#13ReasonsWhyIAmHappy

I was just reading Virtual Vomit‘s Blog post titled 13 Reasons Why I’m Happy. I have not yet been able to reach an emotional place where I feel safe watching “13 Reasons Why” the show, but I’ve read the book. If you read my blog regularly, or have read anything of mine really, you’ll know that I try to raise awareness of as many social issues as possible with my writing (sparse as it has been). In particular, I have posts regularly about suicide and suicide prevention. For this reason I am going to post a list of #13ReasonWhyIAmHappy today.

If you are struggling with suicidal feelings I urge you to contact the suicide prevention hotline. They have qualified individuals to assist you with those emotions and guide you through this tough time in your life. I understand personally and deeply how difficult it can be to forget what it is to be happy. Overcoming those emotions is the hardest thing I have done and continue to do each day. These suicide prevention services go beyond a phone call. You can chat with represetnatives online too. Please, please consider visiting this website if you are dealing with these feelings.

And now… 13 Reasons Why I Am Happy (Right Now).

 

  1. I have a brilliant young man for a son who, in spite of his flaws, finds new ways to remind me that he is wildly compassionate and wise.
  2. In spite of being sick today I have been reasonably productive and still have several hours to achieve more of my writing tasks.
  3. My TARDIS blanket. No more explanation is necessary.
  4. Cologne is stronger than air freshener and much longer lasting. Spraying it on my curtains is allowing the breeze to blow the sweet musk scent of my husband all around the house.
  5. My accessibility to clean water and purifying options is such a privilege.
  6. The kindness of my husband to come home from work early and pick up our son from school today while I am sick.
  7. Books give me great happiness. The feel, the scent, the words – the possibilities!
  8. My three beautiful kittens that have come to love each other over the last year, proving that I was not wrong to bring my youngest one into our tiny family. Even when they get into spats, they lick each other clean and nestle together for naps.
  9. The nightcore genre of music inspires me with how creative people can be with content that already exists. It grounds me creatively with my work but also reminds me that there’s so much greatness that comes from those around us and from the work of others.
  10. Technology gives me outlets that I would not otherwise have access to in another place, generation, or universe. For that I am constantly able to work on something I love in one way or another.
  11. My home which is a customized ‘House of Horrors’ for me is something many people in the world are not able to have, and for that I choose to be grateful that I have a mostly safe place to live with my husband, son, and three cats.
  12. Trees. Trees give us oxygen, and they endure the changes in this world for far longer than those who first caused harm to them. Specifically, I would like to say I am happy for my tiny tree growing in a flower pot. His name is Harold and he is blooming for his second year this spring. I am proud of my little Harold.
  13. My family. Regardless of how they have affected me (positive, negative, neutral) their own choices have influenced mine. Though my success is neither lucrative nor boastful, it is mine. For that I am happy with where I have come to be and I am excited for the opportunities that still lie ahead – hidden by the shadows of my present obstacles.

 

Honestly, there is much more to be happy for in my life. Ten years ago, I never would have believed you if you were to share my story now. I would not have thought I would even be alive. Ten years ago, I didn’t know I was pregnant at fifteen. Ten years ago, I thought eventually I would cut too deep and end the constant suffering within and without. I never would have thought my then severe depression, anxiety, and insomnia would shrink. Even with my struggles now, I can cope without medication where I could not even just five years ago.

Now, I face other problems and it is a battle not to sink back into those depths. Those concerns that I could collapse into old habits is always at the edge of my happiness. It threatens me anytime I am faced with an obstacle I fear I cannot overcome. It is this reality that keeps me from delving into the film adaptation of a book I proclaim as being incredibly eye-opening to me as a teenager struggling the way Hannah Baker struggled. Books raised me. Books are my parentage and my guidance. I read to understand what it is I cannot see understand on my own.

So, I challenge you as a reader to list in the comments 13 Reasons Why YOU Are Happy right now, today, this very minute.

