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Archive for the ‘suicide’ Category

Viewing Mom’s Suicide From Dad’s Point of View

The Man I Didn’t Know, the Point of View Not Considered

For the last few years I’ve written at length about my own healing journey following the suicides of my parents, the familial wounds it brought up and the processes I’ve learned to not only cope, but reach an understanding of mom’s life and reasons for leaving when she did. I thought I’d come to terms with dad’s more obvious reasons (health-related) until recently when other aspects of our relationship rose up and bit me in the butt.

What I never considered was how dad was coping in the 10 years between his and mom’s deaths—until now.

In the back of my mind I vaguely recall him getting a prescription for anti-depressants. To be honest, I had enough problems of my own between my divorce, my 6-year-old daughters who’d just lost their only grandmother, and trying to at least appear to be a normal, functioning adult. Once the details of the funeral were worked out and I’d helped clear out my mom’s clothes and a large part of her kitchen, I left my dad in the hands of his close friends. At least he had some.

We Often Hide The Most From Those We Love

Aside from finding his wife’s cold, dead body in the bed they’d shared for over 40 years, I’d have said dad was in better shape to cope with the aftermath than his eldest daughter. He had close friends who didn’t run away or have vapors over losing his wife to suicide. To my knowledge, the only ones who asked stupid, insensitive questions were the same family members who removed themselves from my life for over two decades.

I know dad stayed in contact with some of them for awhile, but as I wasn’t making an effort to keep in touch, didn’t see a reason to ask him about them. I was neither ready, willing, nor able to defend my mother or her actions to them. I certainly didn’t need to listen to people speculating or drawing unkind conclusions in my presence.

Living With Constant Reminders

Looking back now from a place where many of the demons have been put to rest, I realize I’m https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisyarzab/40513877112/in/photolist-24J5dbC-xLBnC-qDMybP-8uuvzF-er1tf-8S5Btn-5NYfwV-LihYBt-g4kBQ-S442nL-ceYb9U-g5JpWL-jTQZz6-cfHP9u-fauq5P-ahCCN2-isiMDz-6ViLeY-2EJXG4-HC2MUT-BU26S-5jegSL-VYGMA1-5j9Xzn-eB4adY-nBPSrp-5j9ZhH-dkoQLa-nbdfPZ-4FD4L1-dZ3Vjx-mbSGYM-dsW4Bs-6w75Kx-7sZRqK-8KRTG2-Mysc7N-LM2cLA-eXrUyD-faz3Az-dAR84B-8S8Fa7-7hKbWd-pYwhq-z2MhH-6jxdb7-261SwZS-ee4Pp7-vv8vw-8TKhq3guilty of abandoning my dad when he probably could have used my support. And yet, by his very nature, he’d taught me not to offer. So I ignored the cries for help as they came from a place so rusty with disuse, they were barely audible to the most sensitive of ears. Where my dad was concerned, mine had long been desensitized at his insistence. He didn’t know how to reach out to me any more than I knew how to recognize a need and reach out to him.

Still, I wonder how he was able to remain sane while living in the last house they’d shared, and sleeping in the bed where she’d died. Mom’s presence in everything he saw and touched were a constant reminder of what he’d lost and where he most likely believed he’d failed.

I suspect for awhile it was touch and go and he spent a lot of sleepless nights either in his recliner, on the couch, or in the guest room where my daughters used to sleep when they visited. None of the options could have been comfortable for him at 6’1″ but the bed he never saw fit to replace had to be more uncomfortable, if for different reasons.

Coping in the Only Way He Knew How

Dad had always consumed his fair share of alcohol, and smoked heavily except for one brief attempt to quit. I know he buried his pain in both, self-medicating alone and with his friends. I’m pretty sure at least the cigarettes contributed to his declining health, though he kept me blissfully unaware. Never one to share his troubles, though, dad got harder and harder to be around as time went on.

Some of it was his deteriorating health; emphysema, a botched eye surgery, and ultimately the lung cancer which contributed to his decision to end his own life. He covered it by complaining about people and occasionally the eye surgery. His teasing took on a harder edge though it took me a lot more years to recognize the cruelty in his taunts. I’d learned to accept his unkindness towards me as affection, never questioning or expecting anything more.

A Distorted Kind of Love

Sure, it bothered me he treated others better than he treated me, but growing up with a skewed and broken version of love, I took my pain and buried it deep, just as I’d been taught. My dad was a true master at hiding his misery. As far as I know, the trait ran back many generations in his family.

Looking back, the trait didn’t serve him very well in the years after mom died. Everything he buried ate away at him, until dis-ease ran rampant in his body leaving him wracked with constant, inescapable pain. He dealt with it in the only ways he knew how; drinking, smoking, and complaining about other people’s behavior.

By then, I was starting to turn my life around. I was letting go of a lot of ugliness, including many of the people in my life. I was learning to love myself and appreciate who I was, warts and all. Being around dad drained me and had me thinking judgmentally when I no longer wanted to. How was I to know it was the only way he knew how to connect with me?

Blinded By His Negativity

https://www.flickr.com/photos/augustbrill/5025448773/in/photolist-8E5JQv-bj2Q3-buZES-NosS3S-bE9C2-8NP6x3-oKBJYc-7yxvUJ-4eRexw-28mE1ch-5tW6Kf-f2JEoo-acCwSd-eajL56-paxFhz-4cv8b7-7yxvw5-7D7azC-ofd2U1-4jX86v-cLpNW-7yxvPb-7yxvS7-6hKsj7-7ytH5n-6ZkEpv-nxKqWs-pz4SNk-8HDCce-gT2U3W-7AkeTX-5hzA7T-5hDXEh-fjpMeq-ceoQ2-5hzAiF-51qGYK-ceoza-51qFRM-9vkmV9-5v6EqD-ceoGA-51uTs5-51uSJo-8NP6zA-51qEZx-7zy4Hg-ceoKc-ceorH-w9TTqI’ll never comprehend the hell my dad went through in the last 10 years of his life. I expended more effort avoiding his dark outlook and unrelenting misery, not because I didn’t care, but because I had no idea how to help, or make things better for him. And because it took so much out of me to spend time with him.

