Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Brain Dump that Facebook Missed

I'm taking a break from Facebook right now for several reasons: The noise of all those voices and notifications. (As of now, I've got 71 waiting for me when I get back next Monday.) The politics and fractious sharing of religious opinions. The pull to look again and again to see if anyone has written anything new. And oh yeah, the life envy. I admit to shoving down a bit of life envy from time to time. (The week before my birthday a friend posted about how sweet her littles were being whispering and planning surprises to delight her for her birthday. I got bubkis. A little twinge of covetousness.)

But more than that I found myself turning again and again to my online community of friends whenever I needed support, not to my family, not to God,  but to Facebook. It was all well and good in moderation, but I'm not that great at moderation. I realized the face I wanted to see was God's face, metaphorically, of course. So I decided to stop immersing myself in my virtual community, seek out real-life interaction with people I love, and try out some of those "Sunday school answers" in real life. (Q: How do you feel the Spirit? SSA: By fasting, praying, attending your meetings and the temple, service, etc.) So here are a few of my insights a week in.

1. I miss it. I miss the noise and the arguments and the announcements. My nephew and his wife just announced a pregnancy, and my SIL had a huge proud mommy moment. My husband says it's "weird" when I tell him to tell them I said congratulations. My daughters agree with him, so I'm tapping my foot, trying to keep my weirdo commitment to not facebook for two weeks. 

2, I have a backlog of thoughts I want to share with the wide, wide world. I want to write, Hence the blog post.

3. I have logged way more hours on my spiritual and intellectual pursuits than I normally do. I've been cleaning up other people's messes in Family Search. (Honestly, doesn't anyone else notice the thirty kids, and six Janes and six Joes and six of everything? Then I have to go research and see which Jane, Joe et al are the real ones and merge a bunch of people which messes with their kids . . . but I digress.) I've also done a lot more reading out loud to Caroline.

4. I am no more physically able to do other kinds of things, like cleaning, exercising, moving things, gardening than I was prior to this fb-fast. So I have a fair amount of sitting around thinking, "Hm, I can't really move: what should I do now?" Luckily, I live in my very own library, filled with my very favorite kind of books. Also, I have six million Kindle books. (OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit on the Kindle.) And a laptop. (Did I mention how hard it's been to NOT go to Facebook?)

5. I kind of hate Facebook, because Facebook destroyed casual blogging. Our easy likes, and short quips and one-stop shopping (all of our friends in one spot) was easy enough, but our status updates have been ridiculously easy. A sentence here, a paragraph there. I wrote when I blogged, and I made new friends through blogging. I miss it. But I love Facebook for all the reasons I hate it. I'm fickle like that. 

6, There have been new Doctor Who episodes and I've been staying away from Twitter and Facebook, so after I watch the new episode, my husband asks, "How was it?" And I respond, "SO GOOD!" and that's the end of it. No speculation about Missy's clever idea or chuckling over the clever lines or fist-shaking over Davros' evil plans or cheering over the Doctor choosing mercy and still winning the day. Nope. Nada. Silencio. However, point 3 sort of makes it worth it. I can squee with my online friends later. 

7. People know that I've written on my blog primarily though me posting a link on Facebook, so very few people will see this. Which is fine, I guess. It's the point, I guess. To talk to real people, not virtual ones. The problem is that some of my very favorite people in the world are ones I only have on-line contact with. I won't name names, but I'm fairly certain, they know who they are. 

So, given that maybe seven or eight people will read this, I'm not feeling all that motivated to put a big ribbon of a concluding paragraph onto this mess of thoughts, but please know I DO appreciate you reading it. 

The end. (Of this post. Sheesh. Don't get all dramatic on me.)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

TMI, in Honor of World Suicide Prevention Day

While I was pregnant with my fifth, the whole world fell apart. Some nut jobs flew planes into the twin towers and the Pentagon. People started getting envelopes with anthrax. My girl scout co-leader staged a coup. ("Good news! We have enough girls from our school to start our very own troop!") The city came into my home under the guise of a rehab loan to insulate our ceiling and get a safe water heater, and decided that a third of my home had been built illegally and needed to come down. I already was experiencing my usual pregnancy depression, and things went south from there. I couldn't take it. I didn't want to take it. Thoughts of death filled my every spare thought. I wanted to die with every iota of myself.