#13ReasonsWhyIAmHappy

XoXo

-ab

Sketching on a Danger Day

suicide sketch

I know that this isn’t technically a “My Opinion Monday Monthly” article, but this feels like the right place for this particular post. As you may or may not recall, I have spoken many times in previous MOMM articles that I have depression and anxiety. As someone who has struggled with self harm for twelve of my twenty-four years (a.k.a half of my entire life)… I have what I call “danger days.” These are days in which I am in danger of relapsing and harming myself.
I am extremely self-aware. I can tell when depression is coming and I can tell when I am in danger of making a poor choice. Not everyone is able to gain control of themselves and handle mental illness in this way, and for that I am extremely thankful. It took me several years to develop this sort of control and a clear enough mentality to be good to myself. My son is the biggest motivator behind that strength.
But this post isn’t about bragging about my ability to divert a catastrophe. I’m not here to tell you that for nearly two weeks I’ve spent most of my alone time crying and staring out windows. I’m not here to detail everything about the way I suffer depression. Instead, I’m just here to share a piece that I had originally posted to my personal social media. I felt that sharing it here is just important. Not just because I am in awe of how great my sketch turned out – humblebrag – but also because I want to encourage more people to think of alternatives to self-harm.
See – the thing about depression is that no matter how big of a smile you wear or how many reasons you have to be happy or how much medication you are on… Sometimes you wake up and you just feel as though you are going to suffocate when you breathe. When you have depression there are always going to danger days – times when suicide sounds is more plausible than staying in bed all day pretending that you’re dead. Because sometimes pretending just feel like enough anymore…
And painful as it is for me to admit any sort of weakness (something I know I need to work on in my personal life) – danger days are my greatest weakness. I never want to announce when I’m having them and I never want to talk about them. I have an aversion to acknowledging any sort of emotion – because I hold myself to an unfair standard that I’m too stubborn to change. As such, I simply suffer my danger days silently with crazy laughs and silly grins. I think that many people who have self-harmed know exactly what it is I am saying here.
My hyperawareness allows me to prevail over the blackhole of sorrow in my gut that I cannot control. This is not true for everyone, as much as I wish it were. The ability to detect the appeal of committing suicide and finding a way to rid of it from your heart, mind, and soul – one never really can perfect it. However, simply telling yourself to do something else – and then just doing it, no matter how small – that can mean the difference between life and death. Today – sketching instead of cutting may have very well saved my life.

We never know the damage that we can do if we allow ourselves to down within our foulest thoughts. So, waking up and just knowing that today was going worse than previous days – I chose to very plainly acknowledge my feelings. I took what was inside filling my lungs with desperation and pushed it onto the page. I like to think of it as tragically beautiful.

I worked on it from 11:00 A.M. to 3:15 P.M. I was alone from 9:00 A.M. until 3:45 P.M. and I don’t know what I would have done if hadn’t busied myself. Art is special for a lot of people and even if you’re not good at it – just keeping your hands busy will prevent the decision to self-harm. When someone is alone, they are at greater risk for harming themselves. Nobody can be with someone constantly, not unless they are admitted to a mental health facility (which is, unfortunately, not attainable or feasible for many at risk). As such, reaching out to people you know are susceptible to self-harming – asking them to do something small or maintaining a brief conversation. Even texting them for an hour could change their mood enough to prevent an incident – or even a suicide.

My reasoning for my sketch today was that a picture of slit wrists was better than actual slit wrists. I just repeated that to myself the entire time I was working on it – a picture of slit wrists is better than actual slit wrists.
A picture of slit wrists is better than actual slit wrists.
Don’t ask your loved ones to ignore their feelings. Don’t invalidate their suicidal feelings or their self-harming tendencies. Do everything within your power to comfort them, encourage them, and provide care to them. If someone is ever a high risk – call an emergency service. Contact a family member who can admit a minor to a mental health facility or hospital. And if you’re unsure, intervene anyway. You never know if today is the day that your loved one commits suicide.

It is my hope that this post serves as a reminder that mental illness is often suffered quietly. Anyone could be struggling with suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Please be aware of what you’re doing; what you’re saying; and what your loved ones are doing. There are signs that you can watch for, there are behaviors that you can track – there will always be warning signs. Sometimes they are small but they are always there. As I just said, you never know if today is the day that your loved one commits suicide.

Remember – just because someone isn’t wearing depression on their sleeves doesn’t mean that the depression is gone.

Never invalidate sadness. Offer your love instead.

Thank you.

