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.

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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 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.

Day 23- 30 Day Writing Challenge

Today’s topic- Write a letter to someone, anyone.

This one is hard. I couldn’t  figure out who would be the receiver of this letter.

Dear Police Departments in America,

I have been watching over the past few years as more and more videos are revealing to everyone, what black people have known all along. We are disproportionately shot and killed by police, due to racial bias. We seem to fit the description, even if we are not guilty of doing anything. Our skin color appears to be a weapon to you. We cannot remove it.  You are being called to take us away for doing minor things that are not breaking the law. Is there one law for white people and another for people of color?

We cannot sit in a car, own a licensed gun, make an error on the road, sell DVD’s or loose cigarettes. We can’t wear hoodies or run in the rain. We can’t run for a bus, ring a doorbell and ask for directions. We can’t  hold a cell phone or a wallet.  We can’t ride a train to a wine vineyard and laugh too loudly. We cannot question paying for plastic utensils or question you as to why we are being arrested without being violently knocked to the ground to be handcuffed.

We can’t sit in Starbucks doing exactly what everyone is doing.  We can’t even go golfing without you being called because we are golfing too slowly in someone else’s eyes. We can’t live in our newly gentrified neighborhoods, doing what we’ve always done without you and your colleagues showing up in force.

Please tell me how you are training your people? White people can commit crimes, shoot people and known to be armed.  These people are taken away without a scratch on them.

A black person is holding a cellphone and is riddled with 10 bullets in the back. A black person reaching for their wallet is killed with 41 shots. The officers who are murdering innocent  black people are rarely convicted of any crime. They get to keep their lives, jobs and pensions. Sometimes, they get promoted. If they get fired, they find another position in different department.  The families of people murdered by the state are never the same and seek justice they rarely receive.

There has to be a way to weed out biased and easily  terrified people out of your ranks before they get a gun and badge. People who “fear for their lives” and always shoot to kill should not be on the job. Maybe you should have more police of color working in neighborhoods of color. Do you get psychological counseling before you are hired? Is there a question asking if you were bullied in school? Are you asked if you fear people of color? Why do you want to be a police officer? Your job is dangerous, but if you are afraid of danger, this is not the career for you.

There must be a way for black people and the police to co-exist without deadly force. What are your  suggestions? Surely you know that our lives are valuable. Surely you know, that we feel, live and breathe just like you. We do not deserve to be killed by those sworn to protect and serve us.

We don’t hate the police, but we are increasingly becoming afraid of you.  We may want to run when we see you. That doesn’t mean we are guilty of anything. We are afraid to be another hashtag and statistic.  We don’t want to be another life taken too soon. A visit to the dentist is more welcome than an encounter with the police. We have to have special discussions with our children on how to survive police encounters and make it home alive. This should not be our relationship.

We want to find a way to work together for the good of everyone. We want to live long, healthy and productive lives. We want to be with our families. How can we make effective change?

Signed,

A Representative for Black America

 

Day 18- 30 Day Writing Challenge

I’ve been writing, but haven’t posted for awhile during the challenge. Today’s topic is making me think a lot about myself.

 Post 30 Facts About Yourself

1. Books and music are my first loves. I can read and listen to music at the same time, ever since I was a kid.

2. I can read 2 or 3 books at a time and not confuse the plots. I read fiction and non-fiction books simultaneously.

3. Writing compositions in elementary school helped me to see I was a good, creative writer.

4. I don’t think I have ever written a poem.

5. I could write my name before I started school at age 3.

6. I stayed in the house a majority of the time when I was as a child. I always had homework, it came first and I always did it. I guess it prepared me well for all the days that I now have to stay inside due to chronic pain and illnesses.

7. I don’t remember ever having a set bedtime.

8. I’ve always had insomnia.

9. I watched The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy reruns very often as a kid. I enjoyed the conversations Johnny had with all his guests. I noticed that they chain smoked the entire show which they couldn’t do today. I  know the dialogue to the Original 39 Honeymooners episodes by heart and which Lucy episode is coming on within a few minutes.

10. Every Saturday night, I watched The Carol Burnett Show. To this day, I love anything Carol Burnett related.

11. Michael Jackson played a big part in my life. He was my first celebrity crush as a girl. I loved every stage of his illustrious career.  I wish I had seen him perform live in concert.

12. Prince and Michael’s sudden passings really hit me hard. It felt like a part of my childhood was gone. I did see Prince live in concert. It was incredible.

13. I love to cook. The aromas and flavors make me happy. For many years, I had so many digestive issues, I didn’t eat much. The issues have improved. I have lots of cookbooks that I haven’t used yet.

14. I’ve never met a piece of cake or bread I didn’t like.

15. The first time my writing was published was in high school in our school newspaper.

16. There are  places in my own state I keep saying I want to see and haven’t made it there yet.

17. I hate the cold.

18. I love the sun and the beach

19. I can’t recall the last time I went to the beach.

20. If I had the money, I would see as many  Broadway musicals as I could, when they opened.

21. I think I am addicted to social media. I know I suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out)

22. I’m really fine being by myself.  (I’m a natural introvert)  but, sometimes I like being around other people, laughing, eating and catching up.

23. I have never played spades.

24. I’m sick of being sick. Illness has changed my entire life.

25. I want to travel but my bank account says I could only make it to my front door and no further.

26. I chant a lot for the world to be at peace. I  want us all to live long lives without threats of  a nuclear war that would destroy the planet and mankind.

27. I’m still hopeful that I will have one great reciprocal love in my life before I die. As I get older, it’s harder to hold on to that feeling. Something tells me I shouldn’t give up.

28. I’m naturally nosy. I think that’s why librarianship suited me. We are detectives of facts.

29. I love makeup. I seldom leave home with a bare face. I like color.

30. I like to watch wedding planning shows and weddings on televison.  I woke up early in the 80’s for Princess Diana’s wedding. I did it for William and Kate and will be doing the same for Prince Harry and Megan Markle.

It is harder than you think to come up with 30 facts about yourself. See if you can do it.

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.