Just Another Blog

my random ramblings about crafts, writing, books and kids

My Thoughts on Robin Williams, Mental Illness, and Suicide

"Robin Williams 2011a (2)" by Eva Rinaldi → Flickr: Robin Williams -  Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Robin Williams 2011a (2)” by Eva Rinaldi → Flickr: Robin Williams – Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

It’s been over a week now since the world was shocked with the news that Robin Williams, beloved actor and comedian, committed suicide. Celebrities die all time, but suicide? He’s not the first and won’t be the last. The rash of suicides filling the airwaves, from big name celebrities to small town teenagers, has had one positive effect: it has gotten people talking. Talking about tough questions like what does it really mean to have a mental illness, what pushed these people to suicide, how can we help, and what is wrong with our health care system?

For me, Williams’ death hit a very, very tender spot. Last month, I found myself spiraling into a deep, scary depression after my bipolar medications stopped working. Things escalated quickly from being just a little tired and sad to suicidal a week later. Even in my diminished condition I managed to reach out to people online. I posted a few comments on Facebook eliciting responses of “contact me” and “hope you are okay.” I emailed two friends to apologize for not being strong enough and made preparations to turn over control of my livejournal to one of them. I wrote down the passwords to my laptop and most important websites where I wanted my husband to leave a message about what happened to me. I wrote a letter to my husband explaining why I broke and couldn’t hang on any more.

Through it all, I cried. I cried because I didn’t want to die, but I could see no other way out of the constant pain. It was agonizing. I emailed back and forth with my two friends for twenty minutes, but the more they worried the worse I felt. At some point I had downed about ten Ativan, a few Klonopin, and two Trazadone (sleeping pills). I think in the back of my head I knew this combination at those doses wouldn’t kill me, but the intent was there. I told both friends good-bye, turned off my computer and laid down in my bed. I wanted to sleep and never wake up to the pain again.

It couldn’t have been ten minutes later when one of my kids came in and shook me awake. I was sleeping and confused, but followed him into the other room where the police were waiting to talk to me. They called for EMTs to transport me to the hospital because I had taken so many pills. During all of this, my husband and kids were in the rest of the house enjoying their lives and oblivious to the abyss I had fallen into. I couldn’t reach out to them. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t. It ended up being one of those email friends who called the police for a well check.

I spent the night in the ER–probably the best night sleep I’d had in weeks. There were no ill-effects from the pills I took. The next three and half days I lied in an inpatient treatment center where I had some therapy and got my meds straightened out.

So, you can imagine, hearing that one of my favorite actors committed suicide hit a little too close to home. Having just gone through the desperation, my heart broke thinking of how much pain Williams must have been in to end it all. In the days following I read articles and Facebook commentary on the death, mental illness, and suicide. Many times I had to shut my computer down and do something else.

While reading, I alternated between tearful joy at the number of people that understood depression–who had the same experiences I had–and rage at all the people that had no clue but spouted their opinion as fact. We’ve come a long way as a society in understanding mental illness, but we still have a long way to go.

I read some very hurtful and dangerous comments giving out false information and guilt trips equally. The outpouring of love from other sufferers and their family and friends, though, has outnumbered the haters, at least in what I’ve read. I have hope that in the future we will understand this awful disease and the people that suffer from it. No more will people have to languish in emotional torment with nowhere to turn. There will be no stigma in admitting you have a mental illness and people will all be willing to help you with only love and caring. No more will we hear news reports of ten-year-olds having hung themselves.

Robin Williams is sad. The world lost an amazing entertainer, philanthropist, and man. I’m not sure any one else could fill the hole left in his wake. It will take time for the country to mourn and heal from this emotional blow. In the meantime, we need to continue the discourse on mental illness and the lack of resources sufferers encounter every day. The best way we can do that is to simply keep talking. Tell our stories and not hide in the corner. It’s not easy, I admit, but the more people that share, the stronger we will be. Our voices will be louder than the ignorant haters that try to keep us down.

We are strong. All of us that suffer and survive every day–we are strong. And those that didn’t make it were strong until that last day when the disease won. They were strong to make it that long. 

Currently Reading/Upcoming

Currently Reading (by choice and not so much)

rhetoricalgrammar  writingfiction  thestructureofenglish  thefamilyunit  changingplanes

Coming up (because they’re library books and I need to get them back)

theplotthickens overnight spiritofsteamboat bestshortstories asthecrowflies aserpantstooth anyothername

Review: Nightlights, an anthology from Northwest Writers

nightlightsstarted: 8-2-14; finished: 8-9-14
Goodreads rating: 3/5 stars
my rating: good
pages: 218
found: library

In my attempt to read outside of my comfort zone of teen romance and dystopia (with the occasional mystery series thrown in), I decided to get through some short stories. I chose this book because it’s by writers from the Pacific Northwest where I live. I’m always interested in what locals write and there’s a strong tradition of writing in the area.

This book is a collection of essays and short stories written for the Humanities Washington, a group dedicated to nurturing learning and promoting culture in Washington State. Authors from around the state are asked to write short stories on a particular theme having to do with bedtime stories and the night. The theme changes each year.