Yours,
ab

 

 

Two Mothers & A Nightmare

Disclaimer: This work makes references to suicidal feelings in a young child. There are also references to physical bullying between young children. Understand that these ‘triggers’ are present and exercise caution while reading this story. If you begin to feel anxiety, please discontinue reading and enjoy some of my other happier works. Thank you for considering your emotional health first, and thank you in advance to anyone reading.


Clarissa’s teacher called the mother’s earlier this morning. She expressed concern for the child and wanted to have an urgent lunch meeting with the school principal and guidance counselor. When Linda got the voice message she called her wife in a fluster. What could it possibly be? Clarissa hadn’t shown any signs of misbehaving at home.

Barbara thought it was something relatively insignificant that the school was unnecessarily upset about; so many schools are pretentious these days. Barbara had to remind her wife on the drive over that in pre-school the teacher called home concerned that Clarissa had deep rooted anger issues over a crayon she broke in half on purpose. Kids do stupid things sometimes, and as long as nobody is getting hurt – Barbara believes a note would suffice.

Unfortunately, Miss Claymoore slides a couple of pieces of paper across the table for the mothers to examine while the principal and the counselor make their way to the classroom. Linda leans in first. Between the two women, she is far more dramatic and emotional. As soon as she pulls away and covers her mouth, Barbara can only assume that the papers hold something horrific.

She decides not to look at them until the other people arrive, and only out of necessity. In the meantime, though, Miss Claymoore decides to make small talk; “How are you guys enjoying the new house? The landscaping was looking lovely when I passed through the neighborhood.”

Linda looks offended so her wife speaks in her place.

“It is far from finished but that’s all we can get done with cooler weather on the horizon. We are trying to find our Halloween decorations because we’re still living out of the boxes. Can’t figure out which box is the right box, it seems.” Barbara works in a collection agency as an office manager and emotionlessness comes naturally to her. When emotions are high – as they always seem to be – she can keep her composure. That’s how she nabbed the position in the first place.

Miss Claymoore helps her mother sell homes, and that’s originally how Linda and Barbara knew her. She was the one who actually showed this home to them. In actuality, she’s the one that sold the property because she was a close friend of the couple. The young lady was able to tell them all sorts of things that her mother probably wouldn’t have known about the property. Things that made the space special…

“I can’t wait to see you keep up the holiday spirit! Tim and Joy will be happy to hear that you guys are contributing to the excitement on the block!” Thankfully Barbara doesn’t have to concoct a response because a few soft knocks turn all of their heads. In the doorway are two tall men. One is stocky and sports a three-piece suit. The other is lanky. His nose also seems too big for his face.

Everyone introduces himself and herself. Barbara and Linda Lindley, Clarissa’s mothers. Mr. Jordan is the principal and Mr. Benson is the counselor. Linda signals for Barbara to look at the papers before everyone broaches the urgent topic about what is happening. Barbara grabs the paperwork and sports her best poker face.

The first page is a picture of a tree with orange and brown leaves falling off of it like rain. Underneath it is a stick figure with a blue triangle dress and ‘X’s for eyeballs. There are three very upsetting sentences beneath it: Sometimes I have dreams about not waking up. I want to die by a tree so that the leaves will hide me. I don’t want to get cold.

            “So, I want you to know what we were doing that this came up. Last night I was grading papers for the exercise we did in class. On Monday I asked the kids to write about their dreams. Plenty of kids wrote about dreams they have when sleeping so I didn’t count Clarissa’s work as wrong, but this was disturbing. Then on Tuesday I asked the kids to tell me what they want to be when they grow up…” She gestures for Barbara to look at the second page. Obviously she complies with the eyes of everyone else in the room boring through her very being.

I don’t want to grow up. Kids are mean. Adults are meaner. Beneath it are some notes by Miss Claymoore. She asked Clarissa if kids were being mean to her, but she replied that people don’t have to be mean to her in order to be mean. Miss Claymoore then asked what she meant, but Clarissa said sometimes people look at her like she’s a full trashcan.

Barbara knows why she chose those exact words, and Linda probably picks up on it too. A few sets of parents two blocks away heard about Barbara and Linda and were not pleased, to say the least. Lesbians – it was apparently “just wrong” for such a religious group of families. That is to say, they were “full trashcans on the curb with no place but a landfill.” Linda fears each morning might be the morning their neighbors find out the truth. How would they react when they found out that neither lady had always been a lady.