I suspect he went through many of the same emotions I did; blame, guilt, shame, grief. I’m reasonably sure he tried to drown them in a bottle without much success. With no idea how to deal with anyone’s emotions, much less his own, he probably let them fester for awhile, just as I did, falling deeper and deeper into his own personal pit of despair.

He functioned for awhile until things had broken down enough to make him feel it was no longer worth the effort. Then he ended it in the only way he knew how, with an apology to his girlfriend, while leaving the resulting mess for his daughters to resolve. I guess he felt he didn’t owe us explanation or apology because we never realized he might need us. In his cancer-riddled body and mind, I think he believed we’d failed him.

Years of Emotional Rejection Can Be Reversed

I can’t speak for my sister, but I honestly believed I was giving him exactly what he wanted; what he’d taught me to give. I’m incredibly grateful I eventually learned there was more to life and love than what he and my mother were able to share and teach.

Jumping off from where my parents’ lessons ended, I’ve gained so much, not the least of which is a circle of friends who accept me for my own actions and don’t judge my by anything my family might have done.

Feeling Incredibly Grateful

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the lessons my parents weren’t able to teach me.
  2. I am grateful for the ability to temper the anger and hurt I’ve recently discovered with compassion and understanding.
  3. I am grateful for finding the rainbow in every storm cloud.
  4. I am grateful for an amazing, supportive, compassionate circle of friends who, until the last couple of years, I had no idea I even deserved.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, opportunities, joy, friendship, harmony, peace, health, positivity, inspiration, motivation, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Suicide Affects Us All

Suicide Strikes

At some point in our lives, given the constantly increasing numbers, we will all experience suicide. It might be a friend, or an acquaintance, but chances are, at some point, it will be someone we know well, and perhaps love. Some of us might even be the ones considering or even attempting suicide.

Admittedly, I’m more aware of it having lost both parents to suicide. I’ve learned to recognize people who are hiding behind self-made walls and masks; who show little or no value for the life they’ve been given. Sometimes I can reach out to them, but more often than not, they’ve created safeguards preventing people like me who see and feel too much from getting too close. They want neither to be pitied nor judged and are unable to see some of us might just want to help them feel wanted and loved.

Freedom to Be Ourselves

Life these days is hard. There’s no pretty way to say it. For some, the daily challenges are overwhelming, and the stories they tell themselves about not being missed become a reality to be escaped at all costs. Many even become the person they believe themselves to be; withdrawn, angry, unpleasant to be around. They use their behavior to discourage others from reaching out or trying to help change their reality.

Others wrap themselves in false gaiety, often with the assistance of alcohol or drugs. They’re the life of the party on the outside, surrounded by smiling faces who are completely clueless about the turmoil the false front hides. Even those closest to them are oblivious to the cost of keeping the mask in place; of the loneliness they’re unable to break free from.

I talk to friends who’ve at one point in their lives contemplated suicide and understand. There were times I, too felt alone and unnecessary. Times when the only reason I’m still alive was my refusal to put my daughters through the pain and trauma I’ve had to live through twice. I remember being angry all the time, stewing over the slightest thing, and feeling abused and put down by everyone around me. Of course, a lot of it was their reaction to my prickliness and unfriendly demeanor.

Recognizing Our Value to Others

Fortunately, both my writing and the dancing were my saving grace. When I was at my angriest and most withdrawn, I had put the dancing on the back burner to involve myself in the girls’ high school activities. Perhaps not my best choice, but it was the right choice for them, if not for me. Shortly after those responsibilities ended, I got my butt back out on a dance floor. After awhile, the fog began to clear and I found my happy; bigger and brighter than it had been before.

Unfortunately, what may work for some of us, doesn’t help for others. There are plenty of writers and people who dance regularly who aren’t able to escape their pain or realize there are many people who want them around, and who would miss them if they were gone. It puts a lot of responsibility on the rest of us to pay attention to the ones who always seem happy, or who drink to excess and have a long drive home, or simply who share the barest snippets of themselves.

They’ll never say, nor admit to needing help, but they’re the ones we need to do our best to include and reassure we love them as they really are, and that they needn’t pretend for us.

Loving Each Other for Who We Are

I recently saw this graphic on Facebook of Eeyore (my favorite of the Winnie the Pooh https://www.facebook.com/cmhagbcharacters, coincidentally). I think this really says it all, and was published on the Canadian Mental Health Group Facebook page.

It speaks directly to what I’m saying. We all have friends who are depressed, and they need to be included anyway, and not expected to pretend everything is fine. They need to know it’s OK to be who they are without need for masks and walls, and that they’ll be accepted as they are all the time.

The biggest problem our society faces right now, and probably why suicide rates are climbing at such a frightening pace, is people think they need to pretend to be someone they’re not in order to be accepted or even liked.

I’ve learned people like, and even love you more if you’re yourself and nothing else. Those who don’t, quite frankly, don’t matter. We all have quirks, idiosyncrasies, broken parts, and imperfections. Rather than believing they make us wrong in some way, we need to realize they’re what make us unique, and even in tune with others. If we aren’t worrying about fitting in and matching some arbitrarily prescribed description of normal, we’ll find others are able to let down their guard and be themselves too. Not only that, the relief we get from not pretending might even lift some of the sadness and depression!

