My Reasons Why

I’m very much like Clay when it comes to this series and Hannah’s tapes. For me, this wasn’t a show to binge. I had to take it in small pieces, sometimes shutting it off only minutes into an episode.

It took me two weeks to get through, but tonight, I finished 13 Reasons Why. I didn’t watch it for entertainment and I can’t say I enjoyed it but I needed to know how the show was going to handle mental health and suicide.

I will begin with this: Be warned, the show can definitely be a trigger.

Whether you’ve directly struggled with issues related to mental health and/or suicidal thoughts or you’ve been lucky enough that you haven’t, this show will have your mind racing. And maybe that’s what it’s supposed to do.

I’ve talked with many people who’ve watched the show. And I’ve saved dozens of articles that appear to paint this show in a negative light…but I haven’t read them yet. I intend to, but first, I wanted to watch the series and wrap my own mind around it.

As a person who has been through many of the same experiences as Hannah Baker, this show was tough to watch. And I think that is definitely one of the points this show was trying to make. Suicide is incredibly painful to watch. Depression is hard to sit back and watch without being able to do anything. Rape and sexual assault is unbearable to watch. But that’s the point, right? In Beyond the Reasons after the show they described why they chose to show the suicide and the rape. Both had my stomach in knots and I had to turn away during both. Then, upon realizing what I was doing, I forced myself to turn back to the screen and watch because it’s turning away from those experiences , blocking them out, that’s part of the problem.

Do I agree with everything the show depicted? No. Do I think it was necessary to show the act of suicide? No. Do I think it’s okay that Hannah chose to tell these people they’re the reason she died? No. But since this show came out, I’ve heard more people openly talk about suicide than I ever have in my life.

And that should be the point.

This show isn’t perfect. But neither are we. I’m not saying my opinion is the only opinion and I’m definitely not saying it’s right but this is my take on the series.

It’s opening up conversations.

There’s a high school near where I live that preventatively sent out a note regarding the show. Take that in for a moment. A school chose to speak out about suicide and make the topic top of mind for their students and parents before an act even occurred. If that’s the only good thing that comes out of this show, then I think it’s a win. But it’s not the only occurrence. Whether good or bad, people across the country are openly talking about this show, rape & suicide.

Don’t shy away from the ugliness.

13 Reasons Why covered so many taboo topics. Many of the kids in the show didn’t feel comfortable talking about these topics – rape, suicide, slut shaming – and that really bothered me. I found myself turning episodes off during the middle of them because I was so frustrated that they wouldn’t just talk about what was happening. I quickly realized I wasn’t frustrated with the show but with people in general. This happens every day. I know what it’s like to say the word “suicide” and immediately have people blush or even physically cringe, but we have to force ourselves to open up and talk about the difficult things in life because we never know when the person on the other end of the conversation may need that opportunity to open up.

Don’t stop trying. Don’t stop reaching out.

When I finished the series I was left with a lot of questions. Why the guns? Why the second suicide attempt? Why did they show certain things? Why didn’t they have suicide messages and hotline numbers attached to every episode? Why didn’t they choose to create a character who reached out and got help? I think, to some point, I still have some of these questions but I understood a lot more when I watched the after show, Beyond the Reasons.

In the after show, the actor who played Clay mentioned why he understood that some kids don’t reach out, “What do I say? What are they going to say? They’re not going to understand.” That eased some of the anger this show left me with. Whether it’s a teenager or another adult in your life, I can’t stress how important it is to make the people in your life aware of the fact that you’re there, day or night, to talk. Or just to listen. Sometimes as humans, we don’t have the words to describe what we’re feeling or maybe we’re scared the other person won’t understand it. But you know what? That’s okay. The other person doesn’t have to understand what you’re going through or why you made a certain decision. They just need to be there.

But, even so, you can try your hardest to be aware and make yourself available to those around you and you could still miss it. I write that sentence from experience. I’ve been made aware of it, looked for it and still missed it. Sometimes you can stare a suicidal person in the face and have no idea what’s going on in their mind.

That’s why it’s important to reach out. It’s not a one and done kind of conversation. Please, I beg of you, continuously reach out to those in your life.

You matter to me.

Make yourself available to the people in your life on a regular basis and continue reiterating that fact to them. Tell people you love them every chance you can.

Have the difficult conversations.