They would lose their minds if they ever knew that the two women had undergone sexual reassignment surgery together. The two of them met in a support group and just fell in love. It was brilliant but sometimes Barbara believed that they had yet to be pushed to their limits – to see if their love could stand the trials of time.

Maybe this would be the first trial… A trial of pain… a test of morals… a test of strength… But most importantly: a test of parenting.

“This morning Clarissa came to school with leaves stuck in her hair and dirt all over her face. I sent her to the nurse and when once cleaned up there were evident welts and bruises on her shoulders. Clarissa said that kids are mad at her and tell her that she belongs in the fiery pits of Hell. She said those exact words.” Mr. Benson is the one addressing the group while Miss Claymoore covers her face in pity. Linda is shaking her head and full on sobbing now. This is how she expressed herself for pretty much all emotions. And who wouldn’t be distraught by the things the wives had been told? The only reason Barbara is keeping it together pretty well is because she’s heard sad stories at work. Stories that people only recognize from their nightmares.

Mr. Jordan says that he’s preparing a letter for parents and that it should be disbursed by Friday. He’s also holding a meeting with the school board to incorporate a more effective Anti-Bullying campaign in the district. Barbara shakes her head, shrugs her shoulders, and finally decides to speak again…

…”I don’t think this is just a bullying problem, sir. I think that there’s a deeper issue than just kids being mean and adults being mean. There is inherent discrimination happening. The lack of knowledge perpetuates hateful practices starting in parents and passing down through generations.”

Miss Claymoore knows exactly to what Barbara is referring. Linda had shared with her why the type of neighborhood was important to them – why they were looking for a more liberally affiliated area of town…

Mr. Jordan lets his guard down and rubs his face. Clearly he expected this and hoped to avoid it. Miss Claymoore can’t make eye contact. Fortunately, Mr. Benson maintains his composure and pushes forward through the meeting; “We understand that you have frustrations with the school curriculum. There’s only so much individuality awarded to the schools. As such, we cannot do much to inform the children about different life choices available to them, but we will do everything it is within our power to control this situation from the school. In the meantime, we want to get you the resources you need in order to help Clarissa as her loving her parents.”

The meeting goes on for another half an hour but when the ladies get home in time to get Clarissa off of the bus, they realize that the meeting wasn’t over exactly. They might not be with the school staff discussing the issue at hand, but they have a folder full of materials they need to review. Therapists, psychologists, pediatric specialists, support groups, and so on.

Linda says what they’re both thinking first, though. It makes all of the paperwork and brochures seem irrelevant. Even if she sounds a little broken her brilliance is undiminished; “I suppose it is time to reach out to Franklin. He did wonders for us.”

Dumped Again

Just as I did last week, I went to this website for inspiration. I used the ‘Short Story Ideas’ section and it generated the following: A cinema is the location, loneliness is the theme; A telephone is an object that plays a part in the story.

Disclaimer: This post addresses suicide and may trigger feelings of hopelessness, empathy, or sadness. If you know that these things make you uncomfortable or emotional, please do not read any further. If you are reading this because you feel helpless or depression and are considering suicide – please visit this website for the love and support you deserve. If you prefer speaking to someone and hearing his or her voice, please call the suicide hotline @ 1 (800) 273-8255.

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Kendal knows when he is about to get dumped because his girlfriends always cancel their plans to go see a movie the same night the two of them are supposed to go out. There was Mary who canceled because her mother wasn’t feeling well – she later posted duck face pics of herself at a party during the time they were supposed to be at the movies. After her was Alaina; she cancelled because she claimed to have started her period and having cramps. I would have believed her if she hadn’t actually been on her period the previous week. Each girl comes up with a different reason every single time – but this one with Kelsey. It just takes the cake, so to speak.

“I forgot the movie date was tonight. I am supposed to take my grandfather to the barber right now. There is no way I will make it.” Firstly, Kelsey and Kendal had just talked about the movies this morning. Secondly, she lives her with grandfather. Thirdly, her grandfather is bald. Lastly, even if he had hair, there’s a barber five minutes up the street from her house and she only lives ten more minutes away from the movie theater. There are at least one million different ways she could have made the movie date work in her schedule. Kendal let it go, though, because at some point Loneliness is a better girlfriend than most girls are to him.

