses were on high alert, I took it as a personal affront.  I am a bad person because I can’t be more mature when I bicker with my Spouse.

I am setting a crappy example for my children who are going to grow up completely screwed up because mommy and daddy fought.  My children are anxious, uncooperative, and angry because I suck at adulting.

 I.  Am.  A.  Failure.  With a capital “F”.


I held onto these feelings until I was distracted by other things.

Like:

Last night, I ended up working late.  It is a rarity.  My schedule is fairly set in stone because I usually need to be someplace either at the beginning or end of the day with my children.  

But a teen in the community had completed suicide and we were opening the doors at our center to support the community.   I agreed to stay a couple hours later than usual to be on stand by. It ended up being a very quiet few hours, which was fine.  I got a lot of other stuff done, then I went home.

At home I was deciding how I wanted to play things with Spouse.  He had bathed Emily, but he had allowed Jack to go out past his 7pm curfew to play with his bud.  I was tired and hungry, but Emily seemed sleepy so I figured bedtime would be a breeze and then I could microwave some frozen rectangle of food and get my couch and Masterchef on.  Chill.  Decompress.  Ponder the meaning of life and how gut twistingly terrible it is when a teen takes their life.

Then he disappeared.  

As I was putting my daughter to bed, the Spouse just took off to parts unknown.  Emily would not settle because she wanted her dad to hug her goodnight and he was no where in the house or yard.  I still had not eaten dinner and was starting to spiral out into anger once again.  

At 8:45 Em still would not settle and I still had not eaten. He wasn’t picking up his phone so I sent a ragey text.

Apparently, he had gone down the street to watch a ball game at the fields with our son and the neighbors.  This seemed reasonable to him, and it seemed reasonable that I would telepathically know where the fuck he was even though he’d not mentioned a word of it to me.  Well, where else would I be?  He asked like he goes down to watch ballgames at the fields down the street all the time. (He never has.)

I really lost it.  He and Jack came trundling home.  I screamed.  I ranted.  I raved.

I called him a Doofus.  In front of the kids, no less.

So much for fighting fair.

Now I’m back to being a failure and crappy mom and wife.  And I’m still angry.  So, there’s that. . .

I stormed off while he put both children to bed.  I read the last two chapters of Gone Girl.  I watched Masterchef.  I stressed about if I was really angry because I am a crazy bitch with raging hormones, or if my feelings were based anywhere in reality.  I went to bed fuming and woke up still fuming.

My behavior was not cool.  Not.  Cool.  I get that.

But in all fairness, disappearing on a weeknight at bedtime is not cool either.

I wasn’t angry that he went to watch the game. I’m not “that girl.”

I was angry he didn’t tell me where the fuck he was going.  Because I am not a fucking mind reader.  All of that could have been avoided by him telling me what was going on.

This morning I’m in a vapid brain space.  But I look amazing. I’m wearing a new dress that I bought with birthday money.  It has this splashy pink and navy blue flower pattern on it and the cut is very flattering.  I’ve had my coffee.  The kids are fresh and clean.  Lunches are packed and we are ready to face our day.

I think the Spouse knows he is in the dog house because he cleaned up the whole kitchen after the children had breakfast, which is usually my chore.  

We have a long holiday weekend ahead of us and somehow will have to get on the same page.

End Of The World– Getting Cozy With Dukkha

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The world is ending right now because there are dirty dishes in the sink and a bunch of moldering, half-eaten yogurt cups and tubes strewn throughout the house.

I just got home from the Urgent Care Center.  It is 8 p.m., and any mom who got up as early as I did this morning knows that 8 p.m. is the middle of the fucking night.

My husband is engaged in a power struggle with our seven year old son, Jack, over universe knows what.  My three year old, Emily, is wandering around like a lost lamb because she wants mama milk and cuddles before bed.

But first things first.

Since a huge vat of Purell or rubbing alcohol isn’t available, I hop in the shower.  It serves the dual purpose of warming my chilled, aching body, and cleansing off the filth of the walk in treatment place.  I had anxiety upon anxiety the entire time I was there as people coughed, hacked, wheezed, and made all sorts of moaning cacophony.  In the curtained area next to me, there was a woman chanting, “Germs, germs, germs, germs, germs,” over and over in a haunted whisper.  True story.  I can’t make this shit up.

The chest X-ray confirmed bronchitis and the doctor wrote me a script for antibiotic and a cough medicine, but then changed his mind when I told him I still breast feed twice a day.  He forgot to call the pharmacy and change the prescription, which resulted in an hour-long wait in the parking lot of the pharmacy, where I sat in my car, heat on full blast, shivering and crying.

Wait!  Before you stop reading because you hate me for bitching about First World Problems, please know it was pretty much the worst week of my life, followed by an exhausting weekend of poorly behaved children, and ending in body aches that rate waaaaayyyy at the grumpy and sad end of that smiley to grimace chart.

