A Walk to Remember

Yesterday I participated in the Out of Darkness walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). This is the second year I have walked and both years I have been overwhelmed by the emotions that accompany me on it. There is so much love in the crowd, not just for the loved ones they have lost but for those they wish to keep alive and protect against such a destructive, secretive and shameful act. I say shameful because that is how society (in general) sees it; a coward’s way out, not thinking of those who are left behind, selfish. What they don’t understand and should thank God they don’t, is the pain. The unrelenting pain of simply being alive; the thoughts that drive one to believe it IS hopeless and NO ONE cares, there is no other way and this is THE ANSWER. Depression to me is a magnifying glass to the tiny imperfections and doubts every person has; those who do not suffer from it can put those doubts into perspective, focus on the positive and realize it’s all pretty much good. When under the influence of depression, there is no perspective, no light, no tunnel, no nothing but blackness and sense of doom. This is why it’s so important to be vigilant with our loved ones, family members, friends and even people we just know. Our society seems to encourage independence and if you know me at all, you know I’m all about independence but there is a time and a place for everything and when dealing with depression, independence should take a back seat to seeking help and triage. Get talking with someone, whether in a phone call, Skype, tin cans attached by string, smoke signals, Morse code or Ham radio; the way in which communication takes place is not important, only that it happens.

The men and women of our military are coming home and the numbers of suicides by service members is growing and that is a number we cannot afford to rise any further; these men and women have put themselves in harms way for their country, for us. We need to be there for them. I’m not speaking of the government, although that is the obvious choice, if our world was fair and just and if their priorities didn’t begin and end with their benefit, the stroking of their egos and caring for their own personal agendas. I’m speaking of you and me, Joe Citizen. We can donate to causes that we know support them, we can spend time volunteering, writing letters, sending care packages and being a thorn in the side of the government until they do the right thing, recognize they have a mental health epidemic and get off their fat, entitled asses and take some action.

Sorry – bit of a rant there, but it is something that I have witnessed first hand; the devastation resulting from lack of action and heads deeply buried in sand or up their collective asses. The damage to families, friends, fellow service members and society in general is impossible to grade or measure, as the ripple effect will continue through lifetimes yet to come. Children who will be born without a father to raise them, a father will never get the chance to walk his daughter down the aisle, a mother will have to bury her child, a son will know mother only from stories and photos; this all doesn’t have to happen. We can get OUR heads out into the sunshine, take a deep breath and try in whatever way we are able to fight the good fight against not only suicide, but mental illness left untreated, people suffering because they are afraid of the shame and ridicule associated with mental illness STILL. For God’s sake, it’s almost 2016 and although we can clone sheep, genetically modify food and update our Facebook status every 3 seconds, we still cannot come to the place where we treat mental illness like it is – an illness. Not a personal choice, a personality flaw or a bad strand of DNA, it is an illness just like any other. Cancer used to have the same sort of stigma attached to it but we’ve gotten past that. I would like to write someday that we have gotten past all the negativity surrounding those who suffer with depression, anxiety, mania and all the other flavors of mental illness. We are not to blame and we cannot simply think happy thoughts, suck it up and put on my big girl panties or just get over it. Tell someone who is suicidal to “Get over it” and they will, just not in the way you had in mind.

This walk is a walk to remember; to remember those we have lost, to remember that it effects people of all walks of life, races, religions, social and economic classes and levels of intelligence. This is what its name implies, bringing the issue and those who suffer out of the darkness and into the light.

For more information on mental health in general please visit NAMI.

For more information on our service men and women, please check out the Wounded Warrior Project. Sorry – I tried to add links but couldn’t make it happen.

Thanks for stopping by!

Xanadu

I’ve had a few rough (emotionally & mentally) days the last couple of days and whenever that happens, I tend to focus on things that I have no control over (I’ve posted on this many times) so when I found myself in that situation yesterday, I felt that desperate measures were required to get me out of the Rut of Negativity and Disenchantment, otherwise known as the State of Bleh. I turned my focus to my upcoming trip, to flights of fancy (Liam meeting me at the airport and sweeping me off my feet into a great big bear hug) and just being away from the day to day injustices and unfairness of Everyday Life in the Imperfect World that we live in. These daydreams (or whatever you choose to call them) were an integral part of my childhood and in my teens, I switched from daydreams to outright escape from reality, courtesy of my friends Drink and Drugs. Now that I am no longer a patron of these ne’er do wells, I have reactivated the creative, non-logical free spirited portion of my mind to allow the daydreams, the hopes, the wishes and the flights of fancy to once again stretch their gossamer wings and take flight, taking my burdens, cares and troubles with them. It worked so well when I was a child and now that I have a much more varied catalog of experiences, places and people, it works even better still.