Dropping Our Disguises Ain’t Easy, But it’s Worth the Trouble

Learning to open up to my friends was, in all honesty, one of the toughest things I ever did. It went against everything I’d been taught from birth, and left me exposed to the ridicule and abuse I’d experienced most of my life, at least from my distorted recollection. I only saw people teasing and making fun of me, but never noticed when it went in the other direction, or when I was one of the perpetrators. Funny how our memories leave out the important parts, right?

Once I got to the other side, however, it became one of the most rewarding, kindest things I’ve ever done for myself. I have friends who are as imperfect as I am, but who accept themselves as they are. They have challenges with family, jobs, and a million other facets of a life well lived. We all know we have someone to talk to if we need to vent, but also to share successes and joys with. We gather in small groups and large, discussing everything from world events to personal frustrations.

When all is said and done, we feel better for the company and the opportunity to release some of the weight we carry around. What’s good for us is clearly good for those we might tend to overlook. They may not open up the first time or even the tenth, but after awhile, we can show them by our actions and our own sharing that they have a safe place to drop the pretenses and be themselves.

If we have the chance to keep suicide off the table for even one person, shouldn’t we take it?

Gratitude Helps Keep the Gloomies Away

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the people who have come into my life the last few years who’ve made me feel accepted and loved for myself.
  2. I am grateful for the lessons I learned and the acceptance I gained while writing my memoir.
  3. I am grateful to my daughter, Heather, and my oldest friend, Candy who kept me moving forward with the memoir, even when I needed a few long breaks to get further along in my healing process.
  4. I am grateful for the dance community that lets me see we are all broken in some way, but that it isn’t a flaw, but a badge of honor.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, joy, dancing, writing, inspiration, motivation, support, butt-kickings, ideas, dreams, goals, baby steps, philanthropy, peace, harmony, health, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Could Our Brains Be Hard-Wired for Suicide?

Suicide from a Different Perspective

Today I gained a new perspective on the mind of a person who chooses suicide. It came from a journalist who was also a friend of Anthony Bourdain’s, and shared a mindset with the chef many of us can’t relate to, but I suspect, far more understand better than they’ll admit. Because, well, suicide is a sin, right? It’s wrong, it’s selfish, it’s a cruel thing to….well, you get the picture. It’s a whole lot of BS that’s been flung around for so long, a large segment of the population believes it without question.

The article was published in the Observer by an essayist who goes by the pseudonym Film Crit Hulk. He writes for a number of well-known publications, though most of his work fits the pseudonym. The piece he wrote for the Observer was a deviation from the norm.

Like me, he is attempting to clear the nonsense and stigma surrounding suicide, but from the perspective of someone who carries the thought with him pretty much constantly. It never occurred to me until I read his article that things like depression, terminal illness, addiction, or mental illness are, for some people secondary if they even exist at all. Instead, he theorizes it is a glitch in our coping mechanism which is “installed” after we suffer a trauma. Some people get the ability to cope interlaced with what I can only guess is a desensitization to the idea of ending their own life.

The Act-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named

Interestingly, he refers to suicide as “that which must not be named”. I often use similar phrasing as my own poke at the masses who judge without any attempt at understanding. He also mentions something else I’ve professed to for a long time, but what most people don’t want to hear. Suicide Hotlines are only good to a point. If the person is unable to find support or to afford long-term treatment to get to the root of the problem, nothing and nobody is going to stop them from taking their life in the fraction of time when it all becomes too much, and suicide is, to them, the better option.

Yes, You Can Help

Once he finishes explaining how people actually fight the urge to take their lives, sometimes for years, sometimes not, we once again agree on the things we can do.

First and foremost is to stop freaking out at the mere mention of the word. I’m not saying desensitize yourself, but for heaven’s sake, don’t get squeamish or try to run away from the word, or brush it off like it was a mistake or something. Acknowledge it. Accept that it’s real. Realize it is often embedded in the coping mechanisms developed after experiencing a trauma.

Even more important is understanding what happens in another person’s life; whether or not they reach a point where they choose suicide, has nothing to do with anyone else. Not you, not their spouse, their parents, their kids, their boss…it’s a choice, as I’ve said a zillion times, they make for themselves and by themselves. If one more person makes the lame ass comment about how they should have thought about how it would affect their family and friends, I swear, I’m going to reach through the computer and backhand them. The only thing they care about when they pull the trigger, swallow the pills, or whatever method they choose is ending their own pain. Period.

Again, Hulk and I agree on the only real solution, understanding it isn’t a guarantee they’ll live out their life until they meet their end through accident or natural causes. And yes, it’s the C word again. We have to be the ones to reach out when we notice someone is spending an excessive amount of time alone, or if they seem even the slightest bit off and show some compassion.

No One Wants to be Told They’re Broken

This is where I am starting to get why my mom went ballistic. My aunt and others believed the way to help her was to tell her she needed therapy. If you ask me, that’s about as sensitive as telling someone who just miscarried that it was “God’s Will”. I don’t think anyone wants to hear someone tell them they think they’re nuts. I may well be a few ticks off of normal, but unless you’re joking, and I know you’re joking, I’d suggest a less offensive approach.

Suggest a lunch date, or coffee, or a walk in the park. Something normal. In short, be a friend. Pay attention to them. Listen when they want to talk, and don’t feel you need to fill the silence when they don’t. Your company means more to them than you realize.