Don’t miss an opportunity to reach out, to ask questions. Don’t miss the opportunity to recognize when someone is in crisis.

“How am I supposed to live with that?”

“Any way you can.”

– 13 Reasons Why

Watch the show, don’t watch the show. It doesn’t matter to me. But do me a favor? Talk about suicide. And depression. Have conversations about mental health. Take an uncomfortable topic and help take the stigma out of it. Don’t minimize other people’s situations. Make yourself available. Look for signs, but know that you may not always see them.

Tell people they matter to you because, believe me, you’ll wish you could when they’re gone.

13 reasons why

 

The Power of Social Media

It seems lately that more and more people are standing up and speaking out against social media. I won’t disregard the fact that it can lead to negative things like bullying FOMO, & unreal expectations but we can’t overlook the fact that it can also give people a chance to connect, to voice their opinions & to even get help.

Here I have to be blatantly honest and say that I might have a bias toward this medium as I currently work in the world of social media, but I think we often neglect the fact that there is good that comes from these platforms, too.

Last year, Facebook rolled out a tool that allowed suicidal users to connect with a professional at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Now, Instagram (owned by Facebook) seems to be following a similar route. If a user notices a post that seems to nod to self-harm or suicidal thoughts, it can be reported to get that individual connected to a hotline or seek other ways to help. The platform has even taken things one step further by also blocking hashtags like #thinspo & #selfharm.

insta

In a world where teenagers are constantly connected and chatting, it’s refreshing to see that these tools are evolving and trying to help with other major needs many teenagers face: depression and suicidal thoughts.

Though social media isn’t perfect and it can lend its way to many negative things, it’s being used by millions of people across the world, and it’s reassuring to know that these platforms care about their users well-being and mental health.

Another Year Passes

When I think of you I still picture a young man; it’s how I’ve preserved you in my head. I picture the smile that stretched across your face, the sound of your laugh, the feeling of your hand in mine. I picture you as you were.

Twenty-eight. That’s how old you would have been today and, as hard as I try, I can’t seem to wrap my head around that fact.

Who would you have been? Where would you be? Would you have looked the same? Sounded the same? Would you still be drawing or onto another lifestyle?

Us

We had created this little routine for your birthday; I would have made some comment to you about being so old today (“Almost 30?!”) and you would have laughed and made fun of me for being young. It was small and sarcastic but it was ours and I loved it. I’ve been replaying your last birthday we spent together over and over in my head. When I walked through the door, you picked me up and wouldn’t let me go right away. We laughed, we grilled, we binge-watched SVU, and we spent as much time together as we could. That’s the last birthday memory I’ll ever have of you.

Birthdays are my favorite. Mostly because I know how important they are. I’ve had enough people in my life die for me to learn how precious this life is and to celebrate each year that passes. But today, I’m not in the celebrating mood. Your birthday is a reminder of what I’ve lost. And that each year that passes, I grow another year older than you.

Today, I can’t stop picturing your smile. It’s not often that I remember you that way so I’ll take it as a sign and I’ll celebrate and remember you today.

Happy birthday, Luke.

Five Years

Five years. 1,825 nights. Days, months, and years that I stumbled through this world wondering what I was doing without you.

Have you ever lost something you loved? Maybe it was your comfort blanket when you were little, an important essay in college or maybe, you’re like me, and you’ve lost someone you’ve loved.

I typically hate using the word “lost” for someone dying, but for a long time, that’s how I felt about Luke. I felt like I had this amazing person and I was just wandering through this life trying to find him again. It took me three years to realize that wasn’t going to happen. And when that realization set it, in hurt like hell. If I’m being honest, it still does.

After my mom died, I would wake up each day and repeat this thought to myself before I even let myself sit upright, “Your mom is dead. She will never come back.” And for a long time after Luke died, I had to remind myself that he was gone as well. The realization of it setting in later in the day was enough to cripple me.

I don’t have to remind myself of either of these things anymore. I’m aware these two important people are no longer in my life but it never fails that on important days -anniversaries, birthdays, holidays – my mind will wander back to the days that I lost these two.

