Storms rolled into our little town yesterday. The weather brought on a migraine and I spent most of my day sleeping it off. After I awoke I decided to watch the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. I was skeptical of the show after having experienced two suicides in my family within mere months of each other. Could a show really explain or make you feel what leads to a decision like that? Could a show really demonstrate the tragic grief left behind after such an act? I read all the articles from schools and concerned parents that said it was intense, graphic, and people shouldn’t watch if they are fragile. I am here writing this today to tell all of you nay-sayers that you are part of the problem. Not talking about it is the problem. Not talking is how we end up here grieving the loss of a loved one, friend, or acquaintance to suicide. The show depicts the 13 reasons why one girl chose to take her own life. I can honestly say there were many more reasons than that. A series of small reasons building into an overwhelming tidal wave that takes a person under. A tidal wave that makes death seem like a comfort; a wave of solace in a never ending sea of reasons why. We blame each other. We blame the dead person. We blame ourselves. We blame the reasons. Yet, we never really talk about it. Is it the stigma? Is it because we know that just like the people receiving the tapes in the show that maybe we are all just a part of the problem. We isolate each other. We spread lies and hate, even the ones that pretend to be such religious fanatics participate in their own way. We worry more about what people think of us than what we think of ourselves. We mask our depression behind fake smiles and hollow “I’m fine”‘s. We are zombies walking around dead and rotting inside. I say we, because I am guilty too.
My brother came to me a week before his death. I knew something was wrong. I can’t explain the bond we had to you, because I still don’t understand it to this day. I had let my stupid ego keep me from trying again and again to be there for him. We hadn’t spoken in months before that night when he came to me in tears over his reasons why. I went after the girl that lived with him, because I was angry and wanted to blame her for the problems he was having. I was part of the problem though too. We all are. You see instead of just letting him know that he wasn’t alone and that sometimes its ok to not be ok. I got really focused on the reasons and trying to fix them. Truth is there were too many. Some reasons I couldn’t fix even if I wanted to. He was my brother, but also a stranger at that time. I was so worried about my own issues for so long that I missed the warning signs. They are clear as day in hindsight. My brother walked away from his fiance of 8 years for some girl he worked with that he barely knew. He was stealing from work, selling drugs, binge drinking, not paying his bills, and always changing his appearance. He went from loving his fiance to driving 4 hours to cheat on her with some girl. Instead of confronting the problem head on, I rescued Shelby. Turns out she didn’t need me as badly as he did. He needed a life line. Someone to reach out into that dark stormy sea and grab his hand. He came to me and told me everything that had been piling up in the months we hadn’t talked. He told me about the miscarriage that devastated him, the mortgage that was months behind, the new baby on the way that might not be his, the lies he told about Shelby, and the girl who was destroying him. I hope you didn’t think this was an apology Anna. It’s not! I’ve decided to only deal in the facts and not let you destroy me like you did him. If only SC had a law for what you did, then you’d be in jail and I’d have justice for Shaun. Your actions are inexcusable, but I’d like to believe you already have a hard time looking in the mirror and sleeping at night. I could tell the world how you made fun of him for seeking help. How you continued to play mind games with him when you already knew how bad things were. He told you that he’d tried to kill himself before. He told you before anyone else how depressed he was and yet you did nothing. The difference in us is…. He told me he was fine. He asked me to back off of you, so he could talk to you. I trusted you to be there for him. I trusted you to seek help and well…. look where that got me.
So now…. I will tell the world. NOT TALKING IS PART OF THE PROBLEM. Suicide is ugly and scary and painful. It’s taking our loved ones like a thief in the night and it is 100 % preventable if we talk about it. I am so sick of being asked to be quiet. I am so sick of hearing I don’t want to talk about that. I am so sick of being told to move on and let go. I am even sicker of hearing that I need to heal. I am done pretending to be ok for anyone else! I am well aware that nothing will bring Shaun back. I am well aware that I am depressed and have anxiety. Can you blame me? Are you part of my problem? Have you said anything to me that you would regret being turned into a movie like this? If so, you are part of the bigger problem too. You are one of many reasons on my list why suicide could be an option, but stop worrying. I won’t kill myself. I have too much to live for and kids who need me to change the world for them, before the world changes them. I won’t give in. I won’t stop talking! You won’t destroy me or my family! You’ve tried and tried to break me, but have only made me stronger. Get ready world I am coming for you!