He doesn’t know what it is about him, either, that makes him so easy to dump. Is it his sun bleached dreadlocks? Is it love of reggae and blues music? Maybe it’s the fact that he likes to doodle his girlfriends as cartoons with their favorite things on playing cards? Kendal tries his hardest to be thoughtful, respectful, and kind but somehow it always manages to push these ladies away. None of them really ever explain to him why they leave him. In fact, most of them don’t ever speak to him again after canceling plans. Kendal taps the screen of his phone to delete Kelsey from his contacts before the movie starts.

All around him are couples that get along fine, kissing and hold hands during a romantic comedy that the girl clearly wants to see more than the guy. Same-sex couples swooning over the lead male and female, each most likely discussing how attractive each of them are in character. There are some other folk in the theater that are alone but most of them are older. Moms watching a film to get away from the kids, dads who were running too late to catch their action film and are too bullheaded to walk in late. There are even a few senior citizens who came to see it probably just because it is Senior Day in the theater and all of the other movies aren’t appealing to their demographic.

Kendal doesn’t even pay attention to the film. Instead he remains huddled in the corner of the theater with his screen dimmed as low as it can go. At first he started on Facebook, scanning through his feed. Then he switched over to Twitter and found that he lost another follower. Probably because he never tweets anything…Somehow he comes across a quiz article: Are you lovable? These things show up online all of the time but he never clicks them. For whatever reason, though, this time it hits home. Nine girlfriends later and still no reason as to what is wrong with him as a romantic partner – yeah, Kendal wants to click it. Affirmation that he is, in fact, lovable is exactly what he needs.

As it turns out, though, he is “too nice” to be lovable. The results detail how his laid back impassioned expression makes it hard for partners to take him seriously. Kendal’s entire personality is chilled and flexible which gives off the impression that he doesn’t care enough. Devotion apparently doesn’t come in different packages? Kendal figures he may as well plan for a life alone.

Or just not live at all.

Kendal has never considered this before, this possibility of not living, but when it strikes it is a heavy truth. What if nobody ever likes the way he loves others. What if there simply is nobody out there for him? His family is great but he knows in his heart that he will want someone at his side as a partner, as a lover, as a wife. Everything is still, but in the same way it is not. The world freezes in place inside of Kendal’s mind as he starts searching suicide and how people do it.

Before he knows it, the movie is over and he has to get out. Getting up without much thought he doesn’t realize until he’s made it to his car that his phone isn’t in his pocket. It must have fallen from his hoodie when he was going down the stairs. Kendal sighs emptily and drags himself back inside to the concession stand. Before the cashier can offer him one of the combos he asks if there was a cell phone found in theater six. The lovely blonde woman radios out and asks if anyone in clean-up found a cell phone. A masculine voice replies that he can come pick it up at the theater entrance, and Kendal is allowed past the ushers.

Right outside theater six is a lanky young man. His hair is a sloppy mop of auburn hair and his clothes fit awkwardly. More importantly than that, though, the dude is checking out Kendal’s phone! As soon as Kendal walks up with his hand out the guy flips his hair out of his face to reveal piercings in his lip and eyebrows. Try as he might not to make any judgments, Kendal does feel a tiny bit uneasy. What if he says something hurtful? Kendal definitely doesn’t need to hear anything like that right now.

“Don’t do it, man. If you don’t mind waiting around for fifteen minutes we can grab some burgers to get your mind off whatever is bothering you.” It is for precisely this reason that Kendal tries to avoid judging other people. Surprises come in strange packages at times when people are least expecting them. Hearing this other guy say that he shouldn’t be thinking about suicide is refreshing. It calms him down enough to think more clearly. He just feels hopeless today, but it doesn’t mean he will feel hopeless forever.

After accepting the guys offer, Kendal waits in the lobby after reading his browsing history.

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Please be reminded that depression and suicide are serious emotional issues that require medical attention. If you or a loved one are displaying signs of helplessness, hopelessness, or disinterest in things that you/he/she once loved – please seek assistance from a professional immediately. And keep this in mind – nearly all people who have jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge intending to commit suicide and have survived realize that whatever problems he or she had could be solved. Remind yourself, or the person you love, how special they are as often as you can because it can go a lot further than you think.

Thank you for reading today and may you have a wonderful weekend!