Hello, friends. I know I've been M.I.A. But, I feel terrible about it and have been silently sulking because I miss you sososo much. Does that make it any better? How about if I hold you and tell you you're so pretty? Does anyone even blog anymore? Or could I literally say anything and like no one will read it? (testing...I ate some Chex Mix off the floor today...testing).
ICYMI, this happened:
So yeah. Loyal readers from years' past, you know my treacherous journey. And here I am.
I would love to blame it on the fact that I witnessed both a raccoon and cat get hit on two separate occasions, or that I went to a bathroom at a rest stop on the way to Indiana from Ohio and a second pair of underwear fell out of my pants, or that the rejections on my latest manuscript are the nicest, most complimentary I've ever had, making this writing thing as heart wrenching as when Aerosmith temporarily broke up. But no.
One week ago today, the woman I lived with off and on throughout the years, the woman who taught me how to be a human, the woman who made me understand what LOVE means, my sweet Gram, passed.
For those of you who follow me on any of my social media hangouts, you know she'd been sick awhile. The beginning of the end was official about a year ago when she moved into the first nursing home. There will be some of you, like me, who will see this news and think "she was old; it's what old people do--they die." Or "what a great grandma she must've been." And it's really difficult to put into words, to explain to those who don't know, who this woman was to me.
She. Was. Every. Thing.
For seven days now, I've awakened in tears, the feeling of her in this world...gone. No matter how much we all braced ourselves, said our goodbyes, nothing could have prepared me for this loss. Nothing. The air has been pulled out of my lungs. She was that necessary, that vital, to my life on this earth. Even miles away, just knowing she was there was enough to help me breathe and that thing, breathing, is hard enough already.
Even right in the middle of writing the obituary and eulogy, of helping pick out the flower arrangement for the top of her casket, of choosing the songs for the service, of transporting all the funeral flowers and writing thank you notes, there's been this one thing I can't seem to grasp:
She's really gone.
One thing you may or may not know about me is, when it comes to death, loss, my development is severely arrested. Try as I might, I can't connect the series of events so they make sense to me, so it hurts less. It's not in my vocabulary or thought process to lose such a valuable piece of me and have any sort of peace with it. If you've read anything about grieving the loss of my absentee biological father some 7 years later, you can imagine how broken I'm feeling right now, losing the most significant person of my lifetime.
Mary "Elsie" Carvin, 87, Jonesboro, went to be with the Lord at 5:54 a.m. on Saturday, February 28, 2015, at Marion Rehab and Assisted Living following an extended illness. Elsie was born in Scottsboro, Alabama, to the late Jasper and Ethel Evans. She married her one true love, James Carvin, of Big Springs, TN, in 1946 and was married to him for 44 years until his passing in 1990.
Elsie retired from Foster Forbes Glass Company after 30 years. She loved being with her family and was known for her delicious biscuits and gravy. She enjoyed watching WWE wrestling, Law & Order, and other crime shows on TV. She also enjoyed reading John Grisham books, doing puzzles with her sister, popping bubble wrap, and laughing all the time at anything. Her vivacious spirit and love of life will be missed immensely by everyone who was fortunate enough to have known her.
Elsie is survived by her two daughters, Sherry (Terry) McCann, Marion, and Kathy (Randy) Craig, New Castle; adopted son, Jimmy (Betty) Brown, Decatur, TN; five grandchildren, Amber (Clint) Callahan, Anderson, Amy Columbus, Jonesboro, Micah McCann, Marion, Candace (Erik) Ganger, Covington, OH, and Jacob (Leigh) Woodard, Wondunna, Queensland, Australia; 13 great-grandchildren, Blake, Brett, Brooke, Jasmine, Amiya, Ivy, Leyton, Preston, Sophia, Lilli, Sullivan, Payton, and Grace; one great-great-grandchild, Skylyn; sister, Margaret Dale Wesling, Marion; brother, Robert E. (Pat) Evans, Plant City; and many nieces, nephews, and friends.
Those also preceding Elsie in death include her brothers, Albert and Jesse Evans; sister, Annie McKinley; and grandson, Joshua McCann.
The family will receive visitors on Thursday, March 5, 2015, from 3-7 p.m. at Needham-Storey-Wampner Funeral Service, Storey Chapel, 400 E. Main St., Gas City, IN.
The Funeral Service will be at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 6, 2015, at the funeral home with Pastor Eddie Cantrell officiating. Burial will be at Riverside Cemetery in Gas City.
