I believe in you.

Suicide is in the news again.

Every time it becomes a public discussion I am both reminded of my pain, and relieved of my pain. In 2013 I lost my father to suicide. I feel that it will always weigh heavily on me, though I’ve spent a lot of time sorting through it.

Hearing the words commit suicide is like nails on a chalkboard to me. I’ve heard of a movement to remove the word commit when referring to the act of suicide. Commit. As if it were a crime, the actor chastised and scorned, when in fact they were loved, ill and in pain. The intention of suicide is not a crime against others as much as it is an affront on a sickness that won’t let go. My father didn’t die by suicide to offend you and he didn’t intend to hurt me. I know his suffering — sometimes it is almost too hard to hold on. I am his daughter, and we are alike.

When suicide comes up in the public domain, I am both pleased and devastated. It pains me to hear the statistics: Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US; On average, there are 123 suicides per day; In 2015, 505,507 people visited a hospital for injuries due to self-harm. It will never stop breaking my heart.

I am pleased, however, that we are talking about it. We spend so much time focused on our physical health, but we still stigmatize any discussion of mental health. Times are changing, people are talking — I hope we are making progress.

Today I listened to the On Being podcast episode from 12/9/15 with Jennifer Michael Hecht, Suicide, and Hope for Our Future Selves. At about minute 20, Jennifer explains,

…we have different moods that profoundly change our outlook, and it’s not right to let your worst one murder all the others.

And I found great truth in this. My strongest coping mechanism when I find myself in a depressed state is to remind myself that it will get better, and I know this because it always has. Sometimes when I don’t care if it’s going to get better, when I’m tired of the repeated roller coaster of emotions, the struggle is more difficult — I remind myself how it felt when my dad took his life, and that I have already determined that I wouldn’t cause another to feel this same pain and confusion.

And I keep at it. I keep repeating it to myself. I continue to train myself to say these things, to get out of the moment I’m stuck in and to see beyond it. When I can, I live my life in a way that brings me so much joy that I always have something to look forward to and to know that I am loved, and to do my best to love everyone I meet.

If you are reading this, and you know the struggle, know that we are connected by this very human condition. Know that you have the power to create your own best life, and that you are an amazing, wonderful human being just by existing. The rest is up to you — and I believe in you.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – Statistics:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

An End and A Beginning

The first post of a new blog might always be the most difficult — It stands out entirely on its own, nothing to precede it, nothing to follow it, nothing to soften the stark reality that this is the very first post. It’s lonely here; this one solitary, individual, single post, standing on its own. I hope you don’t judge too harshly.

I had many hopes and many grand plans for this ephemeral introduction to what may turn out to be a very personal bit of me laid out for the world to devour. So vulnerable. So telling. It’s possible it will not even be read …

But, setting these thoughts aside, my subject matter came to me in an unexpected whirlwind. I will preface with the fact that death has been a prominent topic in my personal writing, and that death has found its way to me on many levels in recent times. Death is one of the most difficult things I have learned to cope with. Three days ago I received word that my grandmother had passed on. And I took my whirlwind of a mind out to the desert for clarity … to mourn in my own special way. With four hours of Friday afternoon traffic in Southern California behind me, a trunk full of minimal camping gear, a gallon of water, a sandwich, a notebook, a half liter of wine and my one broken soul, the hot summer Joshua Tree afternoon welcomed me. What the desert showed me during this time was magical.  These are my notes:

Joshua Tree Sunset

The sunset is a phenomenal tangerine glow, upstaged only by the cotton candy clouds petering into vapid wisps of gossamer and lace; puffs of cotton and tendrils of soft woolen thread.

I am drinking wine atop an inviting granite podium, adjacent to a grandstand of cracked and mottled rock; boulders that have no business congregating in such a vast expanse of humble Joshua trees. Horseflies hum around lazily, as if the world was only theirs, and not also belonging to jackrabbits the size of terriers and the substantial cicadas that sing for all the desert. Somewhere nearby a bird calls for our amusement, crying out to its brethren or a possible mate, with only hope and beauty in his joyful, yet somber, voice.

The sky changes again, transforming into a lemonade glow filled with cream and honey; reflections of the heavens. Night is coming and the desert is teeming with life; beauty that never ends, but evolves before us if only we might chance to open our eyes.

And yet the sky continues to change, on fire, the heavens ablaze.

Now, the full moon rising from behind a bank of solid clouds, through wisps of the night. Lightening flashes in the distance, telling of a storm that may wet us in the night. I’m glad I pitched the rainfly before dark. The subtle glowing from within the tent feels like home and comfort, and the moon, continuing to rise, illuminating the desert in a cool yellow glow.  The moon, rising, a brilliant illuminated orb of mottled glass, searing the night, as it cools from the day. Wisps of wind, puffing through the grove of boulders, bring sounds of night insects, alive and hungry. Stars so vibrant, shimmering between streaks of cloud cover, surround the full moon, as if bowing down to it, nodding to its complete godliness. For this full moon dulls even the sun’s performance.

And now I sleep, the call of the cicadas surrounding me, my bed in the midst of mountains blackened in mystery, the moon to guide my dreams and watch over me.

The night was pregnant with nature’s activity: buzzing, singing, howling.  But all sounds faded into a surreal nothingness that brought about a silent, pastel swathed morning. The sky began to blue once more, as if the single bird call was awakening the sun, summoned to its sentry above the desert.

And with this, my soul was cleansed of all its worry; my thoughts became serene and I was able to take the calm of the desert home with me. Death can (and I argue, must) provide for us a catalyst to clarity; to deep thought, and to connection with our innermost being. There will be more on this topic to come, but let me not overwhelm with one single post …

… one solitary, individual, single post, standing on its own. I hope you don’t judge too harshly.

Joshua Tree Afternoon

Sometimes a walk to nowhere takes you to the most important place you can go.