Reasons Why?

Reasons Why?

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!

Trauma

Trauma

 

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?

Introducing the Fur Babies

Let me introduce you to our crew of dogs.sir-ziggy

Ziggy is our resident Border Collie.  He’s actually Shelby’s dog, but loved by us all.  Ziggy enjoys long naps, sunbathing, and food.

 

snuggles

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.

 

queen-zoey

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

Zeus is the baby of the house and a black lab.  He enjoys running wild, food of all kinds, and lots of attention.

 

storm-2

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!

Finding Me Time

Finding Me Time
The definition of me time as found on Google is:
me time
noun

informal
  1. 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”

 

lake-cherokee

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.

How do I…?

How do you continue on in life when you still feel broken?  How do you stick all the shattered pieces of your heart back together?   It’s been 5 days since Shaun’s funeral, 8 days since he passed away, and 13 days  have passed since the last phone call.  The visitors and food deliveries have all stopped.  The condolences have creeped down to a bare minimum.  The flowers still fill my parent’s home making it smell like a funeral parlor.  Life is moving on around us, but I  am still struggling with going out in public. I feel like people are all talking about  our family or looking at us with pity.  Anger is spreading like wildfire and I can’t seem to find an appropriate target.  I am not even sure there is an appropriate target for the rage burning inside of me. I desperately want to feel normal again, but is that even realistic for someone that has been through  such a traumatic loss.  Will there ever be such a thing as “normal” again?

To the Girl Who Claims to Love My Brother

To the Girl Who Claims to Love My Brother

Let’s start here… I am heart broken.  I am traumatized by the last call from February 8th.  I struggle to eat, sleep, and go forth each day.  I miss my baby brother with every cell in my body.  I feel helpless and lost.  My  job was to protect him and I couldn’t save him from you or himself.

lake-cherokee

To the girl who claimed to love him,

Where were you when he showed up at my house late at night in tears because of another fight with you? Where were you when he beat and broke his way into the gun safe?  Why wasn’t 911 called then? Where were you when he placed that final call to Shelby?  Where were you when we begged him to put the gun down and not do this?  Where were you when I called 911 and begged them to send help fast?  Where were you each day that I sat vigil beside his bed in the hospital watching my family grieve?  Where were you as they struggle with more questions than answers?  Where were you  and his best friend while we sat and received countless visitors at the receiving of friends? Where were you at the end of the funeral when everyone hugged us and showed support during the darkest most painful time in our lives?  Where were your real tears when no one was watching?  Where is your grief and pain as you cleaned out the house before the scene was cleaned up and before he had even died?  Do these questions sound like the actions of someone who loved him so much?  No.  You didn’t love him like he loved you then and you don’t love him now.  You claim we only want the materialistic things, but you forget that is all we have left.  It’s the only way to feel him close and to smell his cologne one more time.  I just came from that house that you claimed to share.  No trace of you anywhere.  I can see him and Shelby in the paint colors and the shelving for the coupon supplies.  I see them in that bed that they  bought together.  I see them in the pillows and the other half of them that are here at my house on her bed. I see them in his wedding band that now sits on my finger.  I see them in the NY and Paris pictures that hang on my walls.  I see them in that whole place as we helped to remodel it and make it their home. You are right.  He did love you. He told us so.  He also couldn’t understand why cooking for you, cleaning for you, loving your girls, caring for your girls, running your baths, and buying you flowers weren’t enough for you to love him back. He needed you to save him and you might as well have pulled the trigger.  My heart breaks each time I see you because I should have been able to protect him.  I should have been able to save him from a heartless girl like you, but I couldn’t.  He begged you.  He needed you.  You turned your back and brought this nightmare to life for us all. You use that baby you are carrying as a pawn in a cruel cruel game.  You use it to gain sympathy, but it doesn’t work with me.  I see and know the real you.  The heartless you.  The one who ignored my cries for help.  The one who ran away that night  instead of help him. It should be you who is gone from our life.  I’d trade your life in an instant for his cruel girl. I won’t let you trash my family.  I won’t let you steal our memories.  I couldn’t save him and the nightmares haunt me each night because of that.  I can save us! I will save us from the evil that is you.

 

 

 

Shaun Douglas July 15, 1992- February 13, 2017

Shaun Douglas July 15, 1992- February 13, 2017

Let me start by saying if you or someone you know has been contemplating suicide, please get help.  Your life is worth something!  You are more than your disease.  You aren’t making the pain go away, but simply adding it to someone else close to you.  This is a permanent solution to temporary circumstances! You are loved more than you know!  JUST KEEP GOING! 

shaun-forever

My baby brother was born on July 15th, 1992 in Middletown, NY arriving two weeks late and very much on his own terms.  You see,  he was supposed to be a baby sister, but a full two weeks late here came an 10 lb 13 oz baby boy.  We are three years apart and your typical siblings.  A life  filled with  love, fights, so many pranks, and a support that only comes from siblings born close in age.  The memories and the pain are flooding in as I currently write.  Riding atvs through the corn field with our grandmother and spotting the black bear with her cubs, picnicking on our rock in the middle of the Beaverkill River, picking blueberries on top of the hill, so many family trips with our grandparents, moving to South Carolina when we were young, our first move into our own house and getting separate rooms for the first time, and so many more memories.  Shaun was an avid New York Yankees fan, a lover of the New England Patriots, a Greenville Swamp Rabbits season pass holder, and a duck hunting fiend.   His greatest loves include his lifted black f150, his black lab Storm, and of course Shelby in that exact order.  Although him and Shelby had separated on his birthday last year, we all knew that their love was eternal.  Soulmates divided by pride and torn apart by the baggage of the past.

February 8th, 2017 with one 11:30 phone call my world crashed to the ground and shattered.  The precarious balance of antidepressants and intense therapy work destroyed.  Shaun called Shelby who lives with me to say  goodbye.  Pure pain and terror came through my bedroom door that night.  Begging for help.  The final “I love you” and the sound of a gun shot ring out in my nightmares now as clear as the very first night.   Each morning after, waking up at 3 am in a cold sweat, heart racing, and mind-blowing pain taking over everything.  Panic settles in and I feel late for the hospital even though I  logically know that Shaun’s battle ended in the early morning hours of February 13th.  He became an angel and a hero that morning.  We chose to honor his wishes and donate everything we were able.  58 lives touched by his gift. 58 people who will live on with a piece of my baby brother inside.

Much like the rambling of this post, the emotions come and go, minute by minute more questions than answers swirl in my brain. I struggle to go on. I struggle to make sense of it all. I question the reality of the situation, but one glance at a fresh tattoo on my wrist reminds me that this is happening and things must go on. Life slows down and stops for no one.   A constant sea of visitors, condolences, and food fill these days.  The always same, “What can I do?” asked repeatedly.  From one grief stricken family to another, here is what you can do:

Love your family whole-heartedly flaws and all.

Get help if you are depressed or struggling with any mental illnesses.

Live each day fully.

Be grateful.

Be present in the moments.

Make memories.

JUST KEEP GOING!