The Sucky Side of Being an Empath

It comes as no surprise to me to learn Anthony Bourdain was an Empath. The subject of depression and suicide comes up in Empath support groups more often than you might imagine. Why? Because in addition to our own demons who conduct regular games of tag in our brains, we get to take on other peoples’ demons too. How’s that for a dubious gift? Being in crowds is tough, but being in crowds where there’s anger, misery, or any mix of confusion and negativity is downright painful for an Empath. I’ve learned to limit my exposure to people who are drinking heavily as the filters on their emotions erode, the more they self-medicate.

Someone in Your Life Considered Suicide

In the many discussions which ensued both from the two high-profile suicides and my outspokenness on the subject, I learned there are people I hold dear who have, at some point in their lives, seriously considered suicide. After reading the Hulk’s article, I can understand how they might have reached that point. Their lives were no bed of roses, and there were traumas along the way. They learned to put on a face for the world that hid their pain. They made it from one day to the next, raising kids, working at jobs, taking care of homes, pets, and even aging parents without a word of complaint. They couldn’t and wouldn’t share the cesspool of emotions boiling underneath their public face.

But I can only relate to a point. Yes, there’s been a time or two when I seriously wondered if anyone would miss me if I ended it. I’ve felt sorry for myself more often than I can actually justify now. But I have never reached the point where all the reasons not to are slipping away, and I’m fighting to push them back. So to say I truly understand where Anthony, Hulk, and others like them have been would be insulting to them.

Being Conscious of People Who Claim They Like Being Alone

I know what it feels like to be alone, but I also realize I put myself there. I’m learning I can reach out just as easily as I can hunker down in my house with the blinds shut and the cats piled on top of me while I watch something mindless on TV. And I’m doing it more and more. But some people can’t reach out. They need us to do it for them.

I can hear the arguments as I’ve used some of them myself. “They’re too busy with their families.” “They have their own group of friends they hang out with. They won’t want to do something with me.” “I don’t make friends easily. I’m off-putting.”. There are more, but I won’t waste your time with whining or words I know aren’t true. We all have our own litany, if we are inclined to spend a lot of time alone, if not physically, in our own minds. Knowing there are people in all of our lives who would benefit from someone making a lunch or coffee date is the real key to slowing down the rising numbers of suicide deaths.

I’m not naive enough to believe it is the only solution, nor that it will end suicide deaths completely, but I’m reminded of the story of the child throwing starfish back into the sea. We can’t save them all, but isn’t it worth our while to save as many as we can? Or at least do what we can to make their lives more pleasant until the time they can’t hold on any longer?

Gratitude: My Regular Fallback

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for all the people who are doing what they can to raise awareness about suicide.
  2. I am grateful for my own hard-wiring which always seems to find a reason to keep going.
  3. I am grateful I’m an Empath, even if the cost is, at times, quite high.
  4. I am grateful for the Conscious ones in my life. Even when they’re sad, lonely, depressed, angry, or otherwise emotional, the emotions they spew forth are always laced with love, acceptance, and Being.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, commonality, movie buddies, extracurricular activities, opportunities, books, dreams, new doors opening, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

When the Light Bulb Comes On, You Find Your Purpose

Finding My Purpose Was the Ultimate Aha Moment

I’ve been searching for my purpose for a very long time. Many times, I thought I had it figured out, only to lose momentum and realize I hadn’t found it at all. This week, a lot of things changed for me. I rode an emotional roller coaster that makes The Demon seem tame. I’ve been up and down the continuum, from happy to miserable, joyous to furious.

The ride was wild and uninhibited, opening up doors I’d sworn I’d nailed shut. But in the end, I realized one vitally important thing: I have to put my efforts into educating people about mental health and depression, de-stigmatizing them so people who need help but can’t ask will find that help in all of us. Even more, I need to keep working to de-stigmatize suicide, not only for those who saw it as their only option and are no longer around to defend their actions, but for the family, friends, and loved ones they leave behind. It’s time those who had no control over another’s actions stopped bearing the overwhelming guilt, blame, anger, and pain of something over which they had absolutely no control, and in fact, probably never saw coming.

Inserting My Purpose Into My Life, or Maybe My Life Into My Purpose

I’m not sure at this point how I’ll work my purpose into my business, or even into my life, but I finally feel

like I have one, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a giant leap in the right direction. At times like this, the words of my healing teacher, Michelle, come back to me. She said, “Paint in broad strokes.” What she meant by that (or perhaps how I interpret it) is to look at the big picture of what you want and don’t get hung up in the details. Or, to put it more simply, figure out what you want and let the Universe figure out the hows.

It’s easy to say, but it doesn’t stop me from fretting over how I’m going to connect with people who can and will benefit from my skills and experiences in a way that helps open up dialogue on such incredibly sensitive subjects. In the last week or so, I’ve seen some brilliant observations, and I’ve seen some which are irresponsibly ignorant; the most notable from a self-professed mental health professional who had the audacity to proudly proclaim he’d never lost a client to suicide. It led me to wonder exactly what kind of clients his practice attracts, and whether he picks and chooses who he’ll serve based on his assessment of their stability and suitability for his own needs.

Levels of Awareness

The truth is, I am still not sure where I’ll fit into the continuum between the masses who are ignorant of the challenges faced by people who suffer depression or other mental health issues and the large portion of our population who are often ignored and forgotten along with family and friends who are also at a loss for how to help. I suspect that now I’ve put my purpose into words; into a short description, those who serve the people I want to help will start appearing in my life. But patience isn’t my strong suit.

If I had my way, I’d already know of 10 people I could talk to about helping raise awareness, not only for those who judge without adequate facts, but for those who huddle in their own darkness, perhaps unaware that help could be found without having to actually step forward and ask. Instead, I remind myself to trust that not only those 10 people, but plenty more will come into my life at exactly the right time.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to hone my message, be clearer about what I want to do to help, and do my research so I better understand the mission I’m undertaking. Part of that I know is understanding even the professionals don’t understand all the ins and outs of the human mind. Often, what they treat are symptoms, because they’re unable to determine the root cause.

