Wednesday, September 10, 2014

To my students, on World Suicide Prevention Day

I am pretending to grade essays, while stealing a glance at the news and notice that today is an important day. World Suicide Prevention day.

Looking up from my essays, I pause to take in the flourish of activity around me. My juniors are in groups of 4, making posters to display the patterns of development they have just learned about. It is noisy, and no one is still. They are writing, drawing, looking for textual evidence, collaborating. It's a beautiful scene. I have only known them for going-on 4 weeks now, and they make me so proud.

Yet I know that one, at least one, of my students, who walks in and does their work and walks out, is hurting.

I won't always see the signs. No, the depressed are often masters of deception. I don't know if my class is a bright spot in their day, or the last fight to get through to get home, or somewhere in between.

But I know this much.

We lose 800,000 people each year to suicide--that translates to one death every 40 seconds. It is the second leading cause of death for ages 15-29.* It is far, far too many and we have waited far, far too long in order to address the problem.

These students, laughing, working together, seemingly happily building their posters, fall perfectly into that age group. We work frantically to ensure the best for them. We implement RTI strategies, teach SEL lessons, build school spirit, complete a Universal Screener to hopefully catch those students slipping through the cracks. But the truth of the matter is, for as many of these kids who may be hurting, few are easily identified. They are experts at hiding their darkness.
Master of Deception: I was far in the depth of
 PPPTSD, PPA and PPOCD here. Could you

I know how that darkness feels. I know from my teenage self, and my adult self. I have watched those I love deal with the wake of suicide, and I have been an outside observer as we lose those in the limelight to suicide.

I feel visceral reactions, now, to outcries of "HOW SELFISH" or "They had a family who loved them!" Or "weren't they thinking about how others would feel?"

Well, therein lies the problem. All you can do when you're depressed is think. It's like the page in "Oh, the Places You'll Go" where everyone is stuck in the waiting place, only with thinking. You think and you think and you think and your thoughts become so circular that they prove themselves before your very eyes. Your thoughts become so overwhelming, so powerful, that you have no choice but to believe them. Couple that with outside stressors, unsympathetic family or friends, and the "pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps" narrative of our culture, and you have a surefire recipe for disaster.  Those reactions are simply that--reactions. They are not proactive and they do not solve any future problems.

It's high time we get proactive. It's time we talk to our students, our kids, our family and our friends about mental illness. About depression. About dark times that we swore would never end. About solutions, about possibilities, about hope.

I look at these students, these precious students, all of whom are someone's baby. Someone held these kids and stroked their face lovingly and tickled their bellies, the same way I do with Clay on a daily basis. Every single one of these students matter. Every single person on this earth matters. And the fact that we have had to say goodbye to 800,000 this year, or 12 since I started typing this--it's too much to bear. We must cultivate a culture of acceptance, where people who are struggling feel safe to reach out, to cry out, to scream out, that they need help.

So, to my students, on World Suicide Prevention Day: Hear my voice. Hear me say that I am here for you. That other teachers are here for you. That our guidance staff and administration are here for you. And you, yes you, you any person thinking that suicide is your only option, you were a student once, too. You are someone's baby.

You matter. 

We need you here.

We will help however we can. Pick up the phone and call a hotline. Confide in a friend or a family member. Tell a teacher. Speak. Tell someone. You are not weak. You are strong.

To my students, on World Suicide Prevention Day: Be the light. Be a positive influence in your peers' lives. If you know that someone is struggling, reach out to them, and reach out for help--tell someone that you know they are contemplating suicide.

They may get mad at you. They might even hate you.

But you could save them. And that is worth it.

To my students, on World Suicide Prevention Day: I will not give up on you. I will not quiet my voice in a sea of apathy. I will make sure it is heard, and known, and LOUD, to show you that you are capable of the same. Let us band together, work together, and fight together. I know that together, we can protect your generation from another 800,000 losses.

"The power of one, if fearless and focused, is formidable, but the power of many working together is better."