I was on my way to work today as my mind began to drift and I could feel the heat of the asphalt under my knees and it was like I was back in that parking lot five years ago as I heard the words from Cheryl that Luke was dead. I can remember my world spinning and feeling sick to my stomach. I remember grabbing the rail in the parking lot as I called my mom to tell her the news knowing that, without something to steady me, I would fall back to my knees again. I can remember the numbness that continued for weeks, months, and years after Luke died. After the numbness subsided, the pain set in, and I can still feel that today. But for the life of me, I cannot remember the last words I said to him.

Did I tell him I loved him? Did I remind him how much he meant to me? I want to believe I did, knowing that it wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

Technology reminded me that 5 years and 1 day ago I posted the lyrics to Sunrays and Saturdays on my Facebook page. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had aimed that message at Luke, back then, that’s what I did. And it’s a very fitting song.

“Open the window/ Let the sunset in/If only for the last time/Let me see you smile again.”

I’m all too guilty of saying the wrong things at the wrong times, or just saying hurtful things in general, it’s something that I’m working on. But, if you’re reading this, please heed this advice and always tell the people you care most about that you love them. You never know when, or if, you’ll get another chance to do so.

BL

 

Give Me a Stick

My sister shared this with me today from Post Secret’s Facebook page and it really resonated with me, so I felt compelled to share.

PS

For those of you passing out sticks, thank you. For those of you asking for them, your fight is worth it.

 

We Must Tell The Truth

DepressionHow many times a day do you tell a lie? And yes, we’re counting the little white lies. Once? Twice? Maybe you’re a better person than I am and you don’t tell a single lie in a day. But I’m going to bet that, more often than not, we all tell at least one.

What if I told you that someone took a moment in their life, probably one of the biggest moments in their life to date, and told the truth when it would have been So. Much. Easier. to tell a lie.

A friend of mine passed along an article to me today and I can’t stop thinking about.

A woman wrote her sister’s obituary. Let me stop right there and say that’s a much more difficult task than you might think. I went to journalism school & was taught to stick to the cold, hard facts when it came to obituaries. Know what we didn’t cover in school? How to handle a suicide. I can tell you it was hard enough writing my mom’s obituary and she died from cancer, something that is much more well-received than a suicide is. Not only did this woman write her sister’s obituary but she came out and told her sister’s story the way it played out IRL.

Aletha Meyer Pinnow, 31, of Duluth, formerly of Oswego and Chicago, Ill., died from depression and suicide on Feb. 20, 2016.

Eleni chose a time when her and her family were hurting. She could have chosen to discuss this matter at a later date or speak out about suicide and depression when their hearts weren’t so raw. But she didn’t. Instead, she started a conversation & asked others to join in too.

And that is something that I have so much respect for. I urge you to read this article.

Depression lies, but we can tell the truth.

 

New Chapter

Life is unpredictable.

I wish I could count the number of times I’ve reminded myself of this over the years, but I stopped counting when I was 16.

Life is complicated.

I learned long ago to not put too much stake into any one person because, at any moment, they could be removed from your life. I tried keeping a safe distance from most of the people in my life for fear that they would leave my life (read: die).

Love doesn’t care.

I kept people at an arm’s length most of the time. And then I fell in love. My walls broke down. I started planning a future.

I broke my own rules.

And I ended up crushed. I planned a future with a person who left me behind. Now don’t think I’m blaming him, because I’m not. I understand why he made the decisions he did. I’m okay now. But for a very long time, I wasn’t.

I swore off love and men and relationships. I promised I’d never marry and the only men left in my life were close friends and my dad. No one else was allowed in my life.

And then, again, I was reminded that life is unpredictable.

This post has been a long time coming. I’ve tried writing it before but failed until I read this article that my sister sent me and it really hit home.

My story is not her story. Luke and my story was never set in motion; we never really had the time. And I won’t refer to two of the greatest loves of my life as “before” and “after” because that doesn’t work for my story. But her article really resonated with me.

I’m in love and it’s okay. It’s actually more than okay.

After Luke died I read Eat, Pray, Love and it was perfect for that point in my life. One quote that really stood out to me was Elizabeth Gilbert’s explanation of soulmates.

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.
A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.”

Luke was my soulmate for my younger self. He taught me to stick up for myself, be proud of my accomplishments, and speak up when I don’t agree with something. Those were the lessons I needed at that point in my life. I grew so much in the years we were together. But his story ended and mine needed to continue.

