Why Suicide?

The question is always, Why? Why suicide? The answer is different for each person. The commonality is pain. Imagine, the worst day of your life. Imagine living that day every single day. That’s what depression and anxiety feel like.

It feels like everyone is living in the light, but your switch has turned off. You are all alone in the dark. You are moving in slow motion. You are confused, but you don’t know why. People say to you, ”You seem depressed.” Your answer is always, No I’m fine. The problem is you aren’t fine and you won’t be fine unless you seek help.

I understand this too well. I believe I suffered from depression and anxiety for many years before I finally got professional help. Every time I had a physical problem, I was told by doctors that it was in my head. I was really physically ill with several ailments. I still am.

Doctors said I was just depressed. It had a negative connotation. I insisted I wasn’t. The first time I listened to a doctor, I was given Prozac. I didn’t sleep for a week. I threw them away, called the doctor. He said keep taking them. I told him, I was worse on the medication and didn’t go back to him.

Having any type of mental illness carries a societal stigma that you would rather not deal with. People think you are weak, don’t pray enough and need Jesus (Since I was Buddhist, I need to go back to Jesus) or think you are strange and they avoid you.

Since childhood, I always felt something was unlikeable or unloveable about me. This began with my parents and feeling abandoned by both of them. I felt that no one truly loved or understood me. I felt inadequate, despite all the other successes I was having in life. I never addressed my feelings.

I had been raised by family members and never wanted to upset or seem ungrateful to the people who reared me. I just followed directions and did what was asked of me at home, at school and at work. Admitting I had low self-esteem would just bring unwanted opinions. I would hear how fortunate I was and how other people had it harder. I needed to be stronger. I didn’t see things that way.

I lived through and survived several traumatic experiences, back to back, in a short space of time. I was harmed by the actions and lack of compassion of others. I kept in my feelings, as I always did and never really noticed the sadness was increasing. Nothing brought me joy, but I kept moving through life every day.

I reached a point where I didn’t see the point of going through life feeling the way I did. It was draining physically and emotionally. I stopped attending Buddhist activites. I stopped chanting. I reacted badly to everything and everyone. I was physically ill with a myriad of ailments. Was this all my life was and would be? I was dealing with major depression and anxiety, but I didn’t know that.

After days of not sleeping, I took a handful of sleeping pills, instead of one. I didn’t care if I woke up or not. I woke up angry that I was still here, suffering and unhappy. I ended up admitting myself to a psychiatric ward for a few weeks after someone convinced me to seek help. I couldn’t stop sobbing. I finally relented. I knew I couldn’t continue living this way.

Medication and psychotherapy brought me peace. It didn’t happen overnight. For the first time, I openly discussed my pain with my therapist. I was stronger by speaking up and out. I was finally brave enough to face my life and my demons.

That was almost 10 years ago. I still go to therapy every two weeks. Having someone neutral listening to you is so beneficial. At times, I still feel a bit depressed but I have learned to see the signs. I’m no longer taking medication, but if I ever start to feel the darkness creeping back, I won’t hesitate to take what I need.

I can say that despite all the illnesses I still suffer from, I’m a happier person. I’ve stopped holding everything in. It’s harmful to my health. When I resumed chanting, I became spiritually stronger too. I’ve never stopped.

I say to people all the time that therapy is needed and necessary. In our country, mental health is not taken seriously enough. There are never enough resources for something so critical to the well-being of our citizens. Regularly seeing psychologists, counselors and psychiatrists should be seen as normal. You are not crazy. It is self-help and self-love.

We all have times when life can feel absolutely unbearable. We may never know what led Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain to take their own lives. We may never know if they sought help or had a support system. Just know they were in a level of pain that they couldn’t see the end of. They wanted peace.

The darkness consumes you. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.

The tunnel just seems to go on and on. Don’t brush it off when people say they are sad or depressed. If they deny being depressed, just be available and listen to them. A subtle remark could be their cry for help. Be the lantern for people in the dark. Be kind. Be their friend. You could help save a life.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ‘1-800-273-TALK (8255)’ is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Do not suffer in silence. Seek help.

Advertisements

May Just Sailed By…

In a whirlwind, the month of May is almost over. Last week I did a few things out of the ordinary.

I attended The Spring Reception at the Adult Learning Center where I tutor. It’s a celebration of the achievements of the students for the year which began last July. I was asked to give the welcome address to the attendees. I happily accepted. I gave a summary of the program, discussed how tutoring has inspired me and how encouraged I am by the students determination to enrich their lives.

