The fear of mental health

You know, people are scared of motorcycle clubs. You pull up at Kum and Go and the parking lot is full of bikers. Leather chaps and vests. Coats with a myriad of colorful patches that are full of skulls and knives. Bandannas and chains. Heavy black boots that make all of the bikers similar in their stance and gait. In general, they cause suspicion for a lot of us and we steer clear and keep our eyes down, scared to make eye contact for fear of drawing their attention.

Now, I happen to know a few ‘bikers’. Ken used to be one. If you know my husband, you know there’s nothing scary about him. We used to take short trips on his Harley and he wore his leather garb and a bandanna on his head. He got side glances. Always. Fortunately I was also on the bike. I most likely had on cute jeans, a jacket with flowers and glitter and more often than not, black Ugg sneakers with puffy pom poms on them. I had to wear a helmet, which ruined all my pretty blond hair for the day, but I smiled and talked to everyone as usual. I lessened the threat. 😂😂

We see these clubs as a threat. We shrink from their presence and pretend we don’t see them. We don’t embrace anything about them. We are intimidated by them. Our minds scream AVOID! Even Ken, who’s about as threatening as a turtle, caused a caution when we were out and about on the Harley.

For the past five weeks, I have had the honor of sitting with a group of women each Tuesday. We are also part of a club. No one wants to be a part of this club. The initiation was too high.

People also avoid our club. Especially if there are members who’s children died an ‘unacceptable’ death.

Cancer is ok.

Car wrecks, alright.

Overdose, intentional or not. Death by suicide. Murder.

Those aren’t ok. That takes a child’s death to a different level. It’s not ‘acceptable’

When people hear Kade died by suicide, there is a fault there. Depending on different points of view, the fault lies with different people.

But mostly it’s Kade’s fault.

“If he would have gotten help……”
“If he wasn’t drinking so much…..”
“If he could have just tried to be happier….”

We feel the need to assign blame on something ‘fixable’ so it softens it. Or removes it. These assignments change the narrative so it’s easier to distance ourselves from it.

“Thank God my child doesn’t……

Drink

Do drugs

Act depressed

Act angry, mean, raw”

My child was broken. He always had been. If their is any ‘fault’, it’s that we didn’t recognize how horrible it was for him.

We didn’t. We didn’t because no one talks about these things. We had no idea the fight he was fighting.

That scares people. Because that means it could happen to them. I don’t think this is a conscious thought, I think it’s an underlying fear.

People steer clear of our club. We are a threat. Not physically, no. Mentally, for sure.

Mental health is the most under talked about disease there is. It’s better now than it was 28 years ago, but not by much.

It’s scary. We avoid it. I avoided it.

I paid no attention to it until Kade. And I’ve been depressed a good portion of my life. I’ve had a LOT of counseling. I’ve read books on a hundred different subjects concerning depression.

There is this illusion that if you’ll do the right things, you can pull yourself up by your boot straps and get better.

I thought that.

I said it to Kade.

I told him to “just…..” his whole life.

Just calm down. Just think about something else. Just pray. Just read this book. Just go to counseling. I said it to him as if it were a simple fix if he would “just do it”.

I don’t have a lot of guilt about this. I didn’t know. It’s no different than if he’d had a tumor and I didn’t have the skill to operate on it.

BECAUSE WE DON’T TALK ABOUT IT.

I’m not even sure what all IT is.

I’m in this club now. But I’m changing the bylaws. I’m going to work to empower people to talk, talk, talk. I’m going to change the focus of my club to one of admission, acknowledgment, recognition and promise.

WE HAVE TO LEARN.

We have to learn. YOU have to learn. We have to become aware and alert and we have to make mental health a priority. And we have to make resources easier to obtain. This is a fight. So many people are losing.

We live in a very small community. We lost three young men to suicide in less than a year’s time. Two were almost the same age, the same race and economic background, the same social circle and they worked for the same company. They died about six months apart. What is happening?!

My son was one of those two people.

There is a stigma attached to suicide. We want to tidy it up and make it make a sense that removes it from our personal lives.

It can happen to you. It happened to me. You don’t want to be forced to join my club. However, I do think you should support it.

Stop white washing mental health. It’s ugly and hard. Sometimes impossible. It’s going to take a movement to change it. I’m begging you to become a part of that movement.

Kade fought for his life. He was wrestling with things so fiercely. He was in a terrible, losing battle. And I didn’t even recognize it. Oh my God, that’s so awful to live with. That keeps me up at night. Not knowing how horribly he was hurting. The signs were there, I just couldn’t see them. I didn’t know what I was looking for.

