Perpetuating the Stigma

An event occurred today that has really made me upset.  When someone dies by suicide, that stigma is just too much for some people.  Even if they truly cared for the person who dies. It is so disappointing to see just how deep that stigma runs for SO many people in society. And for the survivors (me), it is painful to feel that the suicide negates any positive impact that person had.  Mark did so many things for so many people.  And the feeling that somehow his suicide erases all of those amazing things he did while he was alive is simply sad.  It is so shocking when the way you thought things were isn’t the way they are at all.  I want to believe that most people WANT to end this stigma.  They believe that a person who dies by suicide was ill and not “bad.”  It should not be a shameful way to die. Because guess who is forced to deal with the shame?  Not Mark, he’s not here.  It’s us, the survivors.  Being denied a positive remembrance of Mark because he died by suicide feels like the focus is on his death and not his life.  I am being intentionally vague.  But the point remains that if Mark had died in ANY other way, I am 100% certain the situation would not conclude as it has.

I wish I could educate people and help them to have a better understanding of mental health and suicide and therefore lessen the stigma. It is a vicious cycle. People view suicide as shameful. When a person is struggling with suicidal thoughts he/she is shamed into keeping those thoughts to his/herself. Person dies by suicide.  People don’t talk about suicide because… well, I don’t know why! For some reason it is believed that the person is selfish, weak… anyone who knew Mark or read the note he left would know that in his irrational thinking he truly thought he was doing us a favor.  We would be better without him here.  And anyone who thinks about what feelings would make you believe that being hit by a train was the better option, well, doesn’t sound like weakness to me. It is instinctual to live. It goes against human nature to chose to die.

It is so hard to know what my role will be now.  Do I want to be an advocate for suicide prevention? Do I want to be an educator?  The one thing I know for sure is I want to raise my three children to know and love their dad for the man he was and not the one bad choice he made.  As a survivor I have a unique position and deep understanding of the feelings of those “left behind.”  Maybe I have something to offer.  I wish I could help just ONE person change their thinking about suicide.  Make it okay to say the word.  It’s not a secret.  It’s not something to hide.  In 2012 it was the 10th leading cause of death in the US.  That is one suicide death every 12.9 minutes.  It is happening, A LOT.  So why don’t we talk about it?  Why don’t we DO something about it?  Are we going to stop someone intending suicide?  Maybe not.  But by taking away that stigma, we can open the door for those contemplating to seek help.  To make the asking for help easier for those in that dark place.  It is not something I have done a lot of research on, but on a basic level it seems pretty simple.  Make mental health a more acceptable topic, lessen the stigma of mental illness and suicide.  The less taboo we make it, the more likely people are to seek help.  Maybe I’m naïve.  Nothing I do is going to bring Mark back, or make me feel better about the fact that he died, or HOW he died.  But maybe somehow his death doesn’t have to be in vain.  Maybe my story will speak to someone.  Maybe be spreading awareness it will open up the door to acceptance.  Please share my blog with someone new.  I am hoping that a few small steps at a time can help move this mission in the right direction.

New House, New Life

Yesterday was the housewarming party. I was totally fine all day every day leading up to it. That morning I had a momentary panic when I thought, I don’t want to have this party. I don’t want to be HERE. Living this life. In this house. I thought, can I just not go to my own housewarming party? Well, no. So I gave myself a little time. Sat and breathed and reminded myself that I am where I am supposed to be. It can be so hard letting the past swallow you up. The memories and the life I had and loved. Wanting and wishing it could be mine again. I love this house. It is big and beautiful. But I would give it all up in an instant to have my old life back. Having “stuff” doesn’t make this feel better. It just makes life a little more convenient and easy. We are comfortable and the kids have lots of room to move and grow here. It can be so hard because I will often think about what life would have been like if… and then I stop myself because those thoughts aren’t helpful. There is no “if”… so I will live in what I have.

Most of the time my natural state is positive. It doesn’t really take effort, it is just instinct. Lucky for me or this would be a whole lot harder. But some days, like today, I have to work at it. Remind myself to be grateful. Focus on the positive things in my life. I can’t change the past, I can only enjoy the life I have, whatever that looks like.