Several of my students have had improved test scores, perfect attendance and two of them received an award from a sponsor, that will help them build their own home library. I am so proud of their accomplishments. One of my students pieces was published in a book made of student writings from all the Adult Learning Centers in the program.

Selected students read some of their writings to us. Knowing where some of them started, made that so very special. It was an amazing evening. The tutors we’re thanked, applauded and given tokens of appreciation. We then had a lovely catered dinner and mingled with one another. It was a fun and fulfilling evening.

The next day, I took some time for myself and attended an exhibition at The Brooklyn Museum, David Bowie Is. David Bowie Is runs through July 15th. These archives have traveled for the last 5 years, beginning in London, with Brooklyn Museum being the final stop. It contains lyric sheets, personal items, contracts, costumes, records, interviews and much more. No photography is allowed of the exhibits. At the end, there is some fan art of Bowie which we were allowed to photograph.

What made this different from any exhibit I’ve seen before, was that you are given headphones upon entering. Wherever you are standing, Bowie’s music plays in the headphones and it continually changes, depending on where you are in the exhibit. There is music and videos covering 50 year’s of his career. It takes about an hour and a half to see and hear it all. There were videos and costumes present from every stage of his illustrious career. He drew, he wrote songs, he acted in films and on Broadway. He was filled with ideas that didn’t all come to fruition but all these efforts were on display. I really enjoyed it. Catch it if you can.

One other exciting thing is on the way for me. I am being interviewed by fellow creative, Stephanie Johnson who is better known on Facebook as MELANINQUEENPENFAN. She is starting a new interview series called InnerView 3-5. I am honored to be her first guest. Her guests are people that wow and inspire her. The interview will be posted to her FB page on June 3rd. Please give her some love, likes and support. You can find all of her other writing on her page – MELANINQUEENPENFAN

I don’t know what June holds in store for me yet. I’m hoping for more fun places to go and even more fulfilling things to do.

#kmimimusings

Day 30 – 30 Day Writing Challenge

It’s the final day of the 30 Day Writing Challenge and today’s topic is more than appropriate.

Topic: Your highs and lows for the month

The highs have been incredible. I’ve been so elated by everyone’s encouragement. I have spent a great deal of time in my life keeping my emotions in. I never revealed too much about myself.  Now, I am able to not just write about my thoughts and feelings, but I actually publish them on this blog.  People read and tell me that they enjoy my writing.

I’m so very grateful that people kept up with me throughout this month. It takes 30 days to develop a habit. This month, I started two habits: drinking one cup of decaffeinated coffee and writing every day.

This month I’ve written so much. I was excited to see the topic of the day. The blog gained a few new followers. I’ve been so inspired to keep going.

I felt challenged like my adult students do. They have to write every time we meet for class. Some days they have a hard time their writing short paragraphs. With my help, they expand and edit their work. I may start using some of their writing prompts on days I don’t know what to write. I don’t want to lose this newly found momentum

The lows were the days I couldn’t write due to a migraine and days where I fought through body pain to just get anything done. I have to see so many doctors in a week it can be a bit daunting and discouraging. I realize that this is my fight in life. How I react to all of it is what counts. I surrender on the days, I realize I won’t win a battle. But, in this war I am fighting with chronic illness, I will be victorious. It may take some time, but I’m sure I will win. My Buddhist faith helps me every day to gain courage, wisdom, and strength.

SGI President Daisaku Ikeda writes, “Life is best lived by being bold and daring. People tend to grow fearful when they taste failure, face a daunting challenge or fall ill. Yet that is precisely the time to become even bolder. Those who are victors at heart are the greatest of all champions.”

This month has made me very reflective and introspective. It has been an overall positive experience. I learned a few things about myself.

I’m so happy I was able to share this month with all of you. I’m determined to share more of my thoughts and musings. I suggest trying this challenge, you may learn a few things about yourself. I know I did.

Day 29 – 30 Day Writing Challenge

I can’t believe this 30 Day Challenge is almost over. The days really flew by.

Today’s topic- What are your goals for the next 30 days?

This challenge has shown me, I can be more consistent with my writing. I know I can write off the cuff and within an hour if I have to.  Writing more often is one of my goals. I will post as often as I can. Thanks to everyone who has offered encouragement and began following the blog during this month.

Since spring has decided to show up and stay around, I’ve gone back to tutoring adults twice a week. It’s fulfilling and gets me out the house for four hours every week. I really like my students and want to help them reach their personal goals of getting their high school equivalency diplomas, getting better jobs or just being able to read to their kids. I’ll do my best to assist them. Juggling multiple health conditions can be a challenge but my goal is to tutor everyday that I’m scheduled to be there.

