Friday, May 12, 2017

The Only Reason Why

I've had a lot of thoughts brewing lately, and I was going to just do a little post on Instagram, but so many things kept rolling around in my head, so I thought I'd spend some time and put them here.


So. May is mental health awareness month. As I hope you've gathered by now, I'm a huge advocate for normalizing the conversation surrounding mental health and suicide prevention. It is extremely important.

Sam and I recently watched "13 Reasons Why" on Netflix. I don't want this post to be about the show, but since its release was so timely and because it's so popular at the moment, I can't go without mentioning it. There's more to the post than just the show, so please read on.

I did love some things about the show: it dropped subtle and not-so-subtle hints about being responsible under age drinkers (Drink water! Eat something! Don't drink and drive!), the effects of bullying and all the myriad ways bullying can happen, being responsible when it comes to sex (...ish... I mean they emphasized always making sure you have consent from both parties but didn't mention protection or anything), etc.

But there were some things I really didn't like. Namely the gratuitous language, especially since so many teens are watching this show right now. Maybe I'm just a prude though. Sam tells me it's an accurate representation of how kids talk. I also hated how the parents were so irresponsible-- leaving town without having a legal adult stay with their kid(s), letting their kids go for walks in the middle of the night by themselves, saying "you can talk to me you know" when things got rough instead of establishing a good relationship with their kids so that broaching the subject on difficult topics wasn't so hard when it came down to it, not apologizing after having an argument with their children, etc etc.

But the biggest problem I had was with how they addressed the suicide. In the book (so I hear), Hannah dies by a very unglamorous method, but in the show they changed it, and I specifically remember my initial reaction: "Wow, that looks really easy." I'm prone to suicidal ideation, and when I told Sam my reaction, it made him nervous. But I am not a teenager whose frontal lobe isn't fully developed. And because so many teens are watching the show, it was incredibly irresponsible to portray suicide this way. To the producers' credit, they had a special episode discussing all the things they hoped to convey, but I honestly wonder how many teens watched that part. I hope it was all of them.

There is also a lot of talk that the show portrayed suicide as a method of revenge, but I don't see it so much that way. Sure, about half the show was pointing fingers at people who had bullied or taken advantage of her, but after that point it became clear that though those incidents led her down the path, it was, in the end, her mental state that led her to commit suicide. It's unfair to blame others for someone's suicide since it is ultimately their own decision alone.  I hope that people realize the show was over dramatized and not good in that way.

But the best thing about the show is that it is finally bringing into the light the conversation of a lot of difficult topics that need to be talked about.

And here's the rest of what I want to talk about: we truly, truly need to normalize the conversation. People should be no more embarrassed, ashamed, and closeted about mental health issues and suicidal thoughts than they are about having any other illness. There is STILL such a stigma surrounding mental health that I, in trying to be open about it, have had people tell me that perhaps it is inappropriate to admit that I have had suicidal ideation in a public platform. It is still such a misunderstood topic that I still have people tell me I'm not trying hard enough to be normal. People have looked at me strange, judged me, and pushed me away so they didn't have to deal with it. We can't keep talking about these things in hushed voices and behind closed doors. I'm not going to pretend I don't feel extremely vulnerable sharing these things, but they need to be said.  We need to break down the walls of whatever it is that makes us feel uncomfortable talking about it.

Everyone experiences mental health problems differently, but all of them are valid in the depth someone experiences them.

In observance of mental health month and in memory of those who haven't made it, here is what I have to say to open the conversation:

My first depressive thoughts started when I was ten. In a week I'll be turning 28. These 18 years have been a difficult journey. I've done things I'm not proud of. Risky behaviors, harmful behaviors. I've run away. I've given myself scars that now I wish would fade. I've allowed myself to be in situations I should not have been in. I've seen a dozen different therapists, I've been in group therapy (and met some amazingly strong people, by the way), taken who knows how many different kinds of medications and supplements. I've sat in a private room in the ER talking to a social worker. I've had to leave school. I have so many other experiences I don't have room to share here.

I have a problem. I have for 18 years and probably will til the day I die (hopefully when I'm old and crotchety).