The entries were quite diverse in this book, although heavy on personal essay. Some made you think, many were very funny. One of my favorites was a tale about a neighborhood cat that terrorizes one family, sneaking in through their kitty door, eating all of their cats’ food, and scaring the bejeezers out of everyone. It was hilarious.

Another one that I really liked was the last essay in the book—a recollection of a lifetime friendship between the writer and his colleague and how they see the black community. During the events remembered the two stay half the night at a local pub (a monthly ritual) drinking, eating, and discussing writing and life. When last call comes they decide to head over to the IHOP which is open 24/7. When they get there the cops are already on scene, but they go in and order coffee anyway. Not long after the cops leave that a gun-toting thug marches in, gets into an altercation with some patrons, then tries to leave. The patrons catch him before he can get out the door and all hell breaks loose. The author ends up standing on his seat to watch. His friend runs for cover like most of the other patrons.

He examined their different behavior as coming from different upbringing: the author (both men are black) was raised in an upper-middle class neighborhood outside of Chicago. His friend was brought up in an impoverished neighborhood in Pittsburgh. He had much experience with violence, while the author did not.

What I liked best about the story was the peek into the mind of the older generation of writers, the ones that have seen social change through the years and see just how much father they believe we have to go. It was fascinating (as a young-er white female that grew up in an impoverished neighborhood in Chicago and now lives in a small town—although still dealing with poverty—in Washington State).

Some of the stories were kind of slow moving and predictable, but there were a few gems hidden within. I will definitely be looking for more anthologies of short stories in the future.

Review: Proof by David Auburn

proofstarted: 8-2-14; finished: 8-2-14
Goodreads rating: 3/5 stars
my rating: OK
pages: 96
found: library

They say there’s a fine line between genius and insanity.

I’m not usually one to read plays, but I decided to broaden my horizons a few months ago. Proof is an award winning play about a woman dealing with the loss of her mathematician father. The math part plays an important part. After years of caring for her mentally ill father, Catherine finds herself suddenly alone and lost. Her sister shows up to “deal” with things which means she starts bossing Catherine around, decides to sell the house, and forces Catherine to move to New York with her. Hal, one of her father’s ex-students, starts hanging around the house to go through her father’s old journals looking for genius math proofs.

The journals, though, are filled with gibberish. Except for one. The end of the play revolves around that journal and its secrets.

I found this book in the library among the books on mental illness. It caught my eye as it wasn’t a self-help or guide. I’m always interested in the take on mental illness in literature. Although I don’t suffer from schizophrenia (which is probably what Catherine’s father had), I could relate to Catherine’s plight of worrying if she inherited the mind-robbing disease. Having bipolar, I do understand what it’s like to be mentally ill, be worried things will get worse, and not really know where to go or what to do about it. It’s confusing and scary. And it’s inheritable, so I don’t blame Catherine for worrying.

Although the end is a bit predictable, I enjoyed this quick read.

Review: Hell is Empty by Craig Johnson

hellisemptyStarted: 7-19-14; finished: 8-1-14
Goodreads rating: 5/5 stars
my rating: sweet!
pages: 312
found: my shelf

Hell is Empty is the seventh book of the Walt Longmire series about a wise-cracking sheriff in Wyoming. Walt’s been through some crazy adventures over the years, but none as dangerous and insane as in Hell is Empty. The book starts with him and his deputy, Santiago “Sancho” Saizarbitoria, delivering a group of convicted killers to federal custody. Things escalate fast. The convicts escape, killing most of the officers transporting them, then take off into the wilderness. On the mountain during a blizzard without backup, Walt does the only thing he can—which is usually the stupidest thing he can do—he goes after them. Alone. Did I mention stupid? In fact Walt admits that it’s stupid and that if he doesn’t survive his other deputy, Victoria “Vic” Moretti” will kill him personally.

Walt’s adventure tracking the sociopath, Raynaud Shade, into the Cloud Peak Wilderness tests his physical and mental strength. Blizzard, fire, being shot at—through it all, he manages to keep his patented self-deprecating humor that makes Walt such an enjoyable narrator.

In the book, Sancho is reading Dante’s Inferno which becomes a theme. According to the questions and answers at the end of the book, Johnson wove the events of Inferno into the action of Hell is Empty. He mentions in the answer that he wanted to make sure the novel was enjoyable for those that haven’t read Inferno. Well, he succeeded. Even without knowing the classic, I was glued to the pages of the book, wondering what idiotic predicament Walt would get into next. And his actions were beyond idiotic at times. But that’s part of his charm. His stupidity when it comes to risking his own life is well documented within the series. There were so many times I found myself yelling at the book: WHY ARE YOU BEING SO STUPID, WALT! Then I’d turn the page to find out why.

Johnson writes compelling mysteries and thrillers, but his knowledge of Native American lore and the human condition are what really make the books unique. And the humor. Walt’s penchant for sarcasm and witty commentary had me cracking up even during the most intense parts of the book. The Longmire series is well worth the time invested in reading all ten (I think it is) novels. They will keep you on the edge of your seat and laughing out loud.

some more scrapbook pages

My Halloween mini-album continues with Halloween 2012 and 2011 (2010 coming soon). These are so much easier to make then a full page, especially since I’m sticking to simple, matching designs. Designing the first page takes the longest. After that it’s a matter of duplicating the page and swapping photos/papers then rearranging them.

