The Fall of Man

They found him. Gunshot wound to the chest on his birthday. Although, it makes sense, his heart was what hurt the most. His wife passed away four years ago in a car accident. He was the one driving the car… He had sold his house two weeks before he took his life. He wanted to move out of the city and on with his life. But, with no job prospects and no real friends anywhere else, he must have lost all hope. Deep down, we all knew this day would come; we just thought it would have happened shortly after she died, not now.

My uncle Steve is was an introverted, angry man. He didn’t like the outside world. When he met and married my aunt, his second wife, new life was pumped into his veins. He turned himself around, started going to parties, meeting people, and he even thought about having children! He said and did things he, and we, never thought he would do. But, when he accidently hit the other car that caused her death; he also died. The spark she implanted in him was gone; he went back to his old ways, hating the world and everyone in it. Each year that he remained alive, we considered ourselves lucky.

The last time I saw him was the day before his birthday. We were at a family gathering at my grandmothers. It was to celebrate her birthday, as well as his. He retreated to the living room for most of his time there, and when he was in the kitchen, he wouldn’t talk to anyone. All he wanted to do was play with his smart phone. When my grandmother talked to him, he answered her with a strong tongue and boiling anger in his eyes. No one could say or do anything to please him at this point.

I didn’t even bother trying to talk to him for fear that he would lash out at me. In fact, in all the years that we’ve been family, I’ve never said more than a few sentences to him. He wasn’t the type of uncle to show up at your high school play, take you out for ice cream, or make small talk. He was a man who just wanted to be left alone.

Sure, I could cry my heart out, take off of work for a few weeks, and preach to everyone about how you need to, “hold you loved ones close.” But, I can’t. I’ve never loved this man. To me, this isn’t a heartbreaking loss.

In fact, this isn’t a loss at all. My uncle did not die; he’s very much alive. Today he turns another year older…and colder, that is true. And, as I sat near him the other day, not speaking a word, I was reminded of how awful of a person I truly am. I realized in that moment that the man sitting near me is a man I’ve known my whole life; but he’s been nothing but a stranger. I realized that if he died tomorrow, even from suicide, it would not have a major impact on me. Sure, I would feel awful. No one deserves to die, no matter what the cause! And, no one deserves to feel alone. But, to me, it wouldn’t feel like a major loss. I can honestly say that it would hurt more if my dog died than if he passed away.

Four years ago, this was where my family found themselves; on suicide watch for my uncle. It’s awful to admit that someone who is supposed to be such a huge part of your life doesn’t matter to you. Writing those words, “It would hurt more if my dog died than if he passed away” makes me feel like a terrible person, but I know deep down that I’m being true to myself. Although, sometimes, we have to admit that even those people in our lives who are supposed to be family and the closest humans to us, mean zilch. That is why we all must create our own “families.” “Families” that are made up of blood relations, friends, acquaintances, dogs, cats, etc. “Plant your own seeds and grown your own garden because you have the power to choose who you become and who is allowed to influence you along the way.”

Granny Smith – over and out

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The Other Side Of Depression

In my last post, I talked a bit about my parents and their recent struggle with one another. That post made me think about a topic that I haven’t covered but semi-relates to the previous post; depression.

However, I’m not going to write an article that articulates the warning signs of depression, or what it’s like being depressed. Many of you have probably read those articles, or, if you have a family member or friend that’s experienced depression, you’ve witnessed everything first hand. What I am going to write about is what it’s like for those on the other side of depression; the family members and friends (such as some of you reading this) who sit in the emotional sidecar and get pulled every which way. I’ve been there, and I’m hoping that if there is anyone out there with depression that this piece can help demonstrate what it’s like for those that love them.

1. My Mother: I never knew that my mother was prescribed anti-depressants until about a year ago. If you’ve ever met my mother, you’d think she was one of the sweetest, nicest people in the world. When I found out about the anti-depressants, my heart sank. Thoughts of, “am I a good enough daughter?” ran through my mind constantly. I worried that if I caused her trouble or made a rude comment that she would have an awful day and rely on her medication even more.

I felt so lost and I didn’t know what to do to make it better. Should I be spending more time with her during the week and on weekends? What if I volunteered to cook a few family meals? Do the laundry? Wash the dishes a few times a week? Would any of these make her feel less burdened, happier, healthier?

When she retired to care for my brother and the house full-time, I knew she was happy at first, but her joy quickly faded. As if she didn’t think her life was exciting or meaningful before she quit, now, her daily routine consists of household chores and running errands. She was and is lost. She wants to go back to work, but she doesn’t think she has any skills. I constantly worry that one day she will just up and leave because she’s sick of doing the same thing day-in and day-out.

I try to get her out of the house and go on adventures as much as possible, but nothing changes. She’s still lost; I’m lost. I don’t know what to do to make it better. I don’t know how to help her, and every time I ask, I get the same response, “nothing.” But, she’s living in a state of ‘nothing,’ and ‘nothing’ can be a dangerous thing.

2. My Boyfriend: Meeting Matt, you would have no idea that he used to severely suffer from depression. He was a freshman in college and I was a senior in high school. We were living in different zip codes (something we’ve gotten used to) for the first time, and he wasn’t making as many friends at school as he would’ve liked. He had also lost contact with a lot of individuals from our high school, and he felt more alone than ever before.