Love

I appreciate Pandora because it can figure out what I like based on my thumbs up and thumbs down. One of my favorite stations is the Wicked station. It started out with just broadway songs (obviously from the musical itself too). But it has transformed. I don’t know what I would call it now, but it plays a lot of female artists with beautiful voices that have a somewhat sad quality. I listen to these songs and I am struck by the feelings behind them. Music has always played a huge role in my life. It is always playing at home. I love it so much because it makes me really feel.

As I was listening to this station, I have heard songs like “Words” and “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri and “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles… about love and heartache. I’m not having a pity party. But I can relate. And I MISS listening to a song and thinking about how it related to me and Mark. Or worse, listening to a song that is meaningful to our relationship. I remember often listening to songs, songs that Mark told me reminded him of “us” that used to bring such joy to my heart, knowing how lucky I was to have someone love me so much. Who truly cared about me and cherished me in that way. It is heartbreaking to know I don’t have that anymore.

It is so hard for me to ever imagine having such intense feelings for anyone ever again. It feels like what Mark and I had was truly special and unique. It is so sad to think I will never have that again. I won’t stop listening to these songs. And maybe one day I will even be able to listen to some of “our” songs… maybe.

Taking Care of Business

Okay, get ready for my rant. Any independent ladies out there? I don’t mean single. I mean ladies who can take care of themselves? Married or not. Today I had the ADT man come out to help me set up a security system (I may be independent, but I still want to protect myself and the kids!) He was a very nice man, very chatty but that was okay. I don’t come right out and tell people I do not have a husband. #1 it tends to be awkward for both and #2 for security purposes (I appear more vulnerable). As we were walking through the house he made several comments about “your husband can move that” or “your husband can call and change that.” My thoughts were (even if Mark were here) ‘Um, or I could move it myself.” Finally he asked if I wanted to put my husband on the account, I said, “no, no husband.” Leaving no room for more questions.

This isn’t the first time I have felt like the 2nd part of a marriage. I took care of almost everything in our household, yet Mark’s name was ALWAYS listed first on all accounts. I made all appointments, I managed all the finances, and I was even the handy man, putting together any shelves, desks, tables that needed assembling. Don’t get me wrong, Mark was amazing and did tons of stuff for us. That’s not my point. My point is that even when I was married, I was viewed as the “little woman” that could let her man take care of things by much of society. It is SO frustrating! Even when Mark was here I would tell ‘E’ we can do anything a man can do, don’t let them tell you that you can’t! We don’t need no stinkin’ man! (Although there are certainly benefits of having one around, and if you’ve read any of my other posts, you know just how much I miss about having Mark around.) It is so hard to be a “strong” woman in a world where we are still viewed as “below” men.

Sidebar: I’m sure there are plenty of men out there who don’t do this or feel that way. Not that I don’t appreciate a man taking care of me sometimes, but I hate that some people assume a woman can’t take care of herself. End of rant.

Back to it

We made it through 2 flights and 2 states 🙂 It was actually amazing. The kids were so well behaved and the whole trip was so relaxed and stress-free. The kids had so much fun on our “rural” vacation in Virginia with Mark’s Aunt, Uncle and cousins. They got to see cows and chickens and S even got to eat an egg fresh from a chicken! Then off for a 45 minute drive to my friend’s house in Maryland. Our kids had never met, so that was so fun! They all got along really well and it was so nice to catch up (in person)! Flights couldn’t have gone more smoothly and I told the kids we can definitely do it again (in a few years 😉 )

Back to our crazy schedule. B had his last two soccer games Monday and Tuesday (in the rain!) and E had dance both days. At least they were off school Monday so we had a little time to recover! I didn’t really feel sad during the whole trip. There were a few times when we were with Mark’s family that we talked about him, but mostly it was happy. I liked being surrounded by people who REALLY knew him, “got” him and most importantly loved him like I do. Plus, they are some pretty awesome people anyways.

