Remembering Crystal

Lauren, over at Sharing the Journey  brought this to my attention.  She asked that other bloggers would spread the word about the story of this beautiful young Mom whose life was cut tragically short, and about her father and family, who are grieving the second anniversary of her death this weekend.  To Joseph and his family I want to say:  I care.  I will remember Crystal even though I never had the privilege of knowing her myself, and I will tell her story.  This video was made my Crystal’s Dad in her memory.  It’s a photo montage telling her story.

Two years ago this weekend a beautiful woman named Crystal took her own life in the midst of a struggle with Postpartum Depression.  She was like many of us who struggle with the disease–she didn’t… couldn’t ask for help.  The changes that family saw in her were easily explained as just the worries that she was prone to have.  I don’t fault this family at all.  PPD is so tempting to hide.  Having a baby is an overwhelming experience anyway…  Of course we’re not always going to be looking or feeling our best.  And it feels so scary and hard and hopeless that asking for help just feels impossible.

But oh…  If she could have only reached out for help.  Postpartum Depression so often tells a woman that her family would be better off without her.  But that’s a lie.  The truth is this:  Your family NEEDS you.  There is HOPE.  It won’t always feel like this. 

And that’s something that I want people to understand about PPD, and about ALL depression.  So many people, when they hear of a suicide, wrinkle up their noses in disgust and say, “How selfish!”  But what they can’t understand is that from the inside looking out suicide isn’t selfish.  When your diseased mind tells you that you aren’t the best thing for your  baby or for your family, when lies whisper all day long that you aren’t good enough to do this job, strong enough to be a mother, and that if you continue in the job your child and family will come to great harm, when those are the lies that you hear, the thought of suicide isn’t so much about sparing YOU pain, it’s about sparing them.  That’s how twisted your thoughts can become when dealing with PPD. 

BUT…  Those thoughts are LIES.  You WILL NOT be sparing them.  Because YOU MATTER.  And YOU ARE a good Mom, or can be with help, and the strongest thing, and the best thing you can do for your family is to get HELP.  Your baby and your family NEED you. 

I wish it wasn’t so scary.  I wish it wasn’t so threatening.  We think our kids will be taken away.  We think we will forever be branded.  We think that there is no hope (more lies).  We have to reach out for help.  And we desperately need the people in our lives to see past our masks and our assurances that everything is ok, and to empower us to seek that help.

I wish Crystal could have.  I wish she could have gotten help.  I wish she could have found her voice.  I wish this video could be about how she overcame Postpartum Depression.

Watch this video.  Honor Crystal.  And then, ask the tough questions to the Mom’s in your life.  Let them know that they aren’t alone when the task seems impossible.  You might just be their lifeline. 

As Lauren says on her blog: 

“If you, a loved one, or a friend are coping with the recent loss of a loved one to suicide, please read this from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

If you are contemplating suicide, there IS hope. There are people who love you. People who care and want to help you heal. Need someone to talk to right now? Click here for a comprehensive list of resources in the US.

If you are struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder, contact Postpartum Support International’s warmline at 1.800.944.4PPD. (I may just be one of the people to return your call – I’m a volunteer for the warmline in addition to providing support in my home state of Georgia)

Bottom Line here? There is hope. There is help. And above all, you are absolutely NOT to blame. And above that? You WILL be well.”

Read more at Lauren’s Blog.

Read more of Joseph’s story in his own words, here.


Letters of Vitriol, Recognition of Humanity, and Messy ‘Ole Me

I got really mad this morning.

I felt that an injustice was being done to my husband.  One that has some historical roots to it.  One that has a bearing on some of the larger story of our life.  (As an aside, this had nothing to do with work….  Even I am smart enough to keep my nose out of issues in the Navy). 

And I was mad.  I wanted to take someone down for it.  I wanted to yell and scream.  I was using language that I only use when I am seriously channeling my  mother in a fit of righteous indignation.  And my mother had some language, folks.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that by now.  I was drafting letters and rehearsing conversations in my head where I would put people in their place and they would quake in the presence of my awesome command of the English language and my projection of force ashore (did I get that term right??). 

Husband didn’t want me to.  He didn’t want to take any action.  He said to let things lay as they were.  But I couldn’t just not take action.  So I made a phone call (calmly).  Left a message.  But that didn’t seem to pack the punch I had hoped so… 

I sat down to write a letter…  A letter designed to express my anger and disappointment.  A finger-pointing, red-hot, letter of vitriol.  And I revelled in it.  I mean….  I RELISHED it.  It felt SOOO good to focus anger at a single point and to compose a coherent message around that point and to imagine the response there.  The POWER I could pretend I had while writing it.

I got it finished and it was GOOD.  It was JUICY.  It was appropriate, but pointed.  It was virulent and scathing.  But I did not send it.

A few moments after I was finished writing it, still trembling from the thrill of it all, the phone rang.   I knew from the caller ID that it was the individual who has served as our messenger and go-between in this process, and that happens to be someone whom I have always particularly liked and respected.  I answered the phone and couldn’t help but smile and say, “It’s so good to hear your voice again!” 