Some blame Kade for his action. They presume this was his ‘fault’. They assign a blame and perpetuate the falsehood that he did this on purpose. That his harm was purposeful. There is no doubt that Kade did this intentionally. But his purpose was not harm. It was desperate. It was a desperate act to end his pain. That’s almost more than I can bare.

Embrace us. Help us. Learn from us.

Support our club instead of casting your eyes down with avoidance because it’s awkward or scary.

This is going to take a village.

Please continue to pray for our family. Your intercession is needed daily.

Nine Months

It’s almost here.

That day I mark each month.

The utterance of that number for any reason….

Seventeen cents, please
She’s seventeen now
I caught seventeen mice

(That last one would trigger anyone…I know)

That number has become a hangnail. It brings sorrow and black butterflies in my belly and the sound of it, when called out for whatever reason, is a deafening blow.

My mind plays tricks on me. It tells me that this is still a bad dream. A cruel joke. A mean prank. It cannot accept any reality. Even when I talk to myself, corner an understanding, hammering it into place, I can’t grasp fully what’s happening. It’s slippery. My mind just can’t hang onto it.

Is that protection? Is it denial? Is it healthy?

My counselor keeps reiterating, “It’s ok not to be ok.” Well, thank God.

It will be nine months on Saturday. Can you wrap your arms around that? Because I can’t.

Nine months. That’s how long I carried him. That’s how long he was physically tethered to me. That’s how long I anxiously waited on him to get here, how long I wondered what he would look like, what he would sound like. What it would be like to hold him and comfort him. Would he have blue eyes like Bill? Blond hair like me? What fantastic things would he be? Nine months.

Now,

Nine months of wondering where he is. Waiting on him to get here. What will he look like and sound like when he walks through the door. What would it be like to hold him and comfort him? Do his eyes still sparkle? Has his hair darkened? What fantastic things has he been doing?

I’m still very lost. I’m still flailing in so many ways. My head sinks beneath the water’s surface and I still get choked when I breath in at the wrong time.

It’s lonely out here. I have family support, professional support and spiritual support. I couldn’t be more blessed in the support area. Still, there is this awful isolation. I feel desperate so much of the time.

On the flip side of that is the comfort I feel. The love. The warmth. The peace. The blessings. The celebrations.

The juxtaposition of those two sides are a ball of confused energy.

I never know which way I’m going to land.

If I land on the hellish side, I’ve gotten better at soothing myself. Or rather, I’ve opened myself up for God’s soothing. But I have to do it on purpose. Sometimes it’s like pushing a car off of my chest. I know I have to in order to breathe, but it takes all of my strength and wears me down and out.

I’m having a hard day today. I miss my child. I miss his laugh, I miss his companionship, I miss his humor. I miss how stinkin ornery he is.

This terrible hole.

If I may be so bold, let me help you help me, and others like me.

The silence is too much. Fill it up for people you know that have had the rug pulled out from under them, people that have had their worlds turned upside down. Call them. Send them cards. Flowers. Fuzzy socks. A new book and blanket. Bake them a cake or make them homemade chocolate pudding. Drop off a lasagna. Show up and clean their refrigerator out.

Or show up and have a glass of iced tea.

We need you. We need your attention, your affection and your interest.

We need you to help fill our silence up.

That’s just a suggestion. From someone who knows. I know you don’t know what to say to me. The secret is, there is nothing you can say. Not to make this okay.

But you can bring me a latte and tell me about your awful new neighbor or you can bring the new dress you just bought for a baby shower and show it to me. You can help me to laugh. You can help to take my mind away.

This part of my life is hard. Some days, it seems impossible.

That doesn’t mean my life doesn’t have joy in it.

Two halves that don’t make a whole.

I feel like this was a ramble today. But that’s what’s on my mind. I just simply wrote what I felt. I hope when I get done, it’s understandable. I’m too tired to go back and see.

Please keep our family in your most fervent prayers. We need your intercession.

Not Much Independence Yet

It’s July 6th. I made it. We made it.

We didn’t just skin by, either. We nailed it. Like on Pinterest.

I get more upset as each milestone hits for me and Kade. It’s funny, you raise a child and each thing they accomplish is celebrated. First laugh, first step, first days of school, graduation, girlfriends, jobs, new cars, new apartments…..

Then for me….

I’m marking dreaded days off of the calendar and white knuckling through days that are meant to be celebrated, not met with apprehension.