Donations may be made to the funeral home for funeral expenses.
Online condolences may be made at www.nswcares.com.
Most of you know me, but for those who don’t, I’m
Kathy’s daughter, Elsie’s granddaughter, Candace. I’ve been writing most of my
life, both personally and professionally, but, aside from the obituary, this is
the hardest thing I’ve ever written
because my Gram was literally, loved by everyone who met her, and there’s no
way I can even get this close to right. But I’ll try.
1998 was the first time I said goodbye to her. I
slept in the ICU waiting room while we prayed for her to pull through but little
did I know how much fight she had, or how many times I’d frantically drive to
hospitals many, many, MANY more times to say goodbye, over the years. She lived
all nine of her cat lives and often said “you can’t kill a hillbilly.” But even
through her pain, she never complained while caring for and thinking about
others around her. She was the epitome of compassion and empathy.
What I’ll miss the most, though, is her sense of
humor and ability to laugh at every situation, no matter how frustrating, confusing,
or painful. A good example of this, was this past Monday. While funeral
planning shouldn’t be a time of happiness, those hours spent pouring over every
detail of Gram’s final send-off felt more like an episode of Seinfeld than a
grief-support group. Maybe that’s not normal but it was the first I’d laughed,
or maybe even smiled, since the news of her passing. And this, I know, would
make her so proud of us because she wouldn’t want us wasting tears over her.
Some of my favorite memories are the simplest. I
still very clearly feel her slipping on my shoes those early mornings before
school. Or the smell of her as she hugged me. Or the way her hand felt on mine
when she’d pat pat pat. Or the days she’d bring me waffles in bed and Grandpa would
say “you’ve got her spoiled,” and Gram would reply with “well, it’s little,”
followed by a kiss on the forehead and another pat pat pat on my hand. Those
days were my favorite days in life and I so wish I could have more of them.
Going to her house meant there’d always be Coke in
the fridge and bubble wrap on her bed. It meant Law and Order marathons at
night—the ones with Jerry Orbach—and pizza on Sundays. It meant the best fudge
on Christmas and the good luck meal on New Year’s Day (which I never ate). It
meant feeling safe, secure, and loved, no matter what the world thought of me.
It meant she’d be there through job loss and my first, second, and third broken
hearts. It meant when the world was crumbling down around me, she’d be there
with her arms wide open. No questions asked.
In elementary, she’d let me play in her makeup and
curl her hair. In middle school, she’d pick me up and take me to Fazoli’s,
where we’d share breadsticks and gossip about what’s happening in Star
magazine, which she referred to as “the paper.” In high school, she’d find an
old guitar of Grandpa’s that I’d get re-strung, so I could learn the Law and
Order theme song. Just for her. She gave me self-confidence, believed in me,
and made me think I could do or be anything.
In my adulthood, even after moving to another state,
I couldn’t see her as much as I wanted, but there’s never been a moment she
wasn’t with me in some way—mostly when I’m driving because I’m really just
grateful I’m still alive after all
those years of riding in a car she
was driving. The state of Indiana thanks whoever finally took her keys.
Last May, when things started going downhill again,
I went to see my hero on Mother’s Day. In all the fights she’d fought and won victoriously,
I’d never seen her so weathered. I knew then, all those months ago, she’d
surrendered and couldn’t fight another war. And I’ll never forget, as she
looked at me with those long, thick lashes and said “I’m ready to go. I just
want you to be okay.” I remember feeling choked up, doing everything possible
not to cry in front of her. So I smiled and said “I will be.”
I lied. Because we all know a world without Gram is
not okay at all.
I wrote something before all this happened where a
fictional character, kind of inspired by Gram, says “the heart breaks harder
than bones,” and though losing her is the very essence of this sentiment, I
also know what she’d do in this situation—she’d comfort everybody else. In
fact, I looked back on her Facebook timeline, which was like losing her all
over again, and found this post she’d put on my wall after a surgery I’d had. Though,
I know at the time, she was sick, herself. She said:
“Candace, honey, I can imagine what you are going
through . I feel so bad for you. If it helps a teeny little bit, I love you and
am praying for some relief from pain.”
I strive to be that kind of person. To live the kind
of life filled with so much love and so little regret. To give more than I
receive to laugh more than I cry. Because those are the all the little things
that were the sum of the greatest woman I’ve ever known.