My problem has had many names: Dysthymia. Major depressive disorder. Obsessive compulsive disorder. Anxiety. Prone to addictive behavior. Suicidal ideation. Hypomania. Bipolar disorder. Abuse victim. Self harm. Disordered eating. Prenatal and post-partum depression and anxiety. Stress-induced hallucinations. Paranoid behavior. Post-traumatic stress disorder. Borderline personality disorder.

This laundry list of labels is mine. The reason I am able to tell you all this is because every time I got to my lowest low, I either said something, someone asked, or in a couple of miraculous instances, someone reached out without knowing it and stopped me. Talked to me. Talked with me. Influenced me. Listened. Took me seriously.

I am here to tell you that it is OKAY to talk. We need to stop stigmatizing. We should teach our children to be confident and look out for others, to look out for themselves. No one should feel so completely alone, demoralized, and useless that they feel no one cares. Someone ALWAYS cares. No one can read minds. We all need to do our part for others, but to you who are struggling: please, please say something to someone.

Don't be ashamed. Don't be afraid. Don't feel guilty. Just say something. Say something.

And you: listen.

--------
Want to help?  Or want help?
Here are some resources:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline - their number lives in my phone contacts, just in case.  Add it to yours.  The website also includes a chat option if you are too afraid to call.  There are also options to help others

Mental Health America - find out what you can do to help

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention - they sponsor Out of the Darkness walks in cities across the nation every year (remember when we did one in Salt Lake?)

National Alliance on Mental Illness - learn more, find support

Too impersonal?  You can talk to me.  Send me an email.  Shawkaroo at guh-mail.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Kidlets

Probably the biggest oversight in not blogging this long is that kids grow so fast and now none of that is written down.  Boo!  So here's where they are now.

Rosalind

Ros turned 3 about 4 months ago. I think she's very smart and verbal for her age. She comes up with ways to describe things when she doesn't know exactly how to say it and I love hearing what she comes up with. She is usually very thoughtful and polite. She is very good at following directions except when she's overwhelmed or excited. She has a freaky good memory and I know it sounds weird but she also has awesome vision-- she can spot teeny things far away that we don't even notice until she points them out. She's recently become pretty shy of strangers, which leads to people asking or telling her she's shy, which perpetuates the problem. Blah.  Stop doing that, people.

Ros started a gymnastics class last week and had so much fun she can't wait to go back. This was one of those times she was too excited to be good at following directions though. I talked to her coach/teacher after and she said she did really well in spite of it all and that the toddler class is always like that. I wanted to give her an award for her patience.

Ros is way into Moana right now and has most of that song (what's it called? "How Far I'll Go"?) down, although not really in the right order. But she frequently will want to "play Moana" and it's fun to watch. She's also starting to get into that princess-y stage, partly because of her cousins I think, and partly because that's what toddlers do I guess. I don't mind though, since it wasn't thrust upon her. She loves "fancy" clothes, skirts, etc. I give them to her in moderation because my eyes can only suffer so much.

She is usually pretty obedient and tame, except when she is hungry/tired/underloved. I have to remember she needs a snuggle every few hours still. She's only 3, after all.

Ros can count to 6 (she could count higher but she keeps getting 7 and 11 mixed up). She only knows a couple of her letters and seems to do better with numbers than letters. She does know shapes and colors though too so I guess we're doing fine. She loves to paint and draw and has recently started drawing people with skeletons, which I think is brilliant.

Anyway, Ros is hilarious and smart and so kind-hearted and I am just so proud of who she's becoming.


Remy

We had a rough patch with Remy (now about 16 months old). He is very clingy and scared when it comes to strangers still, but his other issues we were worried about I think we will be ok on. He's still walking on his toes but I feel assured that will turn out ok. But he's now interested in playing with toys the proper way, looking at baby faces, loves his baby doll, likes interacting with other babies (and still animals, his one great love), and is finally starting to babble.

