How to “fix” the problem?

I came across this article recently. It relates to the concept that society can make an impact on suicide reduction by limiting the access to means to complete a suicide attempt. It even goes so far as a to state “ “You can reduce the rate of suicide in the United States substantially, without attending to underlying mental health problems, if fewer people had guns in their homes and fewer people who are at risk for suicide had access to guns in their home,” said Dr. Matthew Miller, a director of Harvard Injury Control Research Center and a professor of health sciences and epidemiology at Northeastern University.” Quite the idea that; just take guns away, no need to attend to the underlying mental health problems. That sentiment is scary in its ignorance.

The article has a point, I agree. Many suicide attempts are impulsive and a gun is much less variable in its surety to kill than pills or cutting. Where I disagree strongly with the argument made in this article is in its inference that most people who attempt suicide are doing so on a whim and if they can’t do it easily, with ready access to a lethal means, then the urge will just pass and they’ll be all fine. It’s not that simple or easy to deal with the matter of suicidality. If only it were.

Society gets stuck on the new flash in the pan that will be the easy cure-all for a tough and complex issue. We get caught up in the hype of something that is easy to “fix” – taking guns out of homes (as if that’s easy anyways) – and use that as a tool to stroke the proverbial ego of societal self; saying that we’re doing something to help… we’re doing something so that means we’re making it better… that’s good, isn’t it?

What about educating family practice doctors about mental health issues, warning signs, resources available in their communities and how and when to refer out when it’s over their heads to deal with? What about forcing the issue of funds and resources for the inadequate care facilities and trained practitioners to staff them? What about the putting actual counsellors in the schools, not just teachers with a few extra courses and a keen desire to help… and how about putting in enough of them so that you don’t have support staff with a workload of a few hundred students to “personally” counsel? What about funding for enough counselling services so that someone at risk who has finally asked for help isn’t told that it will be a few months before an appointment can be made? What about, what about, what about…

Getting care and help for mental health issues is such a diverse and multi-faceted issue that it’s not as simple as one or two things to “fix” it. Dialogue, discussion…yes, very needed and it helps but action is what is going to make a difference in the end. Much like actual suicide… someone may talk about it but it’s their action in the end that speaks the loudest. That’s what we need to change – that we, as a collective society and as a whole, listen – and act – before their action.

So how do we “fix” it? I wish I knew. I wish I didn’t feel that it’s futile and that no matter how much we talk, it won’t make a difference. So, I talk and I write, even when I think there’s no point and nothing will come of it.

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What grief takes

Grief takes a lot. It steals away parts of who you are in a way that few things can. The heaviness of loss buries parts of me so deeply now that I am starting to wonder if they will ever see the light of day again.

I miss the lightness of being that I used to experience. The feelings of freedom that used to be a part of my Self. Peace of mind … a term that I never really thought about until recently. I miss that. I have always been someone who feels everything deeply and, at times, harshly. I internalize a lot and always have. Yet, as much as there has always been things that sat heavy with me, that also meant that I felt the highs just as much. Grief, and the depression born from it, has left me wondering if the ease I rarely feel now is always going to be this elusive.

Years ago, when I was teaching Yoga and fitness classes, when I was in a marriage that was falling slowly apart and I felt I was suffocating under the stress and transitory hell, I used to find peace in movement. I would stay after my last class of the day… it was 9:30 at night by the time the last of the people would be gone and I had the studio to myself. The rest of the recreation centre was almost empty… just the few lifeguards left and building workers. I knew I had until pm when they would come to close up and kick me out. That was my time for my freedom and my time to fly.

Sometimes during those times, I would turn off all the lights in the studio except for the dimmed recessed lights…press play on the drum-heavy, beat driven music that made my spirit move … turn up the volume until I could feel the vibrations… close my eyes…breathe…and fly… I would dance and move, my worries would fall away, the stress would pour out of me like the sweat that ran off my body. I would push myself or let myself go as I felt I needed. Sometimes tears would come or smiles, whatever needed to come out, would. Panting and exhausted, I would slow and eventually find my way to the floor… stretching and feeling the peace as the music still pounded in my body. The calmness inside, powerful and soft all at once.

Other times I would move and flow in vinyasa. Either rhythmic primal beats of music or utter silence depending on my mind… Yoga to unite and bring ease to both my mind and my body in a different way than the dance did. This dance different…fluid and soft with edges of strength and stamina…endurance in both flexibility and ability. Feeling my muscles as they supported and held my body is gruelling postures, the strength resonating from the inside out. Embracing the softness of muscles as they found release and ease in the yin as I sought and found that opposite shore of my practice.