Understanding Current Practices and Treatments

Maybe treating the symptoms is necessary to clear some of the defense mechanisms away. The mind is a pretty powerful mechanism. It is hard coded to protect us, even when some of those protections are no longer needed. Sometimes, wires get crossed, but as it’s a brain instead of a computer, the wires aren’t actually visible.

To me it’s a bit like gaining the trust of a cat who was born in the wild. You have to move slowly and allow them to see you mean them no harm. If you don’t, ingrained behaviors take over causing them to flee if they can, fight if they can’t. All of us have that fight or flight mechanism. Many of us have learned to minimize its influence so we can try new things, and explore outside our comfort zone. But what about those who can’t?

Imagine being stuck in your comfort zone forever, unable to step outside. After awhile, it gets cluttered and dusty, but you have no place to move things out to make more room. The lights go out but you can’t get to the light to change the bulb, even if you could find one in the midst of the clutter. So you sit in the dark with nothing to occupy you but your own thoughts. Those thoughts get darker and twistier each time you pull them out to examine them. Your mind creates more and more reasons to stay put and not venture out, more potentially unpleasant or dangerous outcomes to contemplate. You no longer know what’s outside your four walls, and are terrified to find out.

To me, and many others, shaking free of those fears so we can get out and experience life is a no-brainer. Yet even there, we’re on different levels. Some see the idea of jumping out of a plane or bungee jumping as an exhilarating challenge. You’ll never find me doing either due to a combination of fear and lack of desire to feel that kind of adrenaline rush.

Every Comfort Zone Has its Place

I’ve known people who love to dance, but would never be the first one out on the floor for fear people would be watching them. Until someone voiced that fear, it never even crossed my mind. When I realize there are people who succumb to their fears instead of being able to challenge and overcome them, it makes me very sad but also inspires me to look for ways to help.

Sure, I’ve had my own bouts of depression; some lasted years and I didn’t even know I was there. Once I recognized it for what it was, though, I was able to make some changes. It doesn’t mean I don’t spend more than the “normal” amount of time alone, but I’m fortunate in that I rather enjoy my own company, and can keep myself occupied while alone in a multitude of ways, some of them even productive.

For now, I’ll leave myself open for clues and opportunities without worrying the whole thing to death. I know at the right time and in the right place, the people I’m meant to serve will appear in my life.

Experiencing Gratitude is the Ultimate Mood Booster

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful to have finally figured out my purpose.
  2. I am grateful for the people who have come through my life and taught me lessons which brought me to where I am right now, and will take me to the next steps sooner rather than later.
  3. I am grateful for aches and pains as they remind me to take better care of my body through exercise and nutrition.
  4. I am grateful for friends and family who share their struggles with me, and let me share mine with them. I realize I am so much more fortunate than many who lack the ability or the opportunity.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, opportunities, introspection, friendship, support, joy, peace, harmony, kindness, compassion, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

Not Another Suicide!

The Dance Community is Loving and Giving, Yet We’re Not Immune to Suicide

The word came out yesterday that another member of our dance community took his life. Of course those closest to him are devastated, and many who knew him are baffled. This was another guy with a ready smile and so much to live for, or at least so it appeared to the world outside his own head.

I find it especially disheartening in a community where, at least to the naked eye there is so much love and affection. Many of us share our humanity, our broken pieces as well as our shiny, sparkly ones. Perhaps we need to be more conscious and aware of those who share only the sparkly ones and not the ones in desperate need of a polish.

I didn’t know the most recent casualty, and even the one before him, I knew only on a superficial level. Did either of them share their troublesome thoughts, their feelings of unworthiness, or the belief that everyone would be better off without them? Did anyone notice when their ever-present smiles didn’t reach their eyes? Or did we all accept the image they portrayed of a happy guy with a perfect life?

Learning to Look for Signs

I know from experience that constantly showing the world a cheerful, unblemished exterior takes its toll.https://www.flickr.com/photos/swampa/8512656992/in/photolist-dYeAm9-5MBAS5-4wH48T-5M2k2z-9j9QT2-8RVu1X-6juK2V-a18M9W-5taS34-fMS1SQ-cDQLUb-6GZmA2-oUv5Wv-5AvF8V-paqKFx-4LicMW-s48LVr-57gaP7-39DFEc-nu6Svm-bCRkBB-21uvr7L-7H9fXU-h4hoeh-8kP7PC-3F7yE-AXQ82E-RCHfaj-ftXr8F-6agM2v-pCAFRA-57uGKU-5qGnVx-gYU9Q-6aCF6B-7SC734-5hDawR-6pT1cL-58x9Gg-7tPaUX-pfNVHB-7BnSAE-a56YeV-83T4NJ-6wgZex-e58EmP-9tnDYY-gmjSdW-55pwGE-4CCrfb I’ve traveled down that road where I began to believe the world would chug merrily along whether or not I was there to provide some momentum. In fact, there were times when the only thing that kept me getting up every morning and putting one foot in front of the other was the two little girls who depended on me.

As the latest victim had a child, is it only mothers who feel that responsibility to their children? I don’t think so, given the number of mothers who either suicide or simply leave their families.

For those who do find a reason to stay and protect their young despite the miserable world their mind has drawn for them, what happens when the responsibility is gone? Children grow up and move away. They start craving their independence from a fairly young age, at least in my experience, long before they understand the responsibilities which accompany their independence.