I recently re- joined Weight Watchers to keep my weight under control. I’ve eaten healthy but I gained back some pounds I lost last year.  I’m not happy about it. Taking medications with side effects of weight gain and not moving enough has been an issue. Tracking what I eat allows me to see when I’m about to overindulge. I can also see when I can give myself a treat. Over the next 30 days, I plan to adhere to the program.

Winter was rough on my body and I didn’t physically feel good or pain free enough to exercise. Yesterday, I got myself back in the gym and rode on the incumbent bike for awhile. I’m taking it slowly. I hope to get there twice a week over the next 30 days. I also walk 9 city blocks each way when I tutor. That’s a bit more exercise. I rest half way there, drink water and then start again.

Another goal is to meet up with a few people and catch up. It’s been awhile. I have also lined up a few “out of my box “ adventures that I’ll do by myself. I’m trying to have some fun, with little expense.

I joined a women’s study group in SGI-USA where we will be studying the history of our lay Buddhist organization as written by our mentor and SGI President Daisaku Ikeda. There so much to learn and so much guidance on how to handle situations and life in general. I’ve been part of this group before and it’s always rewarding at the end to see how in-depth study can change your perspective and understanding. We meet once a month, in addition to the other monthly activities that we have in the SGI-USA.

My practice of Buddhism has helped me learn and understand how to make myself better and how to help others. President Ikeda writes, “Altruism is the most effective means of self-realization and self-perfection. Doing good for others is the best way to develop one’s own character and find greater happiness for oneself.”

With this in mind I’ll do by best this month to attain my own goals and do good for others at the same time.

Tomorrow is the end of the 30 Day Challenge, the start of new goals and the continuation of challenging myself everyday.

Day 27 of the 30 Day Writing Challenge

This is a follow up topic from yesterday’s which was write about an area in your life you would like to improve on.

Today’s topic is – Conversely write about something that is kicking ass right now.

So, what am I doing great in my life, right now? I’m living knowing who I am and understanding my worth.

I have never placed enough value on myself. I now honor myself, even when others don’t understand my thoughts and actions.

I truly believe that you become enlightened to different parts of yourself as you mature and grow. Your twenties are for discovery and learning what you like. By your fifties, you know what you like. You definitely know what you dislike. You are sure that you want to live true to yourself. You realize what makes you happy and what behaviors you will not tolerate from others.

I’m more confident to say no to things, no to people and yes to me and my feelings. Therapy has helped me become more respectful of my feelings.

Oprah always says, what do you know for sure? I know for sure that I’m much better at judging people and realizing who should be in my space.

There have been many times when I would compromise my feelings when I felt uncomfortable, hurt or disrespected.

I never wanted to upset anyone. I didn’t complain. I would accept my discomfort. That left me filled with self doubt and confusion. I would rationalize why people acted or treated me a certain way. I won’t do that to myself anymore. It’s not psychologically healthy.

My fifth decade has allowed me to finally free my mind, like that En Vogue song. At 52, I’m putting myself and my needs first. My happiness and comfort are important.

It took me a long time to come to these realizations. This may sound selfish to some. However, I’m no longer forcing relationships, situations or keeping what doesn’t give me joy in my life anymore.

I’ve won and I’ve lost. I’ve learned some things the hardest way possible. I’ve released people and negativity. I let go of unhappiness. I’m now turning the compassion I’ve extended to others, inward and loving me the way I deserve to be loved. Better days are ahead.

At one time, these are the things I sought to improve upon. I have learned many lessons. I know more will follow until the end of my days.

I feel that I am kicking ass, being true to myself. This is me. I’m living with confidence and I’m not second guessing myself anymore. I am happy with who I am and who I continue to grow into.

What a Year It Has Been!

A year ago today, I had a near fatal heart attack. I survived what’s called a fluke heart attack. It wasn’t supposed to happen. It stumped the doctors. 3 stents, lots of medications, cardiac physical therapy and lots of chanting and praying Nam Myoho Renge. Today is my second birthday. My actual birthday is in a few weeks.

This year I’ve learned a lot about myself and love who I’m still growing into. I’ve gained courage and wisdom. I have learned how to unselfishly put myself first. I’ve struggled with my health for over 20 years, living with chronic pain everyday. I have a handful of health conditions. I don’t look like what I’ve been through.