After a lot of tears and scrolling, time froze and
for a moment, it felt like she was still here. And then I finally reached the
end of her Facebook timeline, and found the exact message I want to leave you
with, from Gram, herself. From April 2011 she said:
“I miss my sister, Annie Lee, and I miss my beloved
husband, Jim. He will be gone 21 yrs. April 26th. Sometimes it’s
like they went outside and will be back soon.”
So, friends and family, when the days feel hard, like
right now, just tell yourself she went outside and will be back soon.
Thank you to all who've reached out. The truth is, no, I'm not okay. Not even a little. I feel her absence as much as I felt her life. This will take some time (like forever).
If you find it in your heart, please consider donating towards her funeral expenses directly to the funeral home. Being sick took everything from this generous woman and we struggled to give her a proper send-off. And even though we couldn't afford much, she deserved the world.
Now to get this m-effing book agented and sold so I can help pay off the funeral expenses and celebrate my Gram through the character I've based on her. I can hear her now: "I'm proud of you, babe. Be sweet." To which I would reply "no way," and she'd laugh...the rascal.
Between THIS and THIS, I have to say, a few of you are pretty awesome and deserve extra Bert screams and a lot of you really suck ballz and should be handcuffed to Miley Cyrus for a week.
I could go on and on and on about how this chapter of my life is a really huge warning to anyone who realizes they are in a desperate state + conjures enough courage and humbleness to ask for help before there is no next time. Because in the end, it's a sonofabitch crap shoot. Maybe you'll read the words, heed the warnings, reach out to me, or others around you who are suffering in silence, too, or, maybe you'll read the words, pretend you didn't, and have a great life without a second thought about the points I'm trying to make here. I have found the latter to be more prevalent and that's really, really sad. Not just for me, but for any poor kid, teen, or adult going through the same emotions I know too well.
It's clear now why so many people drink themselves to death (or drugs or collect ceramic puppies or whatever pushes you into your dark place the fastest). It's the easiest way to get people to pay an-effing-ttention, and even then...crap shoot, remember? And just future ref, agents and others, I'm documenting everything about this mental health experiment gone awry because WHY NOT capitalize on my cray? <--I ain't no dummy.
One "professional" actually told me to Google coping skills, then took my money like a cheap hooker (but she wasn't cheap). On a Tuesday! In broad daylight! I can't help but laugh. Probably because I'm crazy now and if I don't laugh I'll collect more ceramic puppies! I could go on and on and on about this. I could. You know I could. But really, who cares? I've lost interest so you must be bored out of your mind! I'll go back to hiding away in my cold, dark house (that's the way I like it) where I'll post things like this instead:
And just so you know, my cat hates long walks on the beach,Grumpy Cat, and all of humanity. Those are noodles, not worms.
Thanks to those of you who have checked in on me. I'm doing great! I "found" myself and figured out all the answers to dealing with everything. I can breathe! And it's all because I decided to just be happy! That's it! No drugs or intensive therapy needed. Just a smile and a skip in my step.
I wish I could say that that but honestly, I'm more broken than 5 days ago. A well has opened up inside my heart and it's flooding, drowning me. I mentioned feeling like something snapped in my brain, something changed on Sunday. I was right. A trigger went off, opened decades of darkness, and Thursday, I was diagnosed with PTSD.
You're not going to know the details, the reasons, behind this diagnosis (because I want to sell my memoir, currently on sub, and I'd rather you buy that instead of reading this for free!). All that matters is I have put my soul on display here not only so I can the help I need, but so all of you can, too.
Do NOT be ashamed, friends.
October 5-11th is Mental Illness Awareness Week and National Depression Screening Day is Thursday, October 9th. If you're unsure as to whether you need help or not, if it's serious enough to go through all the motions, I beg of you to start with this anonymous online screening where, at the end, you'll be referred to a clinic offering full evaluations. With the messages I've received, there are so many of you hurting, ashamed, embarrassed, afraid, holding it all in. I am screaming at the top of my lungs for you to say something, to do something because what you're dealing with can be fixed. I tell you these things because I so desperately need to believe them for myself. Without hope, there is nothing.
Taking an online assessment won't solve all your problems but it's a start. In fact, just doing anything to take action is the hardest part. Trust me.
Insert reason number FIVE people don't reach out for help when they need it. If you're just joining us, please go back and read THIS POST before moving on.
A) You finally decide to ask for help and you go to someone who can't really help you. She tells you to take a bath when stressed, to eat when hungry, and to go to the hospital when feeling suicidal. You leave, still, with no coping skills to use immediately. You feel worse than before and consider throwing in the towel. Oh, and her next appointment isn't for 3 weeks. Good luck with that.