I had my regular counseling session yesterday afternoon. I truly enjoy going (even though I usually cry). It is one hour a week when I can really stop and think about myself. On the way there, I was listening to the CD we played during dinner at our wedding reception. Some of the songs I can’t listen to, but others make me smile. As I was listening, I was feeling really sad. I had this realization about what makes me SO sad about losing Mark. So many of the songs held memories; Certain moments in time captured through music. It made me realize that nobody, not one other person, knows me the way Mark knew me. There were so may moments that ONLY we shared. I liked the person he saw me as. And I feel like now that he’s gone, so is that person. And he was always the person to remember everything, and so many of those memories are gone too just because I have forgotten them and he’s not here to remind me. Who am I anymore without him here?

It is so annoying to always have to self-reflect and think about these serious things. I want to go back to being happy go lucky. Secure. Easy Going. Not that there isn’t a place to go beyond superficial, but it is exhausting to live in that place. I want to go back to my easy life. Don’t think that’s happening anytime soon. In the meantime, I will continue to push through until I can find my way back to joy…it’s a slow process but I’m certain it is somewhere on the horizon.

East Coast!!

So tomorrow is the big day… the kids and I are taking our first trip, just me and the 3 of them, to go to the east coast to visit some awesome people!  I’m a little nervous about travelling “alone” with the kids… it is my first time ever taking the 3 on a plane by myself.  I have bags of fun stuff packed, snacks, ipad/kindles charged.  I think I’m ready!  I’m lucky that Grandma Betty and Grandpa Ray will be meeting us at the airport to help me with getting our rental car and following them to their house.  The kids are thrilled and we can’t wait for a few days to just relax and enjoy some time with people who love us 🙂  Then we hop in the car and drive to visit one of my friends so our kids can finally meet!  With 7 kids ages 8 and under it is sure to be crazy but lots of fun!

I really don’t want to do this.  I want Mark to be here.  To help wrangle the kids, just to have an extra hand to hold (not mine, the kids!)  I hate doing it by myself.  But I want to know that I can.  That I can handle anything that life throws at me.  It’s not always easy (and thank GOD Ben and Spencer are still young enough to go in the women’s bathroom with me!) but somehow I’m figuring it out.  Please let me know you are still thinking about us.  Sometimes it feels like I am the only one (besides my family) who is still struggling with losing Mark.  I just really wish he was here…

You say it’s your birthday…

In less than 2 weeks I will be celebrating my 36th birthday. I’m honestly not looking forward to it. Not because I’m getting older (well, that isn’t fun either) but because it is so weird that pretty soon I will be “older” than Mark. I always think of it as part of my life was frozen on November 15th. I try really hard to keep moving forward, but sometimes I still feel stuck there. Unable to move forward. And he is forever frozen. Always 36, never getting older. But I don’t have a choice. Time is moving even if I don’t want it to. I think that’s why thinking about my own birthday is so hard. And it makes me really sad because I always loved to make a big deal about my birthday, but it’s just not in my heart this year.

Not to mention the grey hair. I went to the Sox game with my sister last weekend and she touched my head and was like, “Oh my God!”… and I started freaking out because I thought there had to be a spider on my head. She’s like, “Is that grey hair?” Uh, yeah. For those that don’t believe stress causes grey hair, I am your proof. Prior to Mark dying I had one or two on the top of my head. Now I have tons. It’s an outward symbol of my trauma this year. Part of me wants to keep it, as a reminder of what I have survived these past almost 11 months. But the vain part is going to get it colored on Monday 😉

And, well, E’s birthday is coming up next month as well. She will be 9 (OMG!) and I just really want to make is special since last year was pretty horrible around her birthday. It’s so hard for me (she said her birthday last year was great, thank GOD for kids’ resilience!) to even think about her birthday because I remember as soon as it was confirmed that Mark had died, after thinking, “Oh my God, I’m a widow” was, “how could he do this a week before E’s birthday?” Hoping that somehow these next 2 months just fly by. While overall things are definitely not as bad, I hate that there are still some really sad moments. I guess I just need to brush up on my coping skills… seems I might need them for the rest of my life…