At 324 lbs, this word describes not only my physical state, but my mental state as well. I gave up soda in December and haven’t lost any weight. I stuck to clean eating pretty well until my brother’s death in February and I guess when people don’t know what to say they opt to feed you. My darling husband gave up Mountain Dew for Dr. Pepper and lost 20 lbs. He chews tobacco, because my asthma and our son’s forced him to quit smoking. He eats whatever he wants, even the occasional whole jar of green olives (*gag*), but I am the one overweight with high blood pressure. I bet you are picturing someone who sits and eats all day, but you’d be wrong. I’m the worst at remembering to feed myself. I feed the husband, the kids, the animals. Somehow I forget that I should eat regularly too. So by 8 pm when I am starving I opt for convenience and microwave a ready made sandwich or I snack until I fall asleep somewhere around 3 am. I had my gallbladder removed after the birth of my daughter so many foods have been off limits for awhile. I may not have the pain, but one wrong food and I am still just as sick as I was before. surgery. Where has the 130 lb me of the past gone? I realize that I am 12 years older and have had 3 kids, but I miss that girl. I miss her ability to walk miles, swim lap after lap, work all day and not be tired. Life can’t be lived in the past though. We only have the present. I will be 30 in a couple years and I don’t want to be my present self at age 30. I don’t want to be the butt of the joke anymore or the mommy with no energy. I want to find where I left that 130 lb me and live my life fully with no regrets. That means losing 194 lbs over the next 2 years. That means telling the world my weight and really making the changes needed to be a happier and healthier me. So share with me your tips: what worked for you, what do you do to live a healthier life, and most importantly what motivates you to keep going?
I took a break from writing after my brother’ death to focus on my family and getting through the grief. A month later our family was struck by another tragedy as my 2nd cousin took her life leaving behind kids and grand-kids. I felt the familiar downward spiral begin as I began going through the what ifs. What if our family is cursed? What if I could be next? What if we aren’t doing enough to prevent these things? I could go on, but that would be an intensely boring post.
As if I wasn’t dealing with enough, I decided to weigh myself only to realize I had gained back 14 lbs of the baby weight I worked so hard to lose. Let me make it clear that when things are crazy the only person in this house that gets neglected is me. I make everyone else’s meals and doctor appointments. I even stress about the dogs having enough food and whether they need to see the vet. I neglect myself and the spiral deepens. I gain weight. I eat late at night. I skip my doctor and therapy appointments because I really don’t need the lecture right now when I feel like I am doing all I can. I stop showering. I start sleeping later and later. I withdraw from the outside world.
I avoided the 2nd holiday, but first family holiday since my brother’s passing. I just couldn’t bring myself to face the stress and the stark reminder of his passing. While in the moment this felt great, the guilt wasn’t far behind. It seems to linger just in the back these days and I can feel guilty for something as simple as an extra 5 minutes in the shower. My husband notices something is wrong, my best friend notices something is off, and my kids are definitely feeling the change. I ignore it. I play it off and before I know it I haven’t showered in 2 weeks, I don’t want to get out of bed, and here I am lost in the darkness once again. Once again, I am taking baby steps. Learning to forgive myself for the mistakes. Learning that I can’t take care of everyone else if I keep putting myself last. Learning that sometimes what is good for you isn’t always going to make everyone else happy. Starting over yet again.