B) So, after sobbing for what feels like forever, you peel yourself off the floor, call FIVE other places, and they don't accept your insurance and/or the first appointment isn't for at least 2+ weeks. Oh, but if you're really that sad, you should what? GO TO THE HOSPITAL!
I. Can't. Even.
This is everything wrong with the mental health system in a nutshell. I have been through an exhausting war this week and the battle hasn't even begun. I have yet to actually tackle all these wounds that are paralyzing me in my daily life. And what about the next trigger? Will it be my last? As I listen to my children's laughter, this scares me to my core. I want to get better, to feel like I'm not being pulled under with no air left to breathe.
And somewhere in me, I know it's now or never.
To those of YOU suffering, if I can go through the humiliation of posting all of my experiences, put myself out there despite the shame and [mostly] fear of no one giving a rat's behind, YOU can reach out for help, too. Please take advantage of the screenings offered in your area in the next week, or sooner, and get the party started. I will be with you every step of the way. Not really. But somewhere inside of you. That's what he said (I'm still me).
Please share this with everyone you know. It might save a life.
You come here for balls-out honesty, right? Right. Remember the discussion on Robin Williams' suicide and how ridiculously difficult it is to reach out when in need? And then there are those times you muster everything in you to ask for said help and the response is underwhelming, to say the least?
That happened. To me.
Note: If you're reading this, and you have triggers such as talk of suicide, self-harm, or any depression-related field, please do yourself a favor and don't puff, just pass.
Did you go?
How about now?
Okay. Back to what I was saying. I'm a writer so I will write, I will tell my story, un-apologetically, no matter what, because without these words, I might fade away, disappear without a trace.
I want to leave a trace. That's why I write.
You, my lovelies, know I have a lifelong history of depression, where, in my postpartum phase, had to be peeled off the cold, dark, bathroom floor to be saved. Before that, though, I'd gone through most of my life in different therapies, on many medications, and even in clinical drug studies when I couldn't afford treatment. But, I was relentless in seeking the help I needed and have always been proactive, despite lack of money or resources, or most of all, humility. Mental illness runs in my family, so I knew I'd have to fight to be somewhat normal. And here I am. With my dukes up.
The funny thing about depression is, you never know when it's going to strike. It could be when one of your kids says something hateful, when you notice a close "friend" hasn't contacted you in months, or when you hear a song that reminds you of someone you will never see again. It could be when nothing happens. It could even be, and this happened yesterday, when you see a bag of doughnuts/donuts randomly left by a caring co-worker (without a clue as to how badly you needed the pick-me-up) and realize you're not worthy of Bill's. Not even close. Bill, himself would fling doughnut/donut grease at you and say "No Soup For You," which would be weird since they don't serve soup.
This time around the sad train, there wasn't one single trigger. I noticed I'd been feeling blue, a little unsure of my path in life, over the last couple months/years/decades. It has manifested since coming back from the ocean, the home of my heart, in Cocoa Beach, Florida. The waves are the only thing that calms my very loud mind for longer than a cemetery run or writing a chapter of a book.
(Side note: Someone please finance an oceanic retreat for my "mental health." I'm not even joking . No, really. Seriously. Money DOES buy happiness! KThnx.)
We all struggle with a little sadness here and there. We all have down days. Some of you can pick yourselves right back up and climb back on your shiny pedestal where you can look down and knock us little guys over the head with "smile, be happy," and "choose to be happy," and "silver linings," and...sorry, I stopped listening because I'm too focused on punching you in the ear or throat. Your choice.
This, my friends, is what I refer to as the "shit of the bull."
Not all of you will know this kind of pain, this level of blackened grief that consumes your every thought on the worst of days no matter how proactive you are. The kind that spits at you, says the things that make you cower like the pathetic, little biotch you are but pretend not to be in front of people. But some of you know. You really know. You know what it's like to sit on the floor, in the dark, with the pills, the razor, the [insert your vice here], the voices."You'll never heal those old wounds. You're not good enough. No one needs you. Everyone is better off without you. You're just a mistake. A waste of space."
My blue quickly progressed to a full-on sadness. Like crying at a funeral sadness. In a way, I kind of live in a funeral in my heart so I guess that's right. It came out of nowhere, as they say, though looking back, it wasn't nowhere. It was all these somewheres that had built up into nowhere. I'm passive aggressive which means I hold onto a lot of suppressed rage that I sometimes punch into a fluffy pillow or Justin Bieber cutout. Though, if I could get my hands on some plastic cups, I'd totes destroy them in a blind fury and have no regrets.