2012:baby_072514

beaver_072514_edited-1 Read more…

Scrapbooking Halloween

I got a bit of a bug up my butt earlier this week. For some reason, I just had to scrapbook something. I haven’t made a scrapbook page since 2010, but my brain insisted that this week I just must. I had forgotten how much fun it could be. Of course, it took away from my school work and the nine page paper I have to write.

I decided to do something small instead of a full 12 x 12 page. So I started with a 6 x 4 space and decorated it based on a scrapbook page I found at designerdigitals.com. At first I just did Nora’s, but I loved it so much I decided to do all the kids dressed in their Halloween costumes last year. The four mini-pages match with the same layout (the boys flipped horizontally), but in different colors that matched their costumes. I also made a lead page with all of them together. The plan is to take pictures from past Halloweens and make pages with them then print them and put them into one of those small photo albums.

Unfortunately school comes first so I only allowed myself these five pages.halloween2013_072314web

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kitty_072314

Review: Junkyard Dogs by Craig Johnson

junkyarddogsStarted: 7/1/14; finished: 7/18/14
Goodreads rating: 4/5 stars
my rating: Heck Yeah!
pages: 306
found: my shelf

Junkyard Dogs is the sixth book in the Walt Longmire series (now a hit TV show on A&E). Walt Longmire is the sheriff of Absaroka County in Wyoming. He’s got nutty locals to deal with along with Indian troubles, a staff that talks back, a confusing relationship with his deputy Victoria “Vic” Moretti, a crazy ex-sheriff shooting up his room at the old folks home, and apparently a murder every couple of months.

Junkyard Dogs follows Walt as he deals with the eccentric Steward family headed by off-his-rocker Geo who opens the book by being dragged off his roof while cleaning the chimney. With kerosine. And he’s the bright one in the family. It’s not long before he winds up dead and Walt gets thrown into a world of junkyards, illegal drugs, and Neo-Nazis.

Walt handles the case with his usual wise-cracking way, following the clues through a deadly tangle of lies and business deals gone bad. If a multiple murder isn’t bad enough he’s got some issues to sort out with his deputies. Vic is buying a house and wants Walt’s help and Sancho—the newest member of the team—is suffering from PTSD after a near-death experience. Henry is busy planning Cady’s (Walt’s daughter) wedding to Vic’s younger brother Michael and Ruby is as sassy as ever. With a cast of zany characters and murder mystery that leaves Walt only a little chewed up, Junkyard Dogs doesn’t disappoint.

I started reading the Longmire series last year after seeing it pop up on a recommended list at Goodreads. It sounded interesting and I was looking for something grown-up to read. I was hooked by the end of page one. I didn’t start watching the show until season two was over (catching some of it in reruns). By then I was on book five. As much as I love the show which is different, but just as witty and entertaining, the books are so much better. Of course now I can only picture Henry looking like Lou Diamond Phillips. I’m sorry it took me this long to get to book six and that it took me so long to finish (school really cuts into recreational reading time).

Craig Johnson is a master at crafting a good mystery with just the right amount of humor. His grasp of Native American culture and small town living adds depths to his books that I don’t often see (probably because I read a lot of lighthearted teen romance novels). Each book gets better and better.

A friend could really use your help

A friend of mine is in a tough situation. She is trying to move out of the house she shares with her abusive, manipulating, ex. They are already separated, but the abuse continues, and will continue until she can get out along with her four year old son. She’s trying to get the money together to file for divorce and put some money down on a small house, but her ex is making everything difficult. She’s refusing to help with their son or to pay child support without a court order. Their son is autistic and needs to be in school which she can’t afford if she’s not working and without reliable child care she can’t work. It’s a big mess.

aliciahelp

Any little bit will help a good, loving mom find a way out so she can take care of her beautiful son. If you have a few bucks to spare consider donating it to a good cause. Click the picture above or go to: http://www.gofundme.com/help-alicia

Summertime Fun

owen_56

Here’s the ultimate question: what do you remember most about your summers as a child?

Is it being chauffeured around town from one organized activity to the next? Did you spend an hour every day doing school packets for extra credit on the first day back? Did you get a couple hours at the park while Mom watched near-by lest anything happen?

If you’re my age, or born anytime before the mid to late 1980s, then probably not. Maybe you did do Little League or went on a scouting camp out, but you probably didn’t have a new activity to do every single day, the rest of the time spent supervised by an adult.

Melissa Fenton wrote an article, Top 10 Ways to Give Your Kid a 1970s Summer, at mommypage.com, and it’s pure genius.

She says, ” I am done with all the forced smile-inducing, uber planned and supervised, over-the-top summer life experiences I am supposed to provide for my kids.” [her emphasis]

I hear ya, Melissa. Although I was just a baby at the end of the 1970s, I strive to give my kids the kind of summers I had in the 80s/90s. Her top 10 list matches mine pretty darn close. I’ll let her explain: Read more…

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