I am a Survivor. With a big ol’ capital S. Why the big S? Because being a Survivor requires the acknowledgment of something stronger than just a name or description. It’s not who I am totally, but a big portion of my heart, soul and body. - Shani Kenny 2015

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

When fears hit home.....

Over the last few days, my son has been sharing more with me about what’s going on with his friends, and his latest run in with the idiot kid who believes that anybody who wants to kill themselves should be left alone to do it. It sparked up some questions he had for me. I wasn’t expecting it when he asked me, “Ma, why do you feel so angry about that kind of stuff? You know…the people who do it?” He meant suicide and my strong/angry feelings toward the whole thing. Believe it or not it was a very hard thing for me to talk about. I had told him the usual when I’m faced with something that deep rooted to give myself a day or two or more to prepare… “I don’t want to talk about it today. Someday…soon…we’ll talk about it.” He sat up from his spot on the couch and looked at me and said, “Ma, you always say that. Please can you tell me?” How could I deny this kid? I couldn’t.

So I proceeded to tell him about how my mom had witnessed my grandfather (paternal) slash his wrists right in front of her. He had severe PTSD among other things from his time in WW2. It wasn’t easy for my mom to deal with, as it wouldn’t be for anyone. BTW, she got him help right away and he lived. There would be more attempts through the years. My mom had told me as an adult that it stayed with her forever. She still had nightmares from it. I then told him about how hard it was for her after her accident and that the severity of the trauma she went through caused some serious emotional and mental issues. I didn’t go into detail on that, because he knew about her accident and I didn’t want to make it worse. I told him that over the course of five years, she would attempt to take her life 3 times. One of the times, my brother was pulled out of school to come home as they loaded her up in the ambulance. Thankfully, she didn’t succeed in her attempts.

Things got better for quite a while, at least in the sense of her issues had settled down more. Part of that was the move we made to Oregon I think. I was 21 when I noticed more often the destructive path she was on. She went out with a friend who constantly wished to party. With the way I would later find out mom was feeling, she felt it was the only way to escape it all. I had just turned 21 so I was out there partying for a bit too. At first I was cool with it, at least I could make sure she was safe, you know? But then when I was done with the drinking, she still was going. There would be quite a few times where she wouldn’t come home at night or I’d have to pick her up from where ever. One night even as she sat on the side of the road. Yeah, so not ok. I found out about two months later that I was pregnant with Otelia. She was my first baby, and I was petrified. We didn’t see eye to eye over what she was doing. So I spent a lot of time away from the house. At one point I didn’t want her to come to the hospital when it was time. Which crushed me and her both. But at the time I questioned how much she truly wanted to be a part of our lives, you know? She slowed down the two months before I had Otelia. When I had her, the only person besides my husband I wanted in there was her. I was so thankful, and I am to this day. She told me once that Otelia saved her life. Talk about humbling! It was so much so. She stayed sober for about a year, choosing to go out but not drink. She spent so much time with Odie (Otelia’s nickname) and they were inseparable. The love they so obviously felt for each other even then was just amazing. I often talk about it to Odie. She doesn’t remember much but she loves to hear about her. By then I found out we had Christopher on the way. During that few months, she slipped up and pretty much fell off the wagon. Things were getting harder for overall. The constant pain she was in, the PTSD and depression as well as anxiety got worse and worse. She did what a lot of people suffering from such things did. She self-medicated via alcohol. Again, she sobered up. Christopher was born and he and Odie became her life. She stayed sober for a while too. She would go out a few times during that last year and slip up, but nothing like she had. Once again, one of my babies saved her life. We had her around longer than I ever expected. When Christopher was 15 months old, we lost her. I still fully believe that she knew that last year. The hospital visits for various things were coming through a lot. Still, the shock of it gets me to this day.

I told my son about all of this. And he sat and listened, interjecting a little. He said, “So Ma, I saved her life??” he asked me in shock. I was honest with him and told him yes, and I wish I could help him understand more what he meant to her. A different start, a way to change things. To make up from the wrongs she felt she had brought onto us. I could hear the emotion in his voice when I told him thank you for helping to keep her around for longer. We sat silently for a minute or two.