I was one of the lucky ones. I found my way out of the depths of unworthiness before I got sucked completely under. Through a fortuitous combination of luck, kicks in the butt from my daughter, friends who were willing to pull aside the curtains and see the sometimes ugly mass of protoplasm I tried to keep hidden, and most of all, my writing, I was able to escape from my wallow and learn some painful but healing lessons. Too many lack the right combination of factors with which I was blessed to help them climb out of the hole they’ve fallen into.

Helping Each Other Dispose of the Masks

https://www.flickr.com/photos/katsexagesima01/3612047773/in/photolist-6vbFXK-7mfHK5-82q4rd-7Ku82r-7xTufQ-7xTvNm-noV2nx-8v7yLg-7xTtxw-b5JoM-awiDbx-74ofjQ-4xTEyL-aFUvSc-2nJqV-pnUS3J-UZSY-KSCvY-q54hFw-74jkL8-57r2Za-rXWSV-RAqoKt-wCAn3-74jkCt-459Ltf-8VkKtr-jrTTpy-7Mx4vz-9gJ6Hm-q2BAZF-A1eTBs-4sLmnj-7hJteh-nDn5BQ-98W5r7-4oJBHP-FUYqD-66WsR1-aaLTe-9gF1wt-7AibaD-cof4ks-bKGrY-7pamwZ-9yY17Q-2QEkGc-qtnpn9-qUrb5H-5EB1gvThe question is, if we noticed, if we looked into their eyes and really searched for the person behind the mask, would we be able to help them before it’s too late? Would we, could we be the lifeline they grabbed to haul themselves out of their personal pit of despair? Could we or anyone convince them it’s all right to let the smile slip sometimes and show what they, what we believe is the ugly underbelly where life isn’t perfect? Would we be able to make them believe people want to see their soft, imperfect side? Could we convince them people need to be needed and that by only helping and not allowing themselves to be helped, they’re denying others the opportunity to give?

Too many of us have been raised with a hearty dose of independence. We believe we are only valuable and worthy if we stand on our own two feet. We are taught to look down upon those who are so weak they must seek help outside their own insular world, and in the worst cases, even scorn those who, in reality are strong enough to let others see their imperfections.

Finding Engagement in Our Communities

Yet we all seek some kind of community, even if we fail to share the most integral part of our being. Whether it’s church or, like me, the dance community, or one of the other interest groups I see my friends involved with; jeeps, dune buggies, horses, charitable groups… we all need to be near those exuding human kindness even if we haven’t figured out how to allow it into our own lives.

These days, we’re even more detached as we build communities virtually. We come to the dinner table with our cell phones, and play games or text friends rather than talking to the people in front of us. If we do share, it’s either a rant about someone or something far removed from our own inner demons, or superficialities meant to keep the conversation light and falsely cheerful. In some ways, I believe this is the single biggest factor contributing to the increasing suicide numbers.

Detachment is More Deadly than Disease

According to the World Health Organization, 9 of the top 10 causes of death worldwide in 2015 were related to some kind of organ failure (heart, lungs, brain, etc.). The 10th was road injury. If you ask me, the largest cause of death has nothing to do with our physical body, except as it’s affected by our mindset. The question is, how do we measure the deterioration our minds are doing to our bodies? How do you quantify how detachment sends us into a downward spiral which all too often ends in suicide?

Save.org offers a chilling menu of statistics on suicides globally:

  • 10th leading cause of death in the US
  • 2nd leading cause of death worldwide for 15-24 year olds
  • 4th leading cause of death for ages 18-65
  • 1 death by suicide every 40 seconds

On a lighter note, 80-90% of those seeking treatment for depression find success with the prescribed medication and/or therapy. But how many don’t seek therapy because they either don’t see they need help, or have been conditioned to avoid asking for fear of being perceived as weak?

Again, neither of these sources is able to measure or quantify how our mental state can cause deterioration which leads, if not to suicide, to death by mindset-induced disease.

Doing Our Part to Help Humanity, One Person at a Time

Admittedly, we are not our brother’s keeper, and yet, we are all part of the same pool (some may, at this point call it a cesspool) of humanity. So wouldn’t we be helping all of humanity if we started paying attention to those pasted on smiles? Wouldn’t taking time to look beneath the surface and offer a heartfelt hug to those among us who, for their own reasons aren’t ready to share their pain be an act of kindness the entire world would feel?

I don’t know about you, but if I could prevent a single suicide by looking deeply into a friend’s eyes and letting them know I’ve wallowed in the depths a time or two myself; that asking for help was the strongest thing I ever did, I’d do it every chance I saw. If I could save other families and extended families the pain of losing someone to suicide even once, I’d drag my introverted self out of my self-imposed hermit hole and do everything I could to help educate, to inspire. Kind of like I’m trying to do here, but on a much more personal level.

Yes, I write extensively about suicide and especially how it affects those left behind with a million questions, a grain silo full of blame, guilt, and regret, and a gut-wrenching sorrow that seems to have no end. But I know the real solution lies in connection and community. Without them, we will all find too much time to wallow in our own misery and believe the voices in our heads telling us we are unworthy, unloved, and undeserving.

Think about it, and spread the love.

Gratitude Helps Me Find My Way Out of the Downward Spirals
  1. I am grateful for my friends who have learned to see past the masks I still try to wear.
  2. I am grateful for my daughter who continues to encourage me.
  3. I am grateful for the people who have come into my life to teach me asking for help is not a weakness.
  4. I am grateful for the people who make me think really hard about who I am and what I want to be when I grow up, and who give heartfelt advice even when they know it isn’t what I want to hear.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friendship, joy, sorrow, dancing, love, humor, laughter, community, challenges, lessons, opportunities, new directions, stretched limits, peace, harmony, health, prosperity, and philanthropy.