Almost every night of my senior year was spent sitting by my computer with a TV tray off to the side. While I did my homework on the TV tray, I would be talking to Matt via MSN messenger. The conversations went back and forth for hours. But, the conversations were the same every day. Every day he told me that he had an ‘ok’ day and was feeling worthless. He felt that he didn’t have any friends and wasn’t good at what he was doing. He would then advise a plan to get more friends, or to reconnect with the old ones, and it would fail…miserably…for no good reason!

It was hard watching him struggle. I told him over and over again how much I loved him and gave him advice on what to do about his extreme sadness, or reassured him about his plans for the future. We saw each other almost every weekend, and I even tried bringing a few of my friends to visit him..but nothing worked. On multiple occasions, he brought up suicide. Even though he said he wouldn’t do it because he loved me, I stated that I was the only thing keeping him on Earth. How could I give up on him? What could I do? I thought I’d tried everything.

This pattern continued on into my first year of college, but it got better. I was still on messenger with him every night, but it was hard to see each other every weekend. Eventually, we broke up. But, when we did break up, he was at least on his feet. Of course, we’re back together now, and he’s doing much better.

For both of these beautiful people in my life, I had no idea what I could do to make it go away. I tested multiple ideas, did what I thought was right…what THEY wanted me to do…and no matter what, meds or not, I couldn’t get through to them. It’s something that they need to overcome on their own, but they need help just as much as the rest of us do with our daily lives. Talking to specialists or reading articles can work, but only so much. To those that are depressed, we love you, and we’re hurting because we see you hurting. Communicate with us, help us help you.

Granny Smith – over and out

Love and Loss

Lea Michele

So, if you’re a pop culture junkie like I am, you’ve obviously heard about the tragic death of Glee star, Cory Monteith…and you’ve probably watched the speech that his girlfriend, Lea Michele, gave at the Teen Choice Awards on August 11th.

Now, I may come off as a person who has a heart made of stone, but in all honesty, I’m very emotional, and nothing gets me more emotional than the passing of a loved one. So, when I first heard that Cory had passed, I immediately thought of Lea, and I couldn’t even begin to imagine what she was going through. And, when I watched the speech that she gave at the Teen Choice Awards, I admittedly started tearing up.

As someone who is currently in a relationship, Lea’s loss made me think, what would I do if I lost him? How would I go on? Unfortunately, my thought process regarding this topic isn’t new. My uncle lost his wife about three years ago in a tragic car accident, and it took such a toll on him that my family members began to wonder if he was contemplating suicide.

So, what do you do to help yourself move on after the love of your life, your best friend, has passed away?

Below are 10 suggestions:

1)      Before you move on, fulfill any request that your significant other said before passing away.  If there was no time as with a sudden death for a final request, explore ideas to gift or honor your late partner. This will give you a peace of mind, and will ensure that you will not have any mental obstacles in your new life.

2)      Know that it will take time before you can begin to feel a sense of normal again. It will not just disappear, and it will not heal itself. Be patient with yourself as you work through the process of grief. Grief is a journey that lasts as long as it takes to reconcile all issues pertaining to death, your loved one, yourself, your relationship (good/bad) to bring peace and understanding.

3)      Understand that there are stages you will go through and they are not linear. You will experience denial, anger, resentment, yearning, suffering, sadness, and eventually an acceptance. However, you may not do them in this order and you may, much like a roller coaster ride, go over these stages repeatedly over the course of your grief journey with regard to the same loss.

4)      Do not pay attention to those who try to tell you that you are not grieving properly. Instead, thank s/he for their concern allow them to know everyone grieves differently. Grief is as individual as you are, as your partner was, and as your relationship was. Specifically, you will likely deal with some who thinks you are healing “too fast” and those who think you have become “stuck in your grief”. If you have concerns about either, talk to a grief counselor or therapist, s/he has training and experience to help you navigate through your grief as well as help you build self esteem.

5)      Realize that you have choices. There is a time when you need to cry and go through the suffering to get to the other side. There will come a time when you are ready to actively participate in grief work to bring healing to have a new life.

6)      Do not worry that you will forget your significant other.

7)      Ask yourself what it was that you have always wanted to do but something you never had time to do because of family obligationsNow is the time to do it! Be anything you want to be. Become an artist, a pilot, or a scuba diver. Take a ride in a hot air balloon. Most of all, strive to be happy and fulfilled. Your dreams can become a reality and help fill the void in your life. You will meet new people and realize that life can be satisfying and exciting even if you are alone.

8)      Be patient because this change may not come quickly or easily

9)      Adopt a pet. If you don’t have the energy to give a great amount of attention to a pet, consider a cat. They make great companions. They are clean and do not have to be walked. They give you love and affection. They give you someone to care for and care about. They will greet you when you come home, and lie on your lap while you watch TV. If you are not a cat person get a dog, or whatever pet makes you happiest. Understand that the pet will not replace your love, nor is it meant to, but animals can make you smile.

10)   Volunteer. When you are ready or have energy, volunteer your time to a cause or something that you feel strongly about. Helping others can have a wonderful effect on ourselves. Join the library and read. Most libraries have library buses that bring books to your neighborhood. Or you can rent a DVD, or watch movies on the TV. Write letters, or become a phone companion, a group that is backed by the Police Community Service. They make daily calls to shut-ins, to make sure that they are safe. Talk to them to keep them company and they will be keeping you company as well.

If you have recently lost a significant other, I hope that these tips have been helpful, and may you find peace.

Granny Smith- over and out