A client killed himself last week, and it left me reeling in confusion, guilt, panic, and fear.  While I have forced myself to accept there was nothing I could have done to prevent this tragedy, my heart has not caught up with my head on the matter, and being sick wears down the professional buffer I might have for such matters.

After spending the entire week in the aftermath of suicide, another employee of my program gave me her notice along with a few dozen clients to reassign.  Since my other clinician quit my program before the holidays, I have no one to reassign these clients to.  When I went, shaking and sobbing, to my supervisor for support, I was basically told to figure it out.

I came home looking for some solace, only to find my husband intended to work all weekend.  This is good news, in one way, because we need the money and he is freelance.  But it is bad news in terms of having the children, house duties, etc. ,and so on all to myself for the entire weekend.

So, contracting bronchitis was just the frosting on the crap cake I felt had been baked for me this week.  I feel like a jerk even writing that, while knowing I have access to better medical care and pharmaceuticals than 87% of the world.  (Note:  that is not a real statistic.  I’m making shit up because like I said, the world is fucking ending and who cares anyway.)

Sometimes I just need to vent.  Then I get sick of myself and get on with my life.

Some people have real problems.  I know this.  People like the family who lost their child in the most confounding, shocking, and traumatizing way last week.

After my shower, I hustle to put on PJ’s.  I ignore Jack’s tantrum and go straight to Emily, who is sleepy and sweet. She puts her hand on my heart as she snuggles into my breast, and touches my chin as light as a butterfly.

I’ve been contemplating the Buddhist concept of dukkha lately.  Dukkha roughly translates as “suffering,” and it is an important concept in Buddhism.  There has been ample dukkha in my life over the past few months. . .  the dukkha of motherhood; the dukkha of clinging to things during the process of our move last November; the dukkha of family issues at the holidays; the dukkha of yearning for things to be a certain way at work; the dukkha of physical illness; the dukkha of my anxiety and depression which has been rearing its ugly head over the past few weeks like a powerful and frightening dragon.

The dukkha of wanting to change the unchangeable, and to understand the incomprehensible.

And tonight, the dukkha of dishes left undone at the end of the night when I am sick and tired, and have already done dishes 17 times over the course of the weekend.

Basically, Buddha teaches that life is dukkha—  not that everything sucks, but that by its nature, our existence is flawed, impermanent, and difficult.  We can struggle against it and fight with it as something bad, or we can accept it for what it is and go from there.

What does that mean?

I don’t know.  And at the moment, I don’t really care.

I started writing a post last weekend about trying to sit with the grief and anxiety I felt in the light of my client’s death.  It was hard–  both to sit with and to write about–  because it made me fiercely restless.  I didn’t end up posting it.

Kuan Yin sat with the dragons and made friends with them.  What would it be like to do that?

I guess I could do the dishes.

Or I could not.

Maybe dukkha and I will cuddle up in bed with some Ceftin and Mucinex and try to get to know each other.  And maybe the world will keep ending, and I will lie in bed and hear things screeching and banging and popping outside my window.

In Lieu of Flowers, Please Send an Explanation

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When the hot water hits the millimeter of raw flesh next to my thumb it feels like electricity.
I wince.
I curse.

I try to imagine her putting it (whatever it was) around her neck.
No note.
No words of anger or solace.
No answers.

Her parent rushing in, two sides of the brain desperately trying to communicate with one another. To make sense.

That little spot of cuticle, picked raw, burns as I wash dishes. There is a pair of rubber gloves sitting right there on the edge of the kitchen sink, but it seems like it would be an inordinate amount of effort right now to dry my hands, put them on, turn back to my chore.

I’m exhausted.
I’ve been freezing all day. I cried off all my makeup before I even got to my first client. But I’m home. I’m safe. My family is safe, and I am washing dishes.

She’s gone. But not. There are machines to turn off, and they can’t do it. Not yet. They promise to be better people, better parents, if the doctor can just bring. her. back.

They can’t.

No one can. Did she know this, I wonder? I doubt it. At her age, the pain of life can be so blinding, disorienting, it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
To know that things can change.

I remember the coyote that wandered into our yard that morning. We gasped with wonder and awe at the wild creature, a creature we had never before seen in real life. Of what is she the harbinger? I wondered casually, sipping my coffee.

Coyote is a trickster.
So, this must be a trick.

Questions bubble up. What if I had done this or that or the other.
There are walls up all over my brain, like a maze.
I can’t find any answers.
All my what if’s pile up like marbles at the end of a track, rolling around on one another. It is sloppy and confusing and asymmetric and I don’t know what to make of it.

But I do know this:

When I sit with a child who is suicidal, I look them in the eye, and I tell them that if anything happened to them my life would never be the same. I may have only met them once or twice, so imagine what it would be like for the people who really know and love them most.

I say that and I mean it.

I meant it.