Love and Light

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for ghostwriting to help your business grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write your expert book with you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

Blame it on the Moon: Reflections on Mom’s Birthday

Remembering More as the Years Pass and the Clouds Clear

This morning as I realized it would have been Mom’s 82nd birthday today that, aside from the extensive writing I’ve done about her in my yet-to-be-published memoir (or yet-to-be-finished to be more accurate), I’ve written little about my feelings about her or her death.

Today, as I typed my typical “today would have been” post on Facebook, something changed. I first noticed it by the words I chose to use in my post. Then I turned on my Rascal Flatts station on Pandora instead of one I typically listen to. 3 tracks in, “What Hurts the Most” played and I felt tears coming to my eyes. That’s when I knew I needed to write this post.

Full Moons Are a Time to Reflect

Now, maybe it’s the impending full moon which always makes me more emotional anyway, or maybe it’s the chapters I’ve started adding to my memoir lately, but I received one of those infamous Universal head slaps this morning.

It made me realize just how far I’ve come in resolving my hopelessly twisted feelings towards my mother. The short version is I’ve come to realize she was exactly what she needed to be both for herself and to help me become the woman I am today. But as with all things, I’m never happy with the short version. So buckle up for some intensely personal revelations, if you dare.

Finding Appreciation: Too Little, Too Late?

I’ll be the first to admit I never appreciated mom’s many qualities. I was so busy being at odds with her that we pushed each other away when I was quite young. Nurturing my baby sister was far easier for her to cope with than a headstrong 2-year-old. I don’t think I ever quite got over that feeling of abandonment.

It’s not that she turned her back on me, per se. She simply found more joy in doing things with and for my sister as we got older and the paths of our interests took different routes. My sister’s musical prowess and outright tenacity far exceeded my own. Mom could point at her playing first chair clarinet or performing with the prestigious Royal Cavaliers and feel proud of the daughter she’d raised and shlepped to endless music lessons.

Was She Aware of My Love of Writing?

I was a disappointment across the board. I preferred to pursue my passion behind the scenes. Whether it was building a set for the latest drama production, running the light board or applying makeup, I was never front and center to stoke her motherly pride. As for the stories and poems I wrote, regardless of their quality or, in most cases, lack thereof, I can honestly say she never read a word. Of course, I never showed them to her either, so how could she know or even have the opportunity to refuse, or worse, offer a patronizing word of false encouragement?

The real truth is, by the time I was doing any writing to speak of, I’d long since ceased valuing her opinion about anything important. Maybe that’s part of the reason I have trouble accepting my daughter’s encouraging comments about one of the novels she’s reading. I learned not to show anything to my family for fear of the requisite “that’s good, dear” which might or might not have been delivered. I do my daughter a disservice by not valuing her opinion. After all, she’s been reading voraciously most of her life. She knows what she likes to read and what she thinks sucks.

Lessons Offered, Lessons Learned

Again, I digress. Because I started tuning Mom out from an early age; a trait I’m pretty sure I learned from my dad, I missed out on the many things she had to offer. She kept a beautiful house, entertained magnificently, and taught herself to be a gourmet cook. I am decent, but I’ll never have her skill, much less her patience in making every detail perfect. Thankfully, though those skills were lost on me, my daughter inherited them with a vengeance.

I’m reminded of the chicken and egg scenario. Did Mom stop encouraging me in the things which made me shine because I pushed her away; shut her out even? Or did I shut her out because she turned all of her attention to my sister’s pursuits, relegating mine to just sweet little hobbies?

Family Dynamics Are a Balancing Act

I’ll never know the answer, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t changed. I realize now it doesn’t really matter which came first. What matters is that despite the gigantic chasm which existed between us, she gave me so many invaluable gifts. She helped me learn to stand strong and fight my own battles. But she also tempered the gifts I got from my Dad.

Where he was stoic, she was sensitive. Though it might have seemed like she was too sensitive at the time, her sensitivity wove itself into my persona despite my best efforts to be as unlike her as I could be. So well in fact that Dad’s stoicism became my protective shell until I learned when and where to let my sensitivity show.

Where Dad was stubborn and dogmatic, Mom was more malleable, often to her own detriment. Again, I used the stubbornness to counteract my tendency to be easily manipulated. All too often, both tendencies have blown up in my face, forcing me to learn to find the balance.

An Introvert in Extrovert’s Clothing. Who Am I Really Fooling?

I think the most valuable lesson she gave me was negotiating an extroverted world while keeping my soft, mushy, introverted self safe and hidden. Yes, I took it to extremes, but so did she. She smiled and entertained and got involved in charitable causes. She even tried her hand at a career in sales. I know now from my own experience that these are all ways introverts learn to cope with the outside world when they’d often rather just hide away with a book and their pets. The difference between us is she needed validation from others to replace the love she didn’t feel from her family. I learned to be loud and entertaining (though some would probably call it obnoxious). I had a wall around my heart acres deep. Very few have ever gotten close enough to be able to hurt me. I can’t say the same for Mom.

In hindsight, I think Mom hurt every day of her life until the day she decided to end it. She suffered emotional rejection from just about everyone in her life, and certainly her entire family. Sorry folks who might be reading this and are part of that group, but I see no exceptions to this observation. Not one of us took the time to try to see behind her extensive collection of masks.

When Someone No Longer Feels They Have Value

Which brings me to my final point. Collectively, we helped mom feel that she wasn’t needed; was not important to anyone. I have to believe that was the final contributing factor. It was what made her decide suicide was her only viable option. I cannot even imagine reaching the point where you believe with all your heart that nobody will miss you when you’re gone, but I think that’s where Mom was when she carefully followed the instructions in the book she’d bought. When she closed the guest room door where her granddaughters slept when they visited, lay down on the bed she’d shared with my dad for 40 years and took the last, fateful step.