My husband Charley and I met working at a local pizza place when I was just 15. I was the waitress and he was the grill cook. If you are expecting some high-school sweetheart story, let me squash that thought now. He wasn’t exactly “my type” back then. Hindsight is 20/20 though and I wish I had seen the great man he was then. He was always a great friend through the next 4 years of my life. At 19 with a daughter of my own from a previous relationship, I was overwhelmed by the thought of being a single mother. I broke down and prayed that God would send me someone different, someone to love not only me for who I am, but my child as well. Little did I know at the time Charley was praying for someone to settle down with and that he always thought he would marry me from the first time he met me. We reconnected via AOL instant messenger and it wouldn’t be long after that we went on the worst first date of my life. Charley showed up 45 minutes late to our movie date, and while I was annoyed I was willing to give it a chance. Throughout our date he was busy texting someone else; I would later learn that it was his sister. Growing more angry by the minute, I agreed to go to a party after the movie, thinking at least there would be free alcohol and a rare chance to be a normal 19 year old. This party turned out to be a 15 year old’s birthday party and with one phone call about my daughter not feeling well, I rushed home. I wasn’t quick to return his phone call after that, but suddenly found myself missing that human connection and gave in to a second chance. Our next date while still strange, because he was accompanying me to an eye doctor appointment, turned out to be just the day we needed. On May 17th we committed to being exclusive. July 4th after caring for me during my gallbladder surgery Charley proposed and we started the whirlwind known as our life together. We moved into a rental house and began our life as a family of three. The next few months introduced me to the life of the boilermaker girlfriend as Charley had to leave for an outage in West Virginia, while I remained home with my daughter attending college and working through a custody battle.
On October 24th 2008, I was told by my attorney that I would have to get married, give up custody of Jess, or move out of our house that we’d worked so hard to make a home. On October 26th, Charley made the journey home from West Virginia and we were married. Fast forward almost 9 years, and we have our own home, two sons, 5 dogs, a roommate we love dearly.
Charley was able to finish the Boilermaker apprenticeship at around the same time I finished my college degree. We have had our ups and downs over these past years, but still hold to the belief that we are soulmates. I joke that I am a highly paid single mother, because I am most often home alone with our kids as he works outages across the East Coast and don’t always give him credit for how hard it is for him as well. I saw clearly through this tragedy just how much of a blessing in my life Charley has been.Over the past 3 years, Charley and I faced devastating losses beginning with the loss of his beloved mother that July, followed shortly by our unborn baby, and his uncle who was also our pastor at our church. We are now dealing with the suicide of my beloved 24 year old brother who passed away just over a month ago. Charley rushed home after being up all night on the phone with me, to be by my side through the coming week, as I was forced to say goodbye to my brother. He has held me when I’ve broken down, come to countless therapy and doctor appointments, taken over the care of our children and house all while supporting me as I work through the grief. I have seen that man step up and be strong for both of us when I didn’t even have the strength to get out of bed. I have recently made an effort to never take him for granted again. He’s not only an amazing husband, my best friend, but also an incredible father who loves our three kids with everything in him. He always makes sure that we know he loves us and wants to be here with us even when work causes him to travel far away. He has worked countless hours to ensure the kids and I have everything we need while I transitioned to being a stay at home mother. So to the man who has always taken care of me, been there through everything, seen me fail and still pushed me to keep going… I love you more than life itself and I am grateful for you each and everyday. Forever and Always Baby!
When we experience trauma we seek out help via 911. We head for the nearest hospital. We are normally injured and the wounds are visible. We’ve experienced a natural disaster, a car accident, a fire, an act of terrorism, or an act of war. My brother’s suicide on February 8th was traumatic for my whole family. The sound of my baby brother’s voice so frantic coming through the speaker of Shelby’s cellphone, the terror in Shelby’s eyes, and the pop of a gunshot forever etched in my mind. These memories all painful and chilling like that of nails down a chalk board and sometimes they come sudden and sharp like a knife plunged into your chest. I remember clearly calling 911 that night and the flood of feelings that followed. Moments frozen in time like still shots in my brain. The days that followed all to long and sudden at the same time. A haze of gut wrenching decisions and emotions that spread like cancer. My brother was rushed to a local trauma center that night, but ultimately would not survive his self-inflicted gunshot wound. The visible wounds; easily explained to the outsiders. The pain of those visible wounds easily understood. The aftermath for those left behind brings about a different kind of trauma and no one seems to understand. What do we do with a wound that’s killing us, but no one else can see? Where do we go for help for those wounds that aren’t bleeding, broken, or bruised? Who do we turn to when we are drowning in a tidal wave of feelings and emotions we cannot control? Humans tend to like things to be simple; black and white. Suicide doesn’t work that way. It’s full of messy gray areas that are complex and hard to understand. Sure I’m grieving, and that’s completely normal even understandable. I am also more terrified of my anxiety and depression than ever, full of rage directed at everyone and no one all at the same time, confused, guilt-ridden, and relieved. I am relieved that he’s no longer hurting, no longer wasting away in the hospital bed on the ventilator, and no longer battling demons inside his head and those present in his life. I’m confused about why he felt the need to choose such a permanent solution to temporary problems, why his ex-girlfriend who was living with him at the time didn’t seek help at all that night, and why he left Shelby who loved him so deeply for someone so cold and calculating. I am mad at everyone for their condolences and also at those people I didn’t feel were here for me when I needed them most. I am mad at the world for the rumors circulating our little town. I feel guilty for not saving him from “that girl”, the pain he was feeling, and mostly from that entire night. The panic attacks have been so much worse since all this happened, because now I not only deal with whatever event triggered them, but I am paralyzed in fear by the attack itself. I fear the dark days that seem so frequent right now. I had sought help for my own mental issues about a year ago and continue to do so. In many ways my brother’s suicide makes me feel as if I am starting over on my journey and somehow farther down that path all at the same time. I am terrified that my own inner demons will lead me to that same choice despite seeking help. How do we know when the trauma is over and its safe to come out from our hiding spot?