(It's cool. I'm a self-trained assassin.)
Then, just when I thought this whole wallow would pass, that I don't really need to jump back into the therapy/meds taxi, an incident happened that caused a short-circuit in my brain. I had a full-on panic attack while screaming a voice I didn't realize I had. It came from somewhere deep down where all this pain has been fermenting for too many years. I always know it's there, but something inside just snapped. It opened a portal to so much darkness, I even scared my cats. Meowza!
I should have known, should have recognized the signs, such as excessive straightening of hair products with the labels out, being acutely aware of the time, counting seconds with a fear of how short life is at all times, talking to myself more often about normal things, scratching the skin on my hands, rubbing my knuckles together or clawing at my chest or throat when stressed (which is just weird), sticking to the schedule/routine to the minute (if I don't have my yogurt between 8 p.m. and 8:25 p.m., life is ruined), etc. But this time, it's very different. A part of me died when that voice erupted, and in a strange way, a part of me came alive. The part that knows I'm not okay. But hopefully (and yes, there is still hope), I can be.
After Erik called off work the night prior to make sure I wouldn't hurt myself, I found whatever courage and humility I could gather, and with trembling hands, picked up the phone. I picked up that phone, and as my voice shook and tears fell, asked for help. I asked for help because I knew I was a danger to myself. And during this out-of-body experience where the intake nurse was asking my location [in case I hurt myself] and if there were any sharp objects nearby that should be removed, I realized this is part one of the exact reason people don't reach out.
It's terrifying to realize you're not in control of your mind. That you need real help.
When she was finished quizzing me, making sure I wasn't going to kill myself before I could be evaluated, I hung up the phone and asked for help from person number one.
Insert part two of why people don't reach out when the need is dire.
There's this thing that happens when you tell someone you need help. It goes in stages.
1) OMG! Of course I'll help. I'm so sorry. Here's have a hug. And my last dollar. Anything.
2) Wait...I don't know if I know how to help but I'll try/pretend and cross my fingers.
3) Yeah, I'm listening but could you speed this up? You've been crying for days and I have to go to work.
4) Obviously you can't admit yourself into an inpatient treatment facility because who would take care of the kids? And your job? And my job? And, uh, who will PAY for this?? Those things are more important than you losing your shit so how about you talk to me every night instead? It's way cheaper and easier to figure out on this end. So, hold said shit together until, well, forever, because there will never be a good time for you to go take care of that shit. Good luck, friend!
5) Life is fine. Let's just forget the whole thing happened and do the same things we've always done because it's easier. How was your day? Great! I didn't really want to know the answer! I hope that depression thing is going well for you. What's for dinner?
Back the truck up.
If someone I care about is hurting to the point of possibly being hospitalized, not only will I drop the mic and figure that shit out later, but sweet, baby Jesus, I will hold you, cry with you, throw on a romcom (with Zac Efron, maybe?) and dance around in my unders until life feels better.
I will not let go until it had been pounded it into your head: YOU ARE NOT ALONE, I AM HERE, WE WILL GET THE HELP YOU NEED. NO MATTER WHAT.
So, if you, like most people I know, feel clueless about *how* to help, here are a list of things to do when someone is crying out:
Listen if they are talking, talk if they want to listen. It's a fun game.
Hug if they are open to touch. If they are anything like me, they will fight the hug at the times they need it most. Don't stop trying.
If they open up to you, take care of that. You may not go about your day, pretending as if it didn't happen, and/or not say another word about it. This opening up thing is a scary game and most of us (ME), are tired of having feelings overlooked, stepped on, or disregarded.
Check on them. Often. You're not a babysitter but for now, yeah, you are. If someone is a threat to his or herself, you have to be there. Maybe not making them feel weird every time they go to the bathroom, but they need to know you will not abandon them when it gets tough.
Gather everyone up who loves this person and get them to "show up" in some form. A text, a card, in person. Whatever. Now is the time for extreme measures. Like an intervention. You are making a case for their life. Get everyone involved so this person DOES NOT FEEL ALONE.
Help them create a plan of attack. If immediate help is needed, call the facility for them, drive them there, stay with them until days bleed together. This is crisis management 101. If they seem relatively "stable," then sit down and show support in helping he/she figure out what the next move should be. Research doctors or Florida beaches or Ryan Gosling abs. Anything that shows you are not going anywhere, that you are going to fight this together.