I have a new soulmate for this chapter of my life. He’s patient, sarcastic, witty, and cares unconditionally for people. He allows me to grieve when I need to – over friends I’ve lost, my mom, or even Luke – he’s sat with me on the floor of our apartment when I had a much-needed crying session. He’s great.

And he’s totally unexpected.

He came into my life the summer that Luke left and my mom was diagnosed. It was the perfect storm of a summer in my life. I was newly 21 and didn’t really know how to handle anything that life was throwing my way. But over that summer a friendship grew. We talked about traveling and dreams and what goals we wanted to accomplish in life. Over the years the friendship remained strong even when he was on the other side of the country. And then, to come full circle, on a summer night everything about our friendship changed. We crossed a barrier that couldn’t be uncrossed and my head was reeling.

I didn’t know what this meant.

I had some very torturous nights going back in forth in my head about my future self and my past self. I didn’t know what to do. And I didn’t want to leave Luke behind.

But as Michelle wrote, you don’t leave a love behind, “Once you love someone they stay with you forever as a piece of your soul.” Luke was, and always will be, a part of my soul. But Adam is a part of my future.

Adam and I have had many conversations about Luke and I’ve come to find that Adam has some fairly strong feelings about my past. He should. When Luke died I fell apart and, for someone who now loves me to have seen that, I’m sure it brings up some heated emotions. But Adam respects the role that Luke played in my life and, if these unexpected life events hadn’t played out the way they did, maybe there would never have been an “us.”

Years ago I sat with sweaty palms across the room from Luke’s mom to tell her about this new man in my life. I was so nervous. And she was so gracious. She was happy for me and I was a little taken aback. My mind went back to a conversation we had before I got my tattoo for Luke. During the period of my life when I had sworn off men and was sure I’d never love again. She warned me not to get it because I was young and I would fall in love again someday and maybe that person would be upset by my tattoo, but I explained to her that any man that was worthy of being in my life would understand the importance of Luke in my life and would understand the tattoo.

And he does.

I am moving forward in my life with fewer glances back as the days, months, and years pass. I’m more focused on my future now than I ever have been. I take time to reflect on the past every now and then and the people who have left my life cross my mind often but when that happens it’s in a positive way and I’m not pining to go back in time.

Life is unexpected. But so is love. My story is nothing like I thought it would be but I’m happy with where I’m at and how things have turned out. I fully believe that, without these life experiences, I wouldn’t be able to love as deeply as I can now.

And I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Winter

 

Sometimes It’s the Little Things

I came across this self-care card on Facebook today and it really struck a chord with me. Sometimes, life can be this big, scary, overwhelming thing that we start to believe we can’t handle. A project at work, combined with weight gain, financial stress or a fight with a loved one can all snowball into a giant nightmare that we think we can’t handle. But we can.

Sometimes all you need is to take 5 minutes out of your day to relax, focus on yourself and then re-examine the task(s) at hand.

My challenge for you today, even if you’re feeling great about yourself is this: Complete one of the steps on this self-care card, take a couple of minutes to do something special for yourself and then share it with someone who you feel could really benefit from this. We all have tough days, some worse than others, but it’s important to remember that you really are stronger than you think.Copyright Sinope (eponis.tumblr.com), 2015.

Holidays

http://blog.cookingchanneltv.com/2012/11/13/easy-thanksgiving-table-decorating-ideas/Holidays.

For many the thought of bright lights, tables overflowing with food and family come to mind.

For others thoughts of loneliness, desertion and heartache come to mind.

I’m a combination of both.

Three years ago, after celebrating Thanksgiving with my family, giving thanks for my mom’s health and time spent with family, my mom was hospitalized and died shortly after. Before my mom died I associated Thanksgiving with the death of my high school best friend. While others were excited for time away from school/work, food and time to see cousins who live far away my mind was on the people that I lost. Thanksgiving for me is one of the hardest times of the year. But it wasn’t always this way.

I grew up in a family where holidays were everything; we had decorations for every miniscule holiday and made food weeks in advance to the actual holiday. Growing up I loved holidays but now I find myself dreading them; I count the days until they’re over and life can go back to normal.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great time to reflect on all that you have and are thankful for this past year, but try to remember that some people are only able to think of the hurt that this time of year brings around.

This holiday season I challenge you to reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a long time or someone you think may really be struggling this season. Tell them how much they mean to you and that they’re appreciated because, for many people, the holidays can be some of the loneliest times of the year.