If you need help, and you don't know where to start, start here. If you know someone struggling, you can call this number as well. 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 

*Facts taken from iasp

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Clayton Scott at 3 months

We are officially through the first quarter of Clayton's life! I can't believe it! Time is going by so quickly.

 My happy little boy with his snarl smile is growing and learning and changing!
He has officially mastered Tummy time, and doesn't hate it as much as he used to. Mainly because he knows how to get out of it if he wants, and can roll onto his back at his whimsy.

He loves loves LOVES his playmat and chatting to his friends, the lightening bug and the monkey. It is where he is happiest, and will last the longest. Like his sister did, he loves to kick his little feet in an imaginary array of dance steps. 

He is giggling like crazy at his silly daddy. He still hasn't giggled for Mommy :P But he is full of happy and smiles most of the day long. 

Clayton is more skittish and apprehensive than Evelyn ever was. He doesn't like moving quickly, or loud sounds, and is quick to cry in these moments. But he is easily consoled.

His biggest food reactions are dairy, gluten, eggs, and now citrus. He is limiting mama's diet, but it's totally worth it for that gummy grin. However, with his reflux meds and me cutting those things out, his tummy is much happier. 

He can reach for and hold things like a champ! He moved up to 3-6 size clothes about 2 weeks ago, and will likely move up to 6-9 before he hits 6 months. He's turning into a big fella! 

He sleeps swaddled, but somehow manages to break out just about nightly. His sleep is going quite well, but I Refuse to talk about it openly for fear of a jinx. 

I have been back at work for 7 full days now, and he has been at home with Daddy. Next Tuesday, he will start at his daycare center. I am slightly worried, but I am confident he will be ok because his best big sister will be there to look out for him. He adores looking at Evelyn, and especially loves when she talks to him or sings to him. She calls him her "special cute baby boy." 

Pumping is going well, and I am currently exceeding his needs, so that's great. 

I just love these kids so much. I could literally explode. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are.

If you have read other entries, you sort of know my story. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to share.

I feel compelled to share because I am in a place where I can. So I must be a voice for change.

When I was 13, I started high school, and I had a helluva time. I didn't fit in and I didn't know who I was and that first semester was just about the worst time of my life. Nothing made me happy, and I didn't think it would ever change.

I told my parents I wanted to die sometime that fall.

A short while later, I sat on the kitchen floor clutching a knife before the phone rang.

I don't know if I would have done it if the phone hadn't rang. I don't think I would have. But I know that for that time of my life, suicide was my only thought.

Some miraculous way, with no therapy or medicine, I got through that time. Life continued. Looking back now, I can identify other issues, and major anxiety problems, but I basically maintained. I found a lot of happiness, I moved across the country, I got married and I found a great job.

But somehow, that darkness crept back in.

I am thankful, looking back, for my husband's support, as well as a vocal community of women that I lovingly refer to nowadays as "my village." They pushed me to get help, to not settle. Suicide was not a thought I had, but there was no joy in my life. I tried some medication and didn't like it, and saw a therapist for a while and somehow, climbed through.

Through it though, I heard a lot of crappy things, like "you have everything you've wanted!" Or, "just CHOOSE to be happy." My mantra was a song lyric from "Wicked" that went:
No, I couldn't be happier
Though it is, I admit
The tiniest bit
Unlike I anticipated
But I couldn't be happier
Simply couldn't be happier
(spoken) Well - not "simply":
(sung) 'Cause getting your dreams
It's strange, but it seems
A little - well - complicated
There's a kind of a sort of a cost
There's a couple of things get: lost
There are bridges you cross
You didn't know you crossed
Until you've crossed
Because happy is what happens when all your dreams come true...
isn't it?

So then I felt like less of a person. Because I wasn't happy. Why couldn't I just be happy? I don't know. Because it's not really that easy, right?