So, Dear Liam, I am thankful for your easy smile, your height which makes me think of a giant oak, strong and protecting, providing shade from sun and shelter from storms. I think your arms must be like branches on those trees, cradling gently but with a strength that is unbreakable; even though none of these things may be true about you, I believe them, as I see these traits reflected in your roles, in your eyes and in who you are. So therefore, you are my Xanadu, my place beyond time and space, where I can be safe, loved, protected and adored. Thank you for that, Liam and thank you for not taking out a restraining order on me (yet!)

Kubla Khan
BY SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

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Just For Fun

There are certain times throughout the day when I find myself slipping away from the present task at hand and moving towards something completely random, like perhaps what my 80th birthday party would look like, who would be there, what would I be wearing and where on Earth would we be celebrating such a fantastic event? Would I be single, widowed, divorced, living in sin or just madly in love? These thoughts keep me from feeling as though “This is all there is” and leads me to entertain thoughts of where I’d LIKE to be. I guess it’s like having a nice glass of wine; it doesn’t take you physically away from where you are, but it does tend to offer a different vibe, perspective and overall softer, gentler view of the world. Like being wrapped in a soft, comfy blanket of cashmere, it’s just that good. Since I no longer enjoy the occasional glass (or bottle, let’s be honest) of wine, these thoughts are a part of my daily escape from the mundane. They also help me to get in touch with what my dreams are for the future, what my soul is craving and what I need to change to make the future brighter and today more livable.

Today, I was knee-deep in work stuff and my brain took a sharp left and took me out of the office completely. I was transported to a pristine beach where a lone horse stood waiting for me. As I rode off into the distance, free from the responsibilities of the day, from the drudgery of the office and the oppressive heat of the valley in October (which, by the way, is supposed to be AUTUMN, not SUMMER!) I could hear my soul sigh in contentment. Of course, I did actually sigh, which brought me back to my desk, but just for those few minutes, I was completely and totally, Somewhere Else.

Daydreaming and flights of fancy are something that we did as children, without instruction or direction. It’s one of the things about kids that I just adore. They aren’t bound by reality, nor by what is possible, only by the limits of their imagination. Too often, we are forced to abandon our “childish” ways and Grow Up. I always wished to be older, never understanding how fantastic and fleeting that time of innocence and wonder really is. But just because I’m now an adult, I don’t have to surrender my childish pleasures. Ice cream for dinner, cartoons on Saturday morning (or Wednesday night, for that matter) giggling uncontrollably, blowing bubbles and flying kites are all things that I can enjoy, regardless of how many candles are on my birthday cake.

I had the pleasure of having an incredible woman in my life earlier on, when I was married. My son’s great-grandmother (we called her GG because he couldn’t say great-grandma when he was a little guy) GG had a way of enjoying the smallest of nature’s wonders, the hummingbird. She would fill her hummingbird feeders and watch them come to eat, marveling at their grace and laughing with enjoyment as they dipped and swayed, delicately feed and then dashed away. GG never seemed old to me, even though she was in her early 90’s by the time she passed (or graduated, as she preferred to say) because she enjoyed her life. She laughed often and kept that child-like wonder and enthusiasm for all the beauty and miracles in nature and in Life. When I would come to pick my son up after a visit, they would be playing together, usually with Play-Doh or Lincoln Logs. She wouldn’t sit on the couch and watch him play; she would be right there with him, on the floor or at the table. Both of them would always be laughing and smiling together, in their own little world.

She had the secret to happiness and long life; live it and enjoy it. She has been my best role model for living a good life and staying young, keeping the child within well-nourished, exercised and entertained. Tonight, after a grown-up dinner with lots of veggies, I’m going to break out the colored pencils and do a little coloring, just for fun.

Happy Hump Day!