I told him about my cousin Greg and his death. Greg was only two or three years older than I. He had done good in his life, he was Assistant Fire Chief at his station. Something we were immensely proud of. He’d gone through some rough patches here and there. We talked a lot, especially after my mom passed. Hew as in D.C. for something work related but he called me and told me how sorry he was. How much he loved us and wished he was there. The thing about Greg was, he meant what he said. We talked a lot after that, often about our mom’s. He was one of the only two people whomever talked about her. I told him how Mae loved watching Emergency! With Dave all the time. She wanted to be a “fire fighter guy” when she got old enough lol. He would send messages via me to her; send her information on fire safety, training videos, etc. They had a unique bond, I’ll never forget. It shook me hard when I found out about his passing. I’ll never forget how I found out…disgustingly via Facebook. Yup… saw a family members post and called my aunt thinking they meant Greg Sr., his dad. I won’t go into detail about his death, but will just tell you this, we never saw it coming. He had been suffering from a deep depression that he hid from everyone around him. I think about him all the time,  you know? It’s the moments that you wish you could have saved him, how did we not know? Every situation is different, every person handles their demons differently. He saw a way out, no matter how selfish I see it. But he thought that it was the only way to deal with it. God I miss him…every single day of my life. There have been so many times where Mae seen a fire truck or ambulance and would tell me, “there goes Cousin Greg!” and I cried a lot over that. She understood better than us, even though she “knew” he wasn’t there physically, he was in spirit. He spent most of his young life saving everybody else around him. Sometimes I think we failed in saving him. Other times I feel like he failed us. I struggle with it a lot.

I told my son all of this, and he got a better understanding of it all. I then told him how proud we were of him for standing up against someone who made a comment about his friend’s sister. His friend turned to him in anguish about her sister self-harming and was suicidal. Christopher lost a friend to suicide and found out this summer. It crushed him…it was so hard to watch him go through that and not feel his pain. He voiced what we all do, how could I have made it different? How did he not see it? All I could do was hug him as he cried and help him through it. Fast forward to about two months ago at school when this friend told him all this. He offered up support and asked how could help. He talked to her about seeking help, and perhaps figuring out a way to help her. Someone sitting near them told them that if the girls sister wanted to kill herself, to just let her do it. My son, who is pretty chill and goofy, flipped out. When I tell you flipped out…he jumped out of his seat and starting screaming at the kid. “NO! you talk them out of it. You get them help, you do everything you can to help them through it. you don’t let them do it!” It got intense enough that a teacher aid had to step in and calm him down. I was shocked when I heard this. But I was so damned proud of him.  Last week another kid said something to Christopher along the lines of “go kill yourself”. He flipped again and told him in not so uncertain terms if he didn’t STFU he was going to go to the violence way. In better terms. Again, I told him how proud we were of him for standing up. Next time, maybe not so much violence lol.

Last night he told me that his friend had called her sister to check on her at lunch time. He though ti was her mom and yelled out “Hi Amy’s mom!” and she told him it was his sister. He insisted on talking to her and said one of his favorite lines from TMNT movie. “yo, we’ll find you.” And then says, “By the way, this is batman.” She laughs hysterically and says in good humor, “I’ll see you in hell.” Again another movie quote lol. They laughed so hard. Today, during her daily call to her sister, she wanted to talk to Christopher. She told him thank you for talking to her and cheering her up yesterday. I told him that it should make him feel so awesome to know that he could make something positive out of her day. Sometimes it takes just something so simple to help. I told him how I felt about that and said, “We’re so proud of you and to know that you go out of your way to help, makes me feel like we’ve done something right by you guys.” He looks at me and says, “Ma, you always do good by us.” Oh man…talk about CRY! I cried my heart out. There could be nothing better said than at that moment. My boy made some of my pain go away. He repaired the crack in my heart. Even if it was just a small one. Suddenly, I felt some peace and forgiveness come into my heart for those I lost to this kind of thing. I told him that and it humbled him as well. I hugged him and told him thank you for everything.

It’s true you know…this kid…so smart at 14, healed my heart. I truly feel humbled and honored to have him as my son. Even when he’s driving me bonkers, making me mad, and being an ass. He has so many positive sides to him and so many amazing things. He deserves all the happiness in the world. Someday, he’ll see all of that. We have a really good relationship, and our bond has gotten stronger over the last year. We have this crazy side of us though. We’re both music freaks and drill each other on who sings what songs. We say movie quotes constantly lol. He brings out the kid in me. Especially as he’s running through a store yelling, “Larry!, Where are you Larry?!” for fans of Impractical Jokers show, you know what I’m saying. Even more so when he grabs this stuffed dog almost as big as he is and says, “I found Larry!” OMG…my husband acted like he didn’t know us lol. We play off of each other and our sense of humor is similar.  We talk a lot, and no matter what happen in life, he’ll always know how much we love him and his sisters. I couldn’t ask for more.
In closing, I encourage you to do what he has done. Reach out to love ones and friends, bring some sunshine to their lives. If they’re in any situation that is traumatic, hard or suffer in so many ways and look for a way out, help them. Give them the hope that it will get better, have faith in them and if needed, search out help. Nobody should feel like the way to make the demons lose is taking their life. You could just end up saving a life. Let this inspire you to do well and reach out. My hope is that all of this wordy moments, brings you some peace and sunshine as well.

With all my love and then some,

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