Distraction is nice, but don't rely on it too heavily. The thing is, I can be distracted for short periods. Bouts of time at work, when the children laugh, when the cat chases her tail, but ultimately, the voices, the darkness is always there. It won't disappear just because I crack a smile when Beat Bobby Flay is on. When you're in this head space, it's hard to concentrate for long periods and really, anything can set you off into a tailspin of negativity. It's hard to come back from that, even if you think I'm "doing better."
Don't disappear. I can't stress this enough. Even if you physically leave, be their sponsor. Two of the biggest reasons people commit suicide are feeling hopeless and/or alone. Strip them of these feelings and there is nowhere to go but up. Sure, medication to balance the malfunctioning chemicals will help, too, but just by showing your unwavering support, you are proving to those voices in his/her head, that they are wrong. That life would be empty without them, not better.
Help them find an outlet. I don't always feel like vomiting my life story onto people but there are days it spills out (sorry, you guys). On the days I don't, (most of my life), I either run, write, or both if I'm feeling especially anxious or on edge. These two things have helped me grow as a person while keeping my thoughts re-focused to positive things. They both give me a rush and sense of accomplishment, which are always good things. The caveat here is that if I'm injured, running stresses me out more. If I'm working with a client to write something and they're not happy, it stresses me out more. Both things only work best when used for purely selfish reasons like writing MY OWN book or running for fun instead of time. Regardless, a re-focus is different than a distraction in that the re-focus will enrich the life for longer than a temporary re-direct, if that makes sense. Wow. I sound like an expert (I should by now). Go me.
My point is, just be there. Be present. You might even get off talking about Ryan Gosling (yes, please) and Eva Mendes (get outta here) having a baby.
Eww. So gross.
It's now been a full 36 hours since I started this post. In the time since, I've been sitting, alone, in a movie theater, watching my life on this great, big screen.
My mom looks at me after work and says "Are you okay?"
I swallow a ball of prickled pain and grit my teeth because it's obvious. "No, I'm not okay."
In this movie theater, alone, she says nothing else to me, except goodbye. I watch this girl, me, who is so sad, and she is screaming at people to help her. But all that has changed since yesterday is George Clooney got married. I worked like a normal person, reached out to a couple people the best I could, sat beneath the cemetery tree with the wind chimes clanging above me, tried so hard to see the beauty in this day (this weather is my favorite), tried to play with my kids without feeling numb. But after I come home, make dinner, take care of kids, and everyone goes about the day like things are m-effing dandy, I'm still crouching over this laptop, typing this post, hiding in the bathroom where the voices thrive, sobbing, with a broken heart in my hands.
This, my friends, is what defeat looks like. It is more evident than ever that it's not just old wounds. It's life in general. If I were famous, I'd have checked myself into treatment for "exhaustion." So I can move on and be a whole person for once.To keep this SOB disease from taking your loved one, physically, emotionally, whatever, let me help you recognize the signs, please, because some people here ain't got no time for that.
Warning signs someone you love may need help:
THEY ASK FOR IT! (Hello? Can anyone hear me?)
He/she is looking into life insurance policies, making sure there's enough for the rest of you to live on "in case something ever happens."
Erratic behavior. Furiously cleaning, high highs and low lows, throwing things away, saying goodbye in strange ways, lingering in moments with a sadness that doesn't go away.
He/she is locking them self in the bathroom to self medicate.
He/she is driving recklessly.
He/she is self-medicating in plain sight.
He/she has lost the ability to see consequences past any harm or dire action and are only stuck in "the now."
He/she has lost hope.
He/she is sleeping too much or not at all, or tossing and turning.
Talk of what life would be like without him/her.
Feeling all alone, unable to perform daily functions, or on the flip side, is really good at masking the pain in an unbelievable way.
Unable to enjoy the present. Too focused on the sadness to be present.
This is a disease, a cancer of sorts, that eats away at people's livelihoods, their personalities, their souls. It is not a choice. They cannot just feel better if they "try." There are chemicals and things that don't flow the same ways as it does for "normal" people. It requires intervention in some way, be it medication, individual/group therapy, support, and really any-effing-thing else. Because you know what? It's not their fault. They just need the tools to cope (something I've never had).
And that brings us to reason number three people don't ask for help. The GD stigma.
I was afraid to tell anyone, to make the necessary phone call, to talk to anyone about this loss of shittage. Afraid of feeling even crazier because, hello? The mental health facility told me to come in, shoes without laces, no belts, no pens or markers, no scrunchies (people still wear these?), no balloons (party time!), no talcum powder (uh, I don't have a sac) or candles, NO COMPUTER. And the list really goes on and on because this really is serious business.
