Sunday, May 1, 2016

Freedom

Thanks to the On This Day feature on Facebook, I realize that I officially left teaching two years ago, today. In the two years that have followed, I had a job and then lost it (still  for unknown reasons).  I have lost all but $300 and avoided homelessness by moving in with my ex.  I had an emergency blood transfusion. I have gained about 25 pounds (an estimate because scales make me cry). I have contemplated suicide. I am still out of work.

Would I do anything differently?

Nope.

As a matter of fact, I would do everything exactly the same, even knowing that I would be sitting here, unemployed for eight months.

I have a solid goal in my life and I would not have found that goal if I hadn't been through varying degrees of hell in the last two years.

I have found that I really do have friends who will stick by me and offer me support and love.

I have found peace.


If I had stayed in teaching, none of that would have been possible.  If I hadn't lost my job, I wouldn't have taken steps toward a goal that will truly fulfill me.

So, thank you to all of the bullshit that has come my way. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Give Love

My plan for this evening was to go to gym, as I have done for five days out of the last seven. Today was even going to be a double exercise day because I had done some yoga this morning.  My plans changed because of two, unrelated events: President Obama's speech about gun control and the suicide of a former Hamtramck High School student.

Today, President Obama announced an executive order to address gun violence in the United States.  I was most interested in the investment of $500 million dollars to improve access to mental health care. According to the Center for Disease Control, 41,149 Americans committed suicide in 2013. Of those 41,149 deaths, 21,175 deaths were attributed to guns. Guns contribute to 51 percent of all suicides in America. Clearly, the U.S. needs a serious wake-up call about mental illness and how access to guns allows too many people to kill themselves.

Earlier today, I heard about the suicide death of a Hamtramck High School graduate.  This young man, whom I did not know, used a gun to end his life. From what I can tell, he was only 19 years old, maybe 20. A former student wrote about the death on his Facebook wall and a comment was made to the effect that people often hide depression, so not to be judged by others.  I know that I try hard to hide any truly dark emotions so not to frighten people away, as I have experienced. From what I can tell, this hiding is probably more prevalent among men, that women. While women are twice as likely as men to experience depression and three times more likely to attempt suicide, men are four times more likely to actually kill themselves.  Of the 41,149 suicide deaths, 79 percent of those are men. That is 32,507 men. Of that number, 51 percent were caused by a firearm.  A little simple math tells us that 16,578 men in 2013 killed themselves with a gun.  This sounds like a crisis, most acutely a men's health crisis.

Why do so many people suffer?  Why are 79 percent of all U.S. suicide deaths men?  I suspect it is because people (in general) and men (in particular) do not want to be seen as weak.  During his speech today, President Obama shed tears when he spoke about the children killed at Sandy Hook.  Of course, his opposition mocked him, as if he shouldn't feel saddened by the thought of those slaughtered children.

People who have suffered from depression readily admit that talking about depression makes them feel weak.  I remember a principal I had (red-headed female) who mocked a fellow teacher who was suffering from depression.  I knew about the situation because I was the union rep. for the building and therefore in a position to know about this person's struggles.  The principal said to me that this teacher needed to get over it because everyone gets blue from time to time. That stunned me.  This is from a conversation on a FB wall earlier, someone wrote,

"I don't want to burden anyone with my nonsense. And though I don't know how anyone else feels, I think I can understand why someone would hide it from others. I didn't want to be called a wuss or told how weak I was and I damn for sure didn't want to push my problems onto anyone else, because the chance of being lonely for being 'crazy' or something."
I get that because I have been there, but I think it's doubly hard for many men because they are supposed to be "strong" and tears are for women. This is the malarkey I heard growing up. Movies, music, television - real men don't cry.

It's time for real conversations and true concern and empathy for others.  It's time for LOVE. As David Bowie sings in his collaboration with Queen, "Love's such an old-fashioned word/And love dares you to care for/The people living on the edge of the night/And love dares you to change our way of/Caring about ourselves.

  

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Beamish's 2015 Sountrack

My son has really blossomed this year.  While, he is still innocent in many ways, he is also beginning to understand that the world is a complex place that is not black and white. He's in a beautiful place right now: happy, empathetic, generous.

As he has broaden his horizon, he has discovered music of his own that he likes.  Because he is who he is, finding a song he likes means that he will sing it endlessly.  I'm okay with that because I like Imagine Dragons.




No end-of-year soundtrack for Beamish would be complete without something about Minecraft.  There are a number of Minecraft parody songs, so I'll just choose one.  Einie, mennie, minie, moe...




Finally, 2015 was the year in which my son discovered racism.  At school, he experienced a micro-aggression that other kids handled.  He had no idea what had just happened to him. Then, on a computer game he likes to play, Agr.io, he encountered the n-bomb.   We have had many discussions since both of these events.  We have talked about racist and bigoted terms about other groups of people, though not all of them - yet.  For this seminal event, this Depeche Mode song seems appropriate.




Visit tomorrow to see my musical take on the virtual world.


Monday, December 28, 2015

The Soundtrack for 2015 - Friends

On my road to recovery over the last two years, my friends have been an invaluable lifeline. I admit that during 2014, I was more likely to push people away, while during 2015, I craved companionship.

