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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Everything Old is New Again

I’ve been teaching my adult students about The Civil War. They learned about the Lincoln Memorial and saw a play about Cathay Williams. Cathay, was the first African American female Buffalo Soldier. Cathay was a freed slave who first worked as a cook and laundress for just pennies for the Union Army. After some time, to earn more money, she disguised herself as a man in the all African American unit the Native Americans called Buffalo Soldiers. They marched for 2 years throughout the South doing mostly clean up and guard duty and other jobs the white soldiers wouldn’t do. They never saw a battle. Williams became ill many times with cholera and smallpox. She was hospitalized but she was never discovered to be a woman. She finally revealed herself and got an honorable discharge from the army. She died young and her family never received the pension she worked for. We all learned so much from the actress who played every part in the 45 minute show.

Now we are studying the causes of the Civil War. We are beginning our study of slavery. The students are reading about the Middle Passage and its aftermath. Since I love history, I’ve been able to supplement the book that we are using with my own knowledge of the subject. What I tried to explain to them is that although the war ended in 1865 and slavery was abolished, that it really hasn’t been that long since Black Americans have had all the same rights as White Americans.

Using myself as an example, I said that many of the civil rights we gained occurred only one year before I was born.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, is considered one of the crowning legislative achievements of the civil rights movement.”

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 happened the year I was born. The students were really surprised to know that women couldn’t vote until 1920. More history lessons about that are forthcoming.

I brought current events into the discussion. I often do this so they can relate the past with the present.

They easily understood and agreed that all the recent happenings of the police being called by white people on black people, for no good reason were examples of white supremacy which began over 400 years ago.

In the last few weeks , we’ve seen black people, just living and also being seen as threatening .

We can’t move into a new apartment in a predominantly white area without neighbors calling the police.

We can’t go to The Waffle House for food without either being senselessly murdered by a racist or the cops are called for minor infringements (questioning or disagreeing with staff). Three officers assaulted a woman on the floor, exposing her breasts.

A young man was viciously grabbed by the throat and thrown to the ground by an officer twice his size while wearing his prom attire.

We can’t depart an AirBnB, packing luggage into our car to leave. The Mrs. Kravitz of the neighborhood waved and smiled at them through the window. The young women didn’t acknowledge her. So, of course, she called the police who detained them when they were on their way to do a show. That department is being sued by the young women.

We can’t even nap in a common room at Yale, where that’s allowed ,without another student calling the police.

We can’t barbecue in a designated area without someone calling the police.

One of my students asked me, Why do they treat us like this? I didn’t even speak for a few seconds because, I didn’t have a reasonable answer. I still don’t have a reasonable answer. However, I said white slave owners felt that we were less than human. We were property. We were not their equals. We were beneath them just because of our melanin. Today, some people still hold those mindsets.

We should not have to continue suffering the humiliation and pain that racism brings. Yet, somehow we still do. I feel there are people who would love to see us back in shackles without any rights.

We need to stay out of Waffle House. We need to frequent food and coffee establishments owned and operated by people of color. Let’s hit them in the wallet. Let them lose business and dollars. That’s what they understand. Black people boycotted buses in 1955. They walked and car pooled for over a year. The bus company went bankrupt. We have the ability for that to happen to all types of establishments. We have to be unified for this to happen. Our ancestors did it, why can’t we?

So, as my students and I drift deeper into the Civil War discussion I’m sure I won’t have all the answers. I’m hoping these current events will calm down. With #45 and his ilk in office and being supported by the Fox News loving fan base, it will be some time before we feel and experience the change.

Old behaviors are new again. But did they ever really leave?

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 22- 30 Day Writing Challenge

The challenge continues… Today’s topic called for 10 songs but, I added a few more. Why not? You will discover my tastes run the gamut of everything.

Put your music on shuffle and post the first 10 songs 

1. Simply Beautiful-  Leela James  https://youtu.be/BxTn1om6sWE
2. Versace on the Floor-Bruno Mars
3. Cry Me A River- Justin Timberlake and Timberland
4. Under the Moon and Over the Sky-
Angela Bofill
5. If Only For One Night-  Luther Vandross
6. Juicy Fruit-  Mtume
7. Be Ever Wonderful-  Earth Wind and Fire
8. I Want Candy-  Bow Wow Wow
9. Method of Modern Love- Daryl Hall and John Oates
10. Far Away- Kindred the Family Soul
11.All At Once- Jeffery Osborne
12. As You Like It- Euge Groove
13. Misled- Kool and the Gang
14. Since I Lost My Baby-  Michael McDonald
15.Blue Bayou – Linda Ronstandt
16. Love Takes Time- Mariah Carey
17. You Mean More to Me- Lionel Richie
18. Rock With You-  Michael Jackson
19. Home-  Stephanie Mills
20. Firework-  Katy Perry
21. Diamonds-  Rihanna
Listen and enjoy. I should have posted this about 30 minutes ago but, I listened in full to all of the songs. I couldn’t help myself  😉

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.