Let me introduce you to our crew of dogs.
Ziggy is our resident Border Collie. He’s actually Shelby’s dog, but loved by us all. Ziggy enjoys long naps, sunbathing, and food.
Meet Snuggles! Snuggles is our first family dog and a black lab pit mix. He enjoys the outdoors, wallowing like a pig in the mud, and water of all kinds.
Zoey is a Shih Tzu- Chihuahua mix and the unquestionable Queen of the house. Zoey enjoys being the boss, hiding snacks under mom’s pillow, and sleeping all day.
Zeus is the baby of the house and a black lab. He enjoys running wild, food of all kinds, and lots of attention.
Storm is the newest member of our house and a stranger by no means. She is a playful and loving black lab that belonged to my baby brother. While I’ve always loved her, she now brings me an unexplained joy and comfort. Storm loves playing with her toys, never-ending games of fetch, and being the center of attention.
That’s right if you’ve been counting, we have 5 dogs. They all have their own unique personalities and add to our family in their own way. I wouldn’t trade the constant mess of mud and fur for anything. I love them all! When I am sad or anxious, they each show more care and concern than most people I have met. They are our fur babies!
The definition of me time as found on Google is:
time spent relaxing on one’s own as opposed to working or doing things for others, seen as an opportunity to reduce stress or restore energy.
“schedule some me time when you get home”
As a mom of three children under the age of 10, I found this concept to be foreign to me when suggested by my therapist almost a year ago. Where was this magical time where no one needed anything from me and I could do something solely for my own pleasure? Where has this moment been hiding where the kids aren’t fighting, hungry, or have a dirty diaper ? How had this magical “me time” eluded me for so long? When did I turn from Brittany into just mommy or Charley’s wife? We are all guilty of it, at least all moms that I know, we sacrifice ourselves in favor of creating a happy home. We forget to eat, we definitely don’t sleep, and most days we live in yesterday’s makeup and yoga pants. We squeak by like zombies through life. We sacrifice our mental well being and general health overall for the sake of a happy home. It baffles me that it took a therapist and my family doctor telling me to create some space and time for myself for me to actually get the concept. We know that for our kids to function they need to eat and sleep properly. We allow our husbands to come home from work to clean clothes, hot meals, and a seat on the sofa. We know that for the car to go it needs proper maintenance and a full tank of gas. We know that for our electronics to run they need to be charged. So why is that we expect ourselves to function as moms and wives without that same need to be rested, fueled, and charged? Sometimes me time is a 15 minute shower at 6 am, a 5 minute phone call outside on my deck to a friend, or just 10 minutes of deep breathing to keep this mommy from spewing fire like a dragon. Then there are the rare blissful moments of “me time” on an all day all girl’s shopping trip, an hour long candle lit bubble bath, or a 30 minute trip to caffeine fueled nirvana at Starbucks. Cut yourself a break! I see you out there struggling just like me and all ready feeling guilty for even thinking about it. However, I promise you that the house will still be dirty, the husband will still need something, and the kids will survive even if you take some time for yourself.