I spend most of my prayer time on my mind. Soothing it, asking God to lift my eyes. I have a battlefield going on all the time right now.

This weekend I won. We won.

The Fourth of July was Kade and Kyler ‘s holiday. Each year they reverted back to 11 and 14 year olds, acting like crazy idiots. Their firework’s display grew larger and more dangerous and more hilarious each year. It is a favorite holiday for our family.

This year we did it completely different. I actually didn’t want to do that. I wanted to keep it just the same, holding onto that tradition. I wanted it how it was when Kade was here. However, Kyler just didn’t want to, knowing it would be too hard for him.

He and Katelyn planned the biggest brouhaha at their house. She made a kitchen full of bbq and all the fixins for Sunday and Monday. He took care of all of the fireworks and movies. And the kids, of course, they make everything better.

All I had to do was show up. Which ended up being so nice! I always go all out for the Fourth, get too worn out and too hot (that’s a bad thing for MS people, I did that one year and quit walking) and I end up in bed for a week. I love it! I don’t care to do it! I ENJOY doing it! But it’s too much now. I hate that. Kade forced the handing off of the baton. Even though I held on to it, digging my feet into the dirt. I finally let go, and let God.

We played. We ate. We laughed. We told stories. We stayed up too late and got up too early. For two entire days, I stayed at Kyler’s house with my kids and grandkids and we had the absolute best time.

Kyler rented an eighteen foot water slide. A company delivered it, set it up and got it all ready to go. Easy peasy. Karter went down that slide 8329 times. Kensley went down four. 😂😂 She flew down the slide, spread eagle with a look of horror on her face that any scream queen would envy, but no noise was coming out of her mouth. She’d been scared into hushing up. Kyler, of course, went to the extreme, sometimes launching completely off the slide, air born until he slammed into the pool of water at the end of the ride. I didn’t get on it, I took videos and pictures. Even so, I was soaking wet. Kennedy trudged up and down the slippery steps, over and over, she couldn’t ignore Karter’s pleas to ‘please go again, Aunt Kennedy!’. Eventually Katelyn filled what seemed like a hundred water balloons. Kyler, in typical fashion, grabbed a dozen or so, stepped back and started pulverizing everyone. It was like he was channeling Sammy Sosa. He smoked Katelyn in the back of the head and the shoulder and then smashed one against Kennedy as she tried to peg him first. Kensley mostly picked them up and busted them on the ground, with the exception of the one she zinged at me. It hit me square in the chest and soaked me. Man, I was just supposed to be the photographer 🙄😂. Belle and Ethan got the worst of it as they arrived and came around the end of the house. Kyler, Katelyn and Karter hid behind an outbuilding as they strolled across the yard. They waylaid both of them. I think Karter got the biggest kick out of pelting Ethan with one right after the other. Luckily he’s a rotten shot and Ethan only got hit twice.

The weekend was relaxing and the most fun.

It was the beginning of a new tradition, I’m hoping. A change. I have a hard time with change, but God pushed me through this one and I came out on the other side a joyful, wet mess.

We are all learning to navigate this different life we have now. We talked a lot yesterday and what it would have been like if Kade had been there. He and Kyler would have caused hysteria and cussing because they would have pushed all limits like they always do. It was nice, it was easy. It was an easy thing to think about because everything else was so good.

I hate when people say, “A new normal”. New is usually good and there is zero normal about our lives now. But whatever I decide to term this second half of my life, we all made a success of it this holiday weekend.

I caught myself getting ready to write, ‘God just keeps showing up for me’. I had the first three words typed out then it hit me how absurd that statement is. God has never NOT showed up for me.

I’m the one who doesn’t show up.

Head in the sand.

Negative Nancy.

I’m learning how to let God embrace me. Comfort me. Allow me to feel cleansed and whole. How to grieve and let him cradle me through.

Out of this thing I continue to call a horror show, I have been able to learn to wrap my arms around my Father’s neck and let Him carry me. I’m trying desperately to help my children learn this too.

Good from bad. I just kept hanging on to that. It’s my mantra in life now. Look for the good in the bad.

I hope your holiday was as nice as ours. We are so blessed. We continue to bolster each other up and we are learning to play different roles now, as they have changed. We have to pick up the pieces that were dropped when Kade left and learn how to fit them back together, each one of us garnering one of his roles and adopting it as our own. We all have an extra sense of responsibility to comfort one another.

Please continue to pray for our family. We need your constant intercession.