If I didn't feel crazy before, I sure as hell did after. And all that crazy just makes me want to fall into more darkness. See the pattern? The truth is, we do whatever we can to numb the pain, whatever that is. So if someone is screaming out to you, LISTEN TO THEM. People who are hurting don't want to paint this picture because it's messy and embarrassing and maybe we look like we have it together on the outside, at work, with "friends," but it doesn't mean we're okay. There are so many judgy people that just don't get it so we pretend for them, not us. But I can tell you beneath the exterior, there is another more complex layer of paint and in general, people don't want to die. We just want the pain gone. End of story.
I have two beautiful childrenI refuse to screw up, so really, I have no choice but to get better. Whatever that means in my current state of life. If I have to go away, if I have to disappear, I will do what I need to. To find my way.
But it shouldn't hurt so much, you want to end it all. If you're depressed or having suicidal thoughts and feel like you're all alone, I desperately urge you to find the courage and pick up that damn phone. I don't care who you call, honestly. Just call someone and tell them you need help. No, it's not going to be easy, I know this now more than ever. And no, your loved ones might not know how to help. And actually, they might even makes things worse (temporarily) because you'll realize you're not only crazy,
And dammit, if there's an end point to your life now, or in the future, you can't say you didn't try.
Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-TALK
If you need to talk to someone, and aren't ready to go pro, I am always an email or text away. If you call, I won't answer because talking on the phone is the worst. Facetime? You might as well shoot me. Unless you really need to. In which case, no one has your back more than me, boo.
Take it from someone who's lost her shit and is still losing it by the nanosecond: We're in this together. Promise.
In amidst of everything Robin Williams related, I feel compelled to say something. While the loss of any human, famous or not, inspired or not, hilarious or not, is, for lack of a better word, sad, the more painful point here isn't as obvious.
Having struggled with my own demons for many years, I know how dark the corner of your mind can feel. When you want to scream, but your voice is silent. When you want to reach, but your hands are frozen. Depression is a huge manipulator that will twist your reality into either a) making you believe things are worse than they are, and/or b) making others believe you've got it all together when you effing don't.
A smile doesn't mean life's grand. A joke doesn't equate to a happy existence. More times than not, it's the funny ones, the ones who sacrifice their pain to make others smile, who are hurting more than you could ever know.
Suicide is a complicated beast. It's not black and white. If you've been depressed, you know how quickly those voices in your head can escalate. All over the web are organizations and people telling you to reach out, to call the suicide hotline, to tell a friend, to talk about it, like my fav, TWLOHA.
But the truth is, we just don't.
It took me well into adulthood to be honest with myself about depression, self-harm, substance abuse, and suicidal tendencies, and even longer to start talking about them openly. In fact, it wasn't until my 1st pregnancy postpartum my OB/GYN put me on suicide watch. It started to really sink in there was a definitive dysfunction with the chemical make-up in my brain that was beyond my control, despite my best intentions and efforts to get "better." Things would ebb and flow in bi-polar-like states, all while mimicking a completely normal person in the outside world. Throw in two miscarriages that depleted me, mounting financial woes, and rocky relationships and you've got a recipe for suicide.
It has taken years, but I know now what makes me hurt, breaks me open, kills me inside. I'm more aware of who to befriend, who to open up to, what to show the world, and most importantly:
How to love myself in spite of myself.
What's bothering me about this recent suicide isn't that his struggle was so real for so many years. It's that even if he had reached out through therapy, rehab, etc., it wasn't enough. When you're in that dark place, you don't have the state of mind to ask for help, and even if you did, who really cares enough to be a friend? Who will sit with you and keep watch, make sure you make it to the next day, the next week, be there for you until you can find your footing?
The problem is, sometimes you just never find it.
And sometimes enough is never enough which is why we turn to alternative vices to self-soothe. There are holes in our souls that, we aim to fill. And despite looking high and low, in every crack house and holy house in the world, sometimes the void doesn't lessen. It doesn't make Robin, or anyone else struggling a bad person, or an unholy person, or even a person doomed to an inevitable death.
It just makes him a real person, with a real pain, that couldn't be mended.