However, when you feel your life slipping away from your body, you can not live as you always did. Big changes are necessary. I’m making them and living my best life and helping others to do the same.

I walk the treadmill (slowly and never letting go) with poor balance, but I do it. I ride the stationary bike and am developing leg muscles that I lost long ago. I’ve continued what I started in cardiac rehab.

I’ve been going to Zumba class. I may not look as graceful as some other participants but I try my best. I stay on the side of the room with the people who are slower, older and not as sexy in their movements. It’s Okay. We still have fun!

I’ve re-evaluated relationships, including my relationship with myself. I’ve been a people pleaser most of my life and it hasn’t benefited me. I’ve taken a hard look at my relationships and my responsibilities and realized where changes needed to be made for my own good. You cannot force what no longer fits. You can’t help others, if you don’t help yourself first.

Due to family and friends who care about and love me I’ve had some good times. They decided to share their good fortune with me. I’ve been fortunate.

To my doctors, cardiologists, nurses, cardiac physical therapists and nurse practitioner, my debt can never be repaid. I will just do all I can to help others.

The physical therapists recommended I get a rollator walker to help me walk longer distances and always have a place to sit. My vanity said no way, but I relented and I’m glad I did. I have some freedom and can now take a walk (or roll) to attend my tutoring sessions.

Tutoring adults is so rewarding. You see how much they want the knowledge and understanding most of us take for granted. One of my students had to leave the program recently. He left a card for me. He thanked me for helping him believe in himself and becoming a better man. He said he was honored to have me as his tutor. I had to hold in some tears when I read it .

This is why I fought so hard to get stronger. I have a mission to accomplish. The payoff isn’t financial. It’s changing lives, building self esteem, providing knowledge. When they understand something, I get excited. This wasn’t the path I chose for myself. It’s the road I had to ease on down.

Challenges will happen because that’s just how life works. Life is not perfect but you can be happy and appreciative despite the challenges. Chanting and studying Buddhism and attending and hosting Buddhist activities gives me the tools to be courageous, be more confident and be unafraid no matter what’s happening.

As I look forward to turning 52 in a couple of weeks, I appreciate my life so much more.  I’m mindful to take better care of myself. I pray for myself and for others.  My prayer is to win over my health and my finances and to be happy everyday.

SGI President Daisaku Ikeda said, “The faith and practice of Nichiren Buddhism enables us to absolutely triumph. The Mystic Law enables us to “change poison into medicine. Advance with the great conviction that no prayer will go unanswered.”

The Universe is hearing my prayers. I have no doubt.

Houston and Hurricane Harvey

I hope people are seeing some very important things in the horrific Houston rain and flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.  8 people are dead, thousands displaced and so many rescues.
So many American people have now become refugees. I hope that those who have been opposed to helping others, now understand how refugees feel. They want to be safe and out of harm’s way with their families.
I hope we see how people are coming together to help each other in this crisis.
Why does it take crises of this proportion for us to live together unselfishly?
9/11/, Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy and now Harvey prove it.
The take-away should be, we must live up to the values we say America has, every day. Be human to everyone. Every life is important. Time and again we see that it can happen.
I saw ordinary, everyday people taking their boats to rescue people they don’t know. They risked their lives to save others that don’t look like them. Collections of food, blankets, diapers and other supplies are being shipped to Houston. The Red Cross and other charities are collecting money and providing shelter. Even a furniture store, provided shelter. 
The storm has brought people together.
It’s like family who see each other only at funerals and say we need to get together for happy occasions, but you never get together until another funeral. You feel bad, then don’t change your behavior.
Let’s get it together as a country before another massive disaster forces it.
I’m thankful that my family in Houston has wonderful friends who took them in and they are safe.
I’m praying for the rain to stop and everyone can find something to salvage from their homes and their homes will be habitable. I can’t imagine how Katrina survivors who were refugees, settled in Houston, and having the same experience again, are feeling.  
Life in Houston will never be the same. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is being chanted for their safety and comfort. For months we’ve had hateful rhetoric, a lot of it coming from the White House’s occupant and his minions. We’ve seen the heartlessness and worst of America, in Charlottesville.
The best part of America is starting to show. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said many things 54 years ago yesterday, in his  For many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”
“So we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was the promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Today, let’s be inclusive, adding women, immigrants, and every ethnic group that makes up the United States to those coming to cash our check as Dr. King stated.
Can we finally and truly live up to our Constitution? It takes courage, but we are capable. Let’s clean our country  up from the top and keep on going.  I try hard to remain hopeful.
It doesn’t have to be a dream.