Both opposing rituals brought me the same calming. The same lightness that I needed to be able to balance the heaviness in my life.
I look back to the last three years and find a handful of moments that I’ve experienced that, within them, I have found that freedom. Only a handful. Fleeting and so loosely grasped. Gone so quickly and so spontaneously found. Enough though… enough to let me see, when I really look at them, that the ability to feel that is still there.

Grief clouds and eclipses so much, and hope is a casualty of it that still manages to hold on… however tenuously.

When you can dream while awake…

You know that saying, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone? Well, sometimes, you don’t really know until you get it back.

Experiencing that this week with a book. Ever since Willie died, I have had a struggle with reading. For the first year, I very literally could not read more than a paragraph – and even that was a challenge – while retaining the information. Books were an impossibility. Magazines became picture books to me; flipping pages, scanning insipid articles and picking out phrases to gather the content. Online articles I would start reading only to flick off of within a few seconds. Reading for pleasure; the joy of picking up a book and disappearing, gone.

All of my life I have been a reader. Plunk me down in a used book store or a library and I am in my happy place. Like a child in front of a sundae buffet whose eyes are bigger than its tummy, my thirst for books was greater than any reasonable amount of time I had to read. I kept (and keep) a list of books to read, authors to peruse and subjects to hunt down. I have an open note in my phone that is constantly added to for just that purpose. Suffice to say, I love to read. Loved. Love.

About a year ago I started trying to start reading again. Short stories, old ones that I had read before and that I knew I enjoyed… authors that I knew had a knack for drawing me in within those first pages. Making it easy on myself. It worked somewhat. I could make it through a story of a few pages in length. Usually having to re-read paragraphs here and there, but getting by. But the novels I tried… I’m not even sure how many books I took out from the library, renewed, renewed again…. finally returned, mostly unread. With each one, getting more and more disappointed that my escape and retreat was gone it felt like.

Then a couple of months ago, I finished a book. It wasn’t great and I had to really push myself and to be honest, I skimmed through a lot of it. But I finished it. That alone made me smile. I started reading a new book. As usual, the first few pages, my brain jumped all over again. I have a running background of chatter and visuals and just everything that is a constant since Willie died. It’s like a game of ping pong gone haywire with extra balls and bouncy walls. Usually I can dilute it with focus and attention on a “must-do” but reading for pleasure doesn’t rank up there so… the mind skitters and jumps and hides in corners while my eyes try to relay the words to the brain and have it all make sense… is there any wonder it doesn’t click together?

I pushed through, a couple of pages here, a couple there over a week or so. Then it caught. I was sitting and thinking that I couldn’t wait to find out what happened. I actually *wanted* to pick up the book and read.

It has been so long since I’ve felt that urgency while reading. The all-consuming I can’t wait until I get pick up that book and be back inside that story…the feeling while reading that my eyes can’t move fast enough to get the words to my mind to bring them to life and create the visions… to be the fly on the wall drinking in the unfolding, developing tale until it’s done … skimming the sentences to get them in then forcing myself to slow and savour…wanting it to come to fruition and climax yet so desperately not wanting it to ever end because it’s SO good….

So, enough writing for tonight… I have 70 pages left to read in that book and I can bang that off before I sleep…who needs sleep anyways, when I can dream awake in the pages of my book.

For what won’t be

There is a sentiment that says that to mourn for what you never had is pointless. That grief for losing something that never was is just ridiculous self-inflicted misery. I’ve had people, over the last few years since Willie died, tell me that sadness over what he could have been or who he would have been is just useless cruelty to myself. That mourning over what never was is just inflicting unnecessary pain on myself.

But ask any parent who has lost a child, no matter what age, and the simplicity of it is… what is your child but the potential of who they will be?

When a child dies, you lose not only who and what they are but you also lose the promise, the potential, the “someday”. It’s not fantasy grief, it’s real and tangible. It’s not wallowing and drawing out the pain by imagining what you lost…it’s experiencing the very fact that there will be no realization of who that child will become.

As I was hiking and talking with one of Willie’s brothers this past weekend it struck me how much I love being with him. What a truly neat and interesting young man he is. His sense of humour and his tangents of conversation that make me roar with laughter or groan and roll my eyes at him. I thought back to when he was a baby and toddler…what he was like as a little boy and as a teenager, not too many years ago. I looked back and I remembered thinking “I wonder what he’ll be like?”. Now I know. He’s awesome. As is his older brother and his other younger brother.

So I mourn for what will never be. I think back and remember. I hold close to me the other parents who I know who grieve for the potential person their child will never grow to become. Because that’s part of who they are…who they would have become… who they are now, still with us. Always.