It was obvious that I needed to get back on anti-depressants. I'd gone off mine because I didn't want the extra risks for the pregnancy, but the truth was that suicide was 100% deadly to a fetus. The benefits clearly outweighed the risks. I happened to have insurance at that point so I called Kaiser to get an appointment with a therapist and/or psychiatrist. They asked basic questions to ascertain whether I was planning on killing myself. I knew that a yes to any of those questions would result in a "5150," an involuntary stay at a psych hospital. My kids were 10, 8, 5, and 3 at the time. Where would they go?  The only possible answer: "No, I am not going to kill myself." The Kaiser employee, having determined that she didn't need to send the police to save me, scheduled me for the next available appointment, four months from then. Four months. Luckily, I got into my primary care physician after only a month for an SSRI. I just "talked back to the crazy" while I waited.

My crazy brain thought of caulking myself and the kids into the kitchen and having a "movie, ice cream and pizza party" while the gas was on, and I told the crazy brain to SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP, I'd ponder snow camping and freezing to death, and I told myself that it wouldn't work and to SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP. Envying people with cancer, wishing for a meteorite to take me and my house out, hoping for a deadly car accident, all were greeted with my standard SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP. Never underestimate the power of telling the horrid thoughts no. It got me through while I waited for help.

Eventually, I got my SSRI and I started meeting with the Kaiser therapist, a kind of crappy therapist actually. It was enough to keep my domino up. Kaiser eventually got me in to see a psychiatrist and she was a delight. I later found a private therapist who was willing to do phone therapy with me and I worked hard to find my joi de vivre again. The meds stopped the death thoughts. The therapy gave me tools to deal with the emotions that come with life's trials. I was out of my house for fifteen months with a young family. It sucked in the biggest possible way, but I stayed alive. And I got better.

My husband later told me that while crazy me and sane me were fighting it out in my brain, I was calmer than usual and easier to get along with. He couldn't tell that I was on the edge of the abyss. I was running girl scout meetings and interviewing contractors and meeting with midwives and homeschooling and wanting to die with every iota of my being. I talked to some of my closest friends about it. I talked to my husband about it. They all knew I was stressed, but they didn't know how tempted I was. How close I was. Even though I was saying it, they weren't seeing it.

One of my closest friends saw it. She was similarly tempted. She and I made a living pact, similar to a suicide pact, with a happier outcome. The image of the line of dominoes falling and standing strong to hold up the dominoes that depended on me came from this pact of ours.  If I were to kill myself, people would be affected. Period. A lot of people.

I don't say this because I am immensely popular. I say it because when Carla jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, it affected me. We weren't close, but she was my friend. She bought cookies from my girl scouts. She was a Pampered Chef host for me. We'd talked about life, parenting. I say it because when the daughter of one of my best friends from college took her life a few weeks ago, when the sweet girl from my first married ward and sister of my good friend killed herself last week, those deaths affected me. When they died, my domino took a hit, a big hit. Every domino that falls hits so many others. Some we would never suspect. I do not want to knock other people's dominoes over.

I'm not blaming people who kill themselves. Depression is a real illness.When people kill themselves they are not being selfish. They are being sick. Their brain chemicals and their hormones are out of whack. When I started taking the SSRI, my death thoughts stopped. I didn't have to shut them up. They went away because my chemical imbalance was being corrected. It wasn't magic. I had to try several different kinds of SSRIs and fiddle with the dosages with my doctor, but it worked. I'm healthier.

I'm not sharing all this for a big pity party or a love-on-Jami-fest.  I'm sharing it because I know right now there's someone doing all the stuff they are supposed to be doing while envisioning their own death, while googling painless suicide methods, while trying to figure out how to do it with the least amount of harm to those left behind. I'm begging those people to stay, to please get help, even though it all seems insurmountable.

There are happy days ahead even if you can't imagine them now. Believe me. Believe all of the survivors before you. Please seek help. For every time I've thought that life was hopeless and there was no point in going on, I've had a dozen where I experienced peace and joy that I would not have happened if I'd given up. It's not all fields of daisies, but it's do-able with moments of delight.

Those of you who are supporting someone who is tempted by suicide, I need to tell you that if they decide they are going to kill themselves no amount of following them around and trying to fix it will stop them. This is their battle. BUT you can help. You can be there. You can not judge. You can not make it worse by making it about you. You can not give up on them. There are many resources (some conflicting) that you can explore, including seeking therapy on your own. Here's a nice starting point.

For those of you who are on the edge, have been on the edge or might be on the edge in the future,  I give you one of the best self care lists I've ever run into.  Seriously, click on it and try a few of the things. I also give you the number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255. Also I remind you that no one can be you. Not to your kids or your friends. Not to your mom or dad. Not to your mail carrier. You are the only you that is ever going to be and you are precious. Please stay with us. Stay to experience those bright moments of joy that will surely come. Stay to someday hold the hand of someone else who wants to die. Don't buy the lie that it won't get better. It will. Don't buy the lie that we'd be better off without you. We won't be. Stay. Please.