As I type this, my eyes are filling with tears, and my faithful cat, Dylan is on the desk giving me head bumps. Mom died on December 27, 1993…and it hurts more now than it did when she died. In the ensuing years, I’ve put aside the relief, the guilt, the blame, and the anger. I’ve replaced them with forgiveness, compassion, and understanding. And finally, the tears of grief and sadness for the daughter I couldn’t be for her are flowing, cleansing my heart and her memory.

I love you and miss you, Mom. Know you were important even if we didn’t show it. Know your granddaughters remember you with fondness and show that love in all the things you taught them to love and do well. Rest well until we meet again. I hope I’ll be kinder next time.

In Loving Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the lessons my mom so patiently taught me, whether or not I was listening.
  2. I am grateful for having finally learned some of those lessons, albeit decades after her death.
  3. I am grateful for the living embodiment of love for my mom in my daughters.
  4. I am grateful for the ability to allow my emotions to flow all the way to the surface instead of keeping them bottled up like I’ve done for so long.
  5. I am grateful for abundance: love, lessons, compassion, understanding, epiphanies, gratitude, releases, friends, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Losing Someone to Suicide: You Never Forget

The Heart Doesn’t Let Go

Decades after my parent’s suicides, I find I’m still liable to fall down my personal rabbit hole when something happens to trigger the memories. It might be something simple like the feeling of my stomach dropping out from under me during takeoff when I’m flying somewhere. Or it could be more dramatic like a family member of someone close to me taking their life.

This week, though, it was merely a case of similarity. In a series of events which bore a slim resemblance to my dad’s last days, a member of the dance community received a diagnosis of lung cancer. The next day, he passed on, though in his case, the explanation was rapid deterioration rather than death by suicide.

Finding the Positive in a Life Ended Too Soon

In some ways, I envy his family and friends. Their grief isn’t stigmatized by the specter of suicide. His memory won’t be tarnished by what many consider a crime, or at least a sin. Yet, he, too didn’t linger unnecessarily after receiving the worst diagnosis imaginable.

I have to wonder if my dad might have been able to just let go of life when he learned his illness was terminal. Could he have, instead of resorting to a gun, just said “I’m done” and died peacefully in his sleep? Is it even possible to let go of life without trauma or catastrophe?

With Suicide, There Will Always Be Questions

Over the years, I’ve waded through thousands of questions, yet something like this makes me see I still have thousands more; many I’ve yet to even imagine.

It further reinforces my belief that after losing someone to suicide, the healing process never really ends. Just when you think you have it figured out, you’ve forgiven and accepted, something happens in your world to blindside you. You’re reminded in no uncertain terms that you still have a long way to go, another million or so questions to ponder.

It isn’t like lessons which build upon what you’ve learned. It’s more that the healing process occurs in layers. Like a doctor stitches up a wound, you heal the most serious first, trusting that the healing will continue moving inward to mend the layers beneath the surface.

Healing from Suicide is an Imperfect Process

But our subconscious contains so many layers, it’s nearly impossible to ensure that each one is healed in turn. Sometimes, the healing occurs above and below, but leaves a gaping wound in the center just waiting for the trigger which will break it open and send an accumulation of toxins oozing to the surface.

My festering wound is skepticism. I cannot just accept things at face value without wondering if there’s more to the story than meets the eye, or is shared with the general public. I know it’s not really my business, and I have no right to consider besmirching someone’s exit strategy. Yet I can’t stop myself from thinking these thoughts. Losing not one, but both parents to suicide makes me especially conscious of the fact that many find it to be their only viable choice.

In the last few years, I’ve known too many people who lived the horror of a cancer diagnosis. Some of them fought like the demon to eradicate the disease which was intent on decimating their body. Some have been successful while others are still fighting, quite literally for their lives.

Others chose to let nature run it’s course and go out with dignity and grace. When it comes down to living or dying; suffering or relief, the decision must be left in the hands of the one who is impacted most.

Trying to Maintain Perspective

If the death directly impacted someone close to me, I might ask the difficult questions in spite of myself, and against my better judgment. But when it’s just an acquaintance, the words must simmer beneath the surface, unspoken, yet in a way, my own undoing. I’ll never have the answers to my questions so they’ll simmer beneath the surface of my consciousness until I find a way to let them go; to let the deceased rest in peace.

I would never wish upon anyone, even someone I considered to be pure evil, the choice my dad had to make. Though people face the specter of terminal illness in their own intensely personal ways, my heart hurts for those who are forced to make difficult choices as a result of a diagnosis fraught with pain and an imminent expiration date. Yet I hurt even more for those who are left behind.

While my thoughts run rampant and I can’t help but wonder, I know I must make myself believe the story being told. I must do my best to avoid comparisons. My dad’s death was a tragedy, but I understand that as much as he didn’t want to suffer, he truly hated the idea of the people he loved having to watch that suffering. He chose the lesser of two evils and I have nothing but respect for his choice.

I’ll join in honoring a man who touched many lives without reservation. How he passed is irrelevant, just as are the minor misdeeds of which we are all guilty at some point in our lives. He deserves to be remembered and memorialized for all the good he did. What some might consider his mistakes or misdeeds were simply those things which taught him to be the man people will long remember.

Just like my Dad.

With Undying Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the people who move in and out of my life bringing many questions and sometimes even a few answers.
  2. I am grateful for a modicum of self-restraint, even if I’m compelled to share my wonderings here.
  3. I am grateful for inspiration which is keeping me on track to write 1000 words a day.
  4. I am grateful for changes in my life which I hope will make me a better person in the long run.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, life, friendship, dancing, laughter, joy, companionship, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

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