Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Suicide Intervention via Anonymous App

I found this article today, and thought it was interesting. We always talk about the bad side of anonymity on the internet, but here's a vote for the good side. There is an app called Yik Yak where college students can anonymously post their suicidal thoughts, and they are finding support instead of criticism.

Do you think apps like this are a good idea? Are these people potentially opening themselves up to more hurt, or are they courageous for speaking up?

Until the suicide taboo is gone and people feel comfortable talking about these feelings in person, I think this is a great safe way to find someone who will listen and respond. I just hope that the commenters can keep things friendly and that the depressed person who posted their thoughts is able to find the help they need.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Disneyland Dad

I often heard my mom refer to my dad as a “Disneyland Dad.” What she meant was that he didn’t raise or discipline my brother and me after their divorce; he’d just pick us up for visitation, take us out for fun and games, and then drop us back at home. She didn’t mean this as an insult. It came up whenever we got mad at her and threatened to move in with Dad. “You’d still have to do chores at your dad’s house. Living with him is much different from visiting him,” she’d explain.

This past weekend, my sister- and brother-in-law came to visit, and the subject of Disneyland came up. My brother-in-law Bill talked about going to Disney World a week and a half after his dad died of cancer. His dad had always wanted to go to Disney World with the family, and the trip was planned, but he didn’t make it. Bill said it was a good way to honor and mourn him, to have the family all together having a good time.

The summer I was visiting Utah to take care of my dad after the stroke, my grandpa had a TIA (transient ischemic attack a.k.a. a mini-stroke). He made a full recovery fairly quickly. Thank God it was a minor stroke and not as devastating as my dad’s, but I lay in bed that entire day. How much more could my family take? My friend Erica brought me a grilled cheese sandwich from Sconecutter and watched TV with me. A documentary on Disney World came on, and she said, “You deserve something happy after all you’ve been through. Sometime in the next year, we’re going to Disneyland.” Hell yeah! We decided to go next fall during the off-season to avoid the summertime crowds.

Well...five months later my dad committed suicide. I don’t remember how the details of our Disneyland trip formed, but a year later there I was with my new husband, Erica, and her husband. November was the perfect time of year for Disneyland. The weather wasn’t too hot, the lines were non-existent, and it was the first time I’d been there since I was a teenager. It was a blast! It was more fun than I expected it to be. Erica and I promised each other we’d come back here together every five years.

It was also a difficult time for me. It was a month after the first anniversary of my dad’s suicide and my wedding. My husband and I bought our first home the previous summer and we had just decided to try for kids. There was a lot going on. Between the rides and laughter, I’d cry for a few moments. I knew my dad would want me to have fun. I deserved to have fun, damn it! I worked hard for that fun, but I felt guilty having it. I felt like Dad should’ve been there with me. This was a Disneyland Dad I wasn’t prepared for.

That trip was almost five years ago. I’m no longer in touch with Erica, though she has a daughter now and I heard she’s getting divorced. My husband and I now have a daughter and we’re living in the same house. The past two years have been amazing, but the three years following that trip continued to be a nightmare that started with the stroke. If I still talked to Erica, we’d be planning our second Disneyland trip for this fall.

I’m going to go to Disneyland again. Probably not with Erica, but I have earned and deserved to have happiness in my life. It’s the moments of pain and sorrow that make the joy and laughter even more memorable. Disneyland is one of the happiest places on Earth for me, but it will also be one of the saddest because I will always think of my dad when I go there. That’s ok, because it’s just as important to be sad as it is to be happy.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Article: Why does Japan have such a high suicide rate?

This is an interesting article about how suicide is viewed in Japan. It doesn't have the same stigma there as it does here in the west. Some view it as the responsible thing to do when you can no longer provide for yourself or your family. This could be a big reason why the suicide rate is three times higher there than in the United States. Another possible reason is that depression and mental illness are highly taboo in Japan. And if you are brave enough to seek help, the treatment isn't all that good.