In fact, he now has almost a dozen words, almost all of which he started using in the past couple of weeks. He calls me "Ma" and Sam "Dadada" or "Dahdeedahdee" and I think Ros is also "Ma." He says "hi" occasionally but mostly says "bye bye" for a lot of things-- when we leave obviously, when he turns a page, when he puts his stuffed puppy in his bed, etc. It's very cute.  He says uh-oh for appropriate situations, calls birds "cooooo" and calls the cat "kee" (and he's pretty good at playing with her...except for the occasional tail pull). He also folds his arms for prayers and yells "ahma!" when he's done, usually close to the end (ha!). He's says "bee" (for please) when he wants food and is very insistent. In fact usually the only time he voluntarily interacts with strangers is when they have food. Then he just sort of lurks a few feet away and says please over and over. When I ask him to say "X please" he always says "dee bee" and it's funny. He's starting to make a sound for diaper (something like "dai-pw-pw" while he signs it) too. He still uses 2 or 3 signs, as well. Oh! And he will finally sit still for a book if it's one he likes, otherwise it's still about 1-3 pages only before he slides off and runs away. He's always very busy doing something and is content to play by himself for a good chunk of time. He loves to explore and move things around (he's way stronger than he should be at this age).

We started him in a big kid (floor) bed recently since he is getting too strong for the pack n play and I'm worried he's going to get hurt or break it soon. He has done ok so far, mostly staying in his bed even when he's not asleep. I think we're still a ways away from having him share a room with Ros though, which is the ultimate goal.

So, yeah. Remy is at a stage where he's just so cute and silly you can't help but love him.


Ok!  Pictures!

Remy with bananas

From our Christmas card

Remy's 1st birthday!  Lemon cake with fudge frosting.

Clearly he enjoyed it

Post-birthday cake bath

Ros and her umbrella

At the Houston Arboretum (or "argoretum" as Ros says)

From a day it was below freezing and raining and like a genius I forgot Remy's jacket

Rosalind's 3rd birthday!  Chocolate raspberry fudge cake

Looking Grunge somehow

In cookie rapture while we waited for something

Exploring on Galveston Island

Much enthused

Remy, cat, pie safe

Remy eating a kolach (apparently "kolache" is plural...who knew)

Flying a kite at Sunny Beach

Sand Castles

Sand face

Ros loves leaves

Before he could walk

On a walk by the bay

Picking flowers in the back yard

She might be Shirley Temple

Visits Up and Down

Going through pictures for the last post I realized that since I didn't blog since September, I missed out on all of Fall.

In October my parents came to visit.
Ros impressed by a recreated Byzantine church we visited while my parents were here

Ros refusing to leave the beach...that we went to while my parents were here.

Ros and my mom exploring the dunes

A picture my mom took of me and Remy

Wearing my mom's hat at Brazos Bend State Park (we saw alligators)

Petting a baby alligator at Brazos Bend

We had seafood that night and it turned out, like me, Ros is allergic to shellfish so to the ER we went.

She was so cute and sad and tiny on that gurney but the nurses were awesome and Ros loved that she got to have popsicles.

My mom wearing Remy at NASA

From right after my parents' visit: Rosalind's Halloween costume that she picked

In November Sam's parents came to visit.
Sam's parents brought Remy an authentic drum from Korea

Then they took us to the zoo

And Remy loved Grandpa's head
In December we went to Utah for Christmas.  Actually I guess we went for Thanksgiving too.
Uncle Josh reading to Remy over Thanksgiving

Remy loves animals.  And grandma, though he doesn't realize it yet ;)

Ros trying on Sam's glasses from middle school or something

Uncle Josh loves Remy

Swimming at the Zermatt indoor pool

Dancing at Grandma Wasden's

The flight to Utah for Christmas

At my parents' house.  She's totally a January baby, she never wanted to come inside

Ros with her favorite Christmas present

Building a snowman

Saying goodbye to cousin Juliet

This is a horrible picture but it kind of sums up how exhausted we were after all the traveling and such

The only picture I have of Remy's first Christmas.  Ha!

We were on airplanes a lot.  I think this is on the way up for Thanksgiving.  I don't even know.

The day we got back from Christmas break we went for a picnic in the park...in shirt sleeves.  Texas has its perks.


In January my sister came to visit.
And this is apparently the only picture I have from that visit??

Nobody came to visit in February.  In March, Sam's mom and sister came to visit, but I already covered that.  Yayyyy catch-up blog posts!