While my social calendar didn't overflowth, I did enjoy many wonderful times with great people.  First, I have to acknowledge my Squeeze family.  Despite their distance from me, I have come love them as if they were just next door.  For them, our favorite band.



Next, I've been shy about sharing my troubles.  It helps me feel less isolated and I hope it helps others who suffer from depression to feel less lonely and ashamed. Because I have been so open about my struggles, I have written a few FB posts that are alarming.  I'm pretty sure that at least one or two were accurate reflections of my suicidal state of mind, especially after I lost my job and was feeling ill due to a still-undetected bleeding ulcer.  Many people, including people I had only met a few times really comforted me.  People texted me.  One person wanted me to send her a message every couple of hours, just to make sure I was still on this mortal coil.  Who knows why near strangers reached out to me, but they did.  I can't thank them enough.



Finally, it took me halfway through 2015 to let go of the anger and disappointment I felt toward the former teaching colleagues who bailed on my in my sickness.  I'm glad to say that there are those who are still in my life and that is what is most important.  To those who left, I say


 Come back tomorrow when I will put the world of my Beamish boy into song
 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

2015's Soundtrack - Work

Another year is about to end.  Another year of challenges that I would have rather not faced.  Another year of lessons learned.  I could bemoan the troubles or have a little fun with them.  It's healthier to choose fun, which is why I am going to supply a soundtrack for 2015.

I had a job (until June) that helped me help workers stand up for their rights.   For that portion of the year, I have chosen a little Pete Seegar. 



Then, for no reason, I lost my job.  I wasn't perfect at my new job, but I was happy with the type of work. I would have gotten better with more time at the job.  I had no discipline issues, no write-ups.  Nothing that would merit letting me go.  For that, here's a little CeeLo Green.

Finally, I am still out of work.  I have had some sort of job, continuously since I started baby-sitting at the age of 12.  I've delivered papers, cleaned houses, sold electronics, but I have never been out of work.  I'm at crossroads I never anticipated. I started off angry.  Now I'm sad and worried about my financial future and how long-term unemployment will impact my struggle with depression. I've already been through the "I'm a burden and everyone would be better if I disappeared" stage.  I will have to fight to not feel that way again. For this part of 2015, I'd like to share The Smiths.



Tomorrow, my soundtrack selections will be for the category of Friends.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Should I or Shoudn't I

Several years ago, I attended a weekend retreat, a combination meditation and life-coaching type of deal. The facilitator encouraged the attendees to stop "shoulding on ourselves."  Everyone chuckled at the near naughty word it invoked, but it is a thought that has stuck in the back of my mind for a while.  I don't think I heeded the deeper concept behind her advice until very recently.

My son is a pretty anxious kid who believes that every mistake he makes is proof of how rotten he is to the core.  Needless to say, his anxiety and my depression sometimes make for an awful combination. He believes that he should be perfect.  I have no clue how to not feel hopeless about his feelings.

At one point, I asked him to stop some minor annoyance and he chided himself as being stupid.  He say something to the effect of, "I'm 11, I shouldn't be making mistakes like that." That stopped my cold in my tracks and pushed my memory to the "shoulding on ourselves" advice.  Until that moment, I hadn't fully realized what a value-loaded word "should" is.

On that day, he and I were headed to lunch and a movie (Inside Out).  We discussed the word "should" and how it can sound very judgmental and preachy - especially when we are talking about ourselves. It is a discussion that we now have on a regular basis.  While tiring, I believe that the conversation is a good one.  We talk about how the words we use reflect our deeper thoughts and feelings.  It's actually quite good therapy for both of us.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Books That Rocked My World

It is rare when literature makes the news the way it has been in the past week.  The "new" novel from Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman, was released to great anticipation controversy.  I like To Kill a Mockingbird, taught it, but it didn't change my life. On one hand,I'm a little surprised at how many people want to cling to Atticus as hero.  On the other hand, I believe that Chris Rock said something to the effect of, if racism in America is going to decrease, than it's up to white people to make the change.  In that context. I can see why many people want Atticus to remain that great orator of the courtroom.  For me, the story was always a little too pat and neat and Atticus too angelic.

For me the books that have made a huge difference in my life have been messier.  Either the main character is not particularly honorable or the information between the covers destroys the official story of history or society.

With that said, here are a few books that changed my life:

Catcher in the Rye - I know that Holden Caufield comes from incredible privilege and wealth. I know that he is a teenage boy.  I also know that he is mired in a depression that I recognize and have experienced.  I understand why he wants to know what happens to the ducks in the winter.

The Color Purple - Celie's story breaks my heart and mends it with her strength. I do wish she had cut Mr.'s throat.

Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television - This one is probably pretty obscure, but it helped my understand the technology behind television (which has changed greatly) and how that alone hooks us and changes our behavior and thought process.

The People's History of the United States - Our real history.  Not all of it, but episodes we need to know.

The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book - The greatest cartoon of my lifetime, if not of all time.  If I need a smile, or a philosophical thought, I go straight to this book.

This is just a partial list, but I would love to hear about a few books that have influenced you greatly.