This article got me thinking that maybe we have it wrong. Maybe the suicide stigma here in the west is saving lives. It makes it harder for the survivors, but if suicide was an acceptable way to die would the suicide rates in this country go up? And would it be easier on the survivors because then suicide would be seen as natural? I wish the article talked about how the suicide survivors felt. It's one thing to believe that suicide is acceptable, but another thing to experience it. It's a violent way to lose someone which can lead to trauma.

Or is our suicide rate lower in this country because of better mental health treatment? The care in the United States isn't anywhere near where it needs to be, but the stigma of mental illness is slowly disappearing and the insurance companies are being asked to provide better coverage for it. Will this help lower suicide rates?

There's always the question of whether it's possible to have a 0% rate. If someone truly wants to do die, is there any way to stop them? If you've ever suffered from depression, you'll understand that you can feel lonely even when standing in a room full of people who love you and want to help you. You don't see the help, you feel like a burden, you feel like no one would care if you're gone, and you feel hopeless that anything in the world could make you feel better. That's not necessarily about stigma, that's about brain biology. Even if there was no stigma, depressed people don't always have the insight, energy, or desire to get better. 

There are other possible reasons for the high suicide rate in Japan mentioned in the article. It's interesting to me that there are billions of people in the world living and surviving billions of different life events. Maybe there is no perfect culture or perfect way to live. No matter our differences in wealth, family, and friends, we're still all the same in that some of us feel we just can't handle life's hardships.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Article: What My Dad's Suicide on Father's Day Taught Me About Life

I thought I’d share this article I found titled What My Dad’s Suicide on Father’s Day Taught Me About Life. It says a lot of the same things as my last post titled Another Father’s Day, about how losing my dad makes me grateful that my daughter has her dad. It also talks about how losing a father to suicide is different from losing a dad to natural causes.

What has the suicide of your loved one taught you about life?


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Another Father's Day

Another Father’s Day has come and gone. This was my sixth Father’s Day since I lost my dad, but it was different in a major way. This year instead of focusing on my dad, I focused on the new dad in my life – my husband. This was his first Father’s Day. (Not technically, but it feels like a first because last year our daughter was only a few months old, and we didn’t feel like celebrating anything. We were just trying to survive!) We didn’t have a huge celebration, but we had a good day together as a family.

I was thinking today about how lucky my daughter is to have a dad like my husband. I know he will always take care of her. That doesn’t mean he won’t make mistakes or let her down occasionally, but I am confident that he will never let her down in the huge way my dad did when he committed suicide. He will always be there for her, never abandon her, or intentionally put her in harm’s way. I see his love for her in their every interaction, and she runs to the door to greet him when she hears him come home from work.

It’s scary to think about all the things my daughter might have to face over her lifetime. I pray every single night that she will not have to go through any of the trials I’ve gone through, and that she can keep her childlike innocence. My husband is not like me. He’s had an easy life, very little to complain about. Not me. I could fill several blogs with all the stuff I’ve been through, but I find our opposition comforting. Our daughter is growing up with an optimistic dad and a realistic mom. She’ll have a dad who will encourage her to be the best she can be, and a mom who will understand her when she encounters roadblocks. When I tell her that her bad times will get better, I can say it with confidence.

I also pray that my daughter doesn’t lose her father prematurely. I hope that every day she knows how lucky she is to have him, and that she’ll appreciate all the things he has done for her. I know that’s not the way of kids. We all grow up and hate our parents and blame all our problems on them, but one day, I hope she finds a wonderful man who will be an amazing father to her kids just like her dad was to her.

And I hope that the man she finds is also as loving and as amazing of a man as my father. Now that I have a child, I can get a glimpse of the love he must have felt for me. It makes it harder to understand why he would chose to put me through such pain if he loved me so much, but I can also understand that maybe he saw his choice as an act of love. He probably thought he was sparing me from the pain he’d put me through if he stayed alive. I’ll never know.

I love my father will all my heart. How he died isn’t going to change that. He lived an honorable life, and he deserves recognition for all the sacrifices he made hoping to give his daughter a good life. Other than his suicide, none of the trials I have had were in any way his fault. In fact, I have him to thank for raising me to be resilient and forgiving. He was my safe spot to land when I needed him.

Thank you for being my dad! Thanks to my husband for being a wonderful dad! And Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!