If you're feeling helpless, wondering how to help someone in your life, let me tell you a few things. 1) A hug helps. A really long one is even better. You know what? Just don't let go. 2) You can say "it's going to be okay," but we might not believe you. Don't stop. 3) Don't sugarcoat. Be honest. Tell them life is hard. It's glorious. It's painful. It's beautiful. The struggles are what makes them beautiful and the good times that much better. 4) Be a real friend. Let them open up to you and--get this--DON'T DISAPPEAR. 5) Shut your mouth and just listen. This isn't about you. 6) Don't write them off. The worst thing you can do, despite anything a person suffering says or does, is to give up on them. Don't ever let them feel like they're all alone in the world because that's what's already going on in their head.
If you or someone you know is going through something similar, please, email me at ANY TIME.
candace ganger [at] yahoo [dot] com
I don't have all the answers but I do have a crapload of life lived in these 32 years and even moreso, I know the struggle and I am here for you. Everyone needs someone. You don't want to reach out? I know it's hard. It's REALLY hard. Probably the hardest thing you'll ever do. But if you don't, the alternative is something I can't process. There IS hope. There IS another day. <3 Candyland. OUT.
Way back when I started on the path to publication, before I knew I could somewhat string words together to make books and pretty-sounding things, my belief in "the process" was at its highest level. You know the one. It's full of hope (full of something), and dreams of what could be. You imagine your book on the front display at the bookstore and signing autographs and hanging out in coffee shops with the likes of Stephen King while you discuss plot twists and character flaws, all while laughing at all the "others" who won't make the full journey. Because it's hard and they'll quit. But this is about something else. This is about all the things no one will say. And why it sucks so hard.
If you'll remember waaaaaayyyy back, I wrote a book that was a winner of the Teenfire/Sourcebooks writing competition. Before that book, I didn't know who I was as a writer. Sure, I'd made some money from it, but nothing major. That contest gave me validation. That what I was doing was right. The announcement fell between a mile-high stack of rejections and my loss of faith in myself, so the timing couldn't have been better.
But it wasn't enough.
I revised the crap out of that book, re-queried, and sat on the silence. For months. One agent took a keen interest in my writing and unofficially helped me shape the book into something solid. It was happening. Someone FINALLY believed enough in my writing to take a real chance. She offered representation, sent pages and pages of notes along with the contract and gave me a reason to believe. In myself. In dreams. In good things happening to those who work hard enough.
After months of re-writing [what is still] my favorite love story of all time, I submitted all things book-ish to my agent. I loved saying that, too. MY AGENT. I said it every chance I got because I earned it. Just as all of you with agents say it, it made my tongue tingle with anticipation for what the future may hold.
And then she disappeared.
Literally. She left all her clients in the dust. No explanation. No apology. NOTHING. And that's exactly what I felt like when I had no response all those months of calling and emailing. NOTHING.
I stopped writing altogether because it hurt too much. Over a hundred rejections, multiple re-writes, and although most could agree they loved "my voice," only one agent took a chance on me. And she was gone.
It was nearly a year before I came across a freelance writing/editing website to make some money and gradually pick up the pieces of my writing heart. It was hard. I kind of hated it. I wanted, so badly, for my book to make it. That story and I had been through SO MUCH together. And even still, I *know* I have something there. It hasn't garnered the attention it has for no reason. But it doesn't matter...
Every now and then, I still re-query my baby. But the truth is, agents don't know what they want, regardless of what they say. Even when they think they do, and they have what they're asking for in their hands, it's not guaranteed they'll love it. I received a rejection SIX MONTHS after sending a requested full. It came out of nowhere. It doesn't matter that in the years' prior, I've written books for best-selling authors or that I'm a writer with a real voice. It doesn't matter that I would re-write until my fingers fall off to see my book on a shelf. I kept telling myself 'if I had time, I'd write one of the other books I have notebooks full of outlines for.'
That's what everyone says: Move on. Write another book. Keep going.
So while you're querying, stop and think about all the rules we're supposed to abide by and in 2014, decide to break them. Do things YOUR way. Don't let all the nonsense get into your head. Don't read about all the cool stuff Author A is doing. Focus on you. I swear. This is the year I write another book.
I sometimes go by my real name, Candace Ganger and I have a head, I swear.
Born in a small village on the outskirts of Ipanema...wait, that wasn't me. Though I was a musician, I'm currently an author of all things YA, an avid road runner, and (obsessive) lover of New Medicine & The Used. Inquiries: Contact Bethany Buck @ Greenburger & Associates. My debut contemporary novel, THE INEVITABLE COLLISION OF BIRDIE + BASH, will be out Spring/Summer 2017 via St. Martin's Press.