I pushed on, and I found a happy place, until Evelyn was born. Her traumatic birth spiraled me into a place I had never been. Back to suicidal thoughts--what kind of mother and wife was I anyway? I only made life worse. Everything was scary and everything was dark and
Until one day there was.

So now, here I am, 15 years through three bouts of mental illness, and why am I ok?

I don't know. 

Not because I just DECIDED it though. Because no one decides to be miserable--not this way.

Not because I am STRONGER than anyone. I know people much stronger than I am. 

Not because I am more LOVED than anyone. People who take their lives are routinely loved, and the public figure we lost this week was VERY loved.

I just don't know.

But what I do know is that my voice, our voices, can do something about this. We can keep paying attention. We can be on the lookout. We can be a beacon of hope however we can be. 

We cannot keep our secrets. Secrets are what put us in this position. So there are my secrets. All over again, for the millionth time. And I'll keep sharing them, again and again, doing whatever I can. Standing up in the face of discouraging blame, letting people see that MY face is the face of mental illness.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Evelyn, you are THREE!

My dear sweet Evelyn,

Ashley Vos Photography
I write this a week after your birthday. As it turns out, life with work, and your brother, and basketball, and well, eating, is all quite busy and difficult to manage. I'm sorry I didn't write on your birthday, but I still have lots of love to shower upon you.

I can't really believe it, but we just celebrated your third birthday. Time has flown by, and you are turn into a thoughtful, gentle, spunky little girl, and are less like a baby every day. Your new haircut solidifies your "little girl-hood."

 You are nearly 38 inches tall, and 34 lbs. You are a tall, strong girl full of love. You love Doc McStuffins, Daniel Tiger, every movie you can get your hands on, and most of all, your little brother.

Evelyn, seeing you become a big sister has been one of my greatest joys. You love Clayton with reckless abandon. You always want him around, and you are never jealous of him. In fact, you are the opposite, and want to help him at the expense of your own fun time. It's heartwarming and adorable.

You are so very smart. You have long known your ABCs and 123s and colors, and now, are learning more complex things, like math, and music. You love to sing, and make up silly songs, and read books. You are a creative little girl who loves to color, paint, play with stickers, and help around the house.

You are a rockstar at school, and your teachers have nothing but glowing comments about you. You make us so very proud every single day.

These three years with you have been absolutely amazing. I am so thankful that you made me a mama, and I can't wait to see your personality continue to bloom.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Two months!

This happy little guy is two months old, and Mama is way behind on his post.

BUT SERIOUSLY look at that face. Is he not the most delicious little guy there is? I can barely stand it. I love him. 

Clayton is two months old. According to his two month appointment, he is 23.5 inches long and 12 lbs 14oz. He is an entire pound smaller than his sister, but interestingly situated because he is moving into 3-6 month sleepers. Not ALL his clothes, but sleepers. He has a small head--15.5 inches puts him in the mid 30%, where in height and weight, he is in the high 60s-70s. 

His personality is starting to emerge. He is still an observer--particular and passionate about what he wants and when. We have commented that he's needier than Evelyn, but it's not really needy. He doesn't willingly take a pacifier, and prefers to be held over all things. So in reality, he's just a baby. He has a great little smile, but we haven't heard a full laugh yet. 

His sleep is steadily improving. Last night, he went to bed at 8:30, woke up once at 3:30 and slept again until 8. That's one of his best nights. Usually he's up around 2 and again between 5 and 6. 

He has reflux :( And Larygomalacia. They exacerbate one another, so after a few weeks of trying to avoid meds, we tried one out and so far, it's ok. He also has a whole host of food intolerances, so I have cut dairy, wheat, sugar, soy, and recently eggs from my diet. I already super miss eggs. I'm on day 20 of a whole30, primarily to help him, and also to hopefully get rid of a few lbs before I go back to work. 

Evelyn's love for him hasn't changed at all. She's obsessed with him, and likely always will be. It's been really fun watching her help him, and step into her big sister role.

That's about it. He will get more interesting soon :)