And that was it.  My anger was gone.  The righteous indignation that I had felt so entitled to a breath before seeped out of my teeth when I smiled.  And suddenly I was simply a collaborator with this mediator to the process trying to find a solution.  A potential solution was proposed.  Promises were made to explore the option and I hung up the phone feeling…  Peaceful.

A mere seconds before I was reveling in righteous indignation, and now here I was with egg on my face standing not with two smoking barrels, but breathing a sigh of gratefulness for people in my life who I know will go to bat for us even though those particular people happen to play for the ‘team’ to whom I had just finished writing my letter of vitriol.  In the second it took for me to hear a real human voice and to picture this man who I like and respect in the place of the enemies I was concocting in my righteous indignation mode, I was totally disarmed.  My perceived ‘enemy’ became a real person to me again, and I couldn’t be mad in the face of someone who shared in the messiness of humanity right along with me.

So I sighed.  And I smiled.  And I felt relieved that my letter of vitriol wasn’t sent, but strangely I still felt glad that I wrote it.  I feel glad that I got it out of my system.  I feel grateful that for a second I had an enemy to focus my reserves of energy and anger and emotion on.  Yes, it’s great that I didn’t hang myself in the process by putting a stamp on it, but the catharsis of it all isn’t lost in the loss of the anger.

So I’m sitting here now, just laughing at myself.  Laughing at how easily I’m disarmed.  Laughing at how angry I was.  Laughing at how big of a mess I am.  I was apparently so desperate to be angry at SOMETHING that I feel better after having written a useless (but seriously beautifully crafted) letter of vitriol.  I’m laughing at the beauty I find in the realization of the humanity of our ‘enemies.’  I’m laughing at my delight in analyzing the layers of the situation and my reaction to each of them.

I don’t know if in the end I’m going to feel like my husband wins out.  It’s a complex situaton with no easy answers.  It’s entirely possible that a week from now I’m going to feel like sending that letter once again (though I may amend it with some good words for those who have gone to bat for my husband in the process).  I’m laughing at my bull-headedness and insistence of taking on the situation despite my husband wishing otherwise, and I’m hoping that maybe he’ll see the value in a meddlesome wife who at least is cool-headed enough to not immediately send her letters of vitriol.

Ahhh…  but it sure was fun to write….

Because there are 100 Comments…

Because of those comments, I’m going to talk about my Mom, and where I am now going on 5 years without her (5 years in July). 

Tonight this post has 100 comments.  Some of those are replies that I’ve left in response to others, but still… 100 comments.

When I wrote it in March of 2007, I never dreamed that it would strike such a chord.  I never imagined that 3 years later I would still be getting comments in my inbox that make me cry.  I never dreamed I would be given the privilege to bear witness in some small way to so many people’s stories.  When I hit the post button, I remember feeling like I was maybe being a little ranty and wondering if anyone out there would ‘get it’ and know where I was coming from.  So many people did.  I think, honestly, that of all the words I’ve ever written, I’m proudest–or maybe more accurately, most grateful–for that post.  I’m so grateful that a community sprang up.  I’m so grateful to know that I’m not alone in my feelings.  I’m so grateful that hopefully, hopefully other people feel a little less alone in theirs.

I wrote a bunch of posts back then that I tagged with ‘Motherless Daughter.’  I got the term from Hope Edelman’s books about Motherloss.  But the more I think about that term, the less I like it lately.  I am NOT Motherless.  My mother is dead, but she is still my mother, and she always will be.  I am a girl with an AMAZING Mom.  My relationship with her wasn’t perfect.  I took her for granted far too often.  She wasn’t perfect.  She didn’t fit the mold of ‘Mommy perfection’ held up as the ideal today:  She swore in front of me.  She gave me fruit roll-ups as bribes to brush my teeth–often immediately after brushing them.  She yelled sometimes.  And she told me to tell people to F*** off.  BUT, she gave me the tools to survive without her way before I should have had to.  She gave me strength.  She gave me enough courage to know that even when I’m struggling, I am strong.  She taught me to value real people, people who work hard but who are a little rough around the edges.  She gave me a love of chocolate and of cake and of cheese.  She WAS a fantastic mother.  And  I am NOT Motherless. 

Last week I had a string of days where I couldn’t help but think, “I still really NEED my Mom right now.  Where  is she?”  I still miss her.  The memories have become less painful and more sustaining.  And I find myself just grateful that she was even if she’s no longer here with me now.  But I still NEED her.  I still MISS her.  I still GRIEVE her, even if I am not usually still in active mourning for her loss.  When I’m sad and want to talk things through with someone I still long for her.  When I’m sick I still want to be babied by her.  I still long to ask her how she really felt about the act of mothering (I know she loved BEING a Mom, but I want to know about her feelings in the nitty-gritty of it), and whether or not she ever went through depression, diagnosed or otherwise.  I want to compare my experiences to hers.  I want to see how we are alike and different.  And I long for her support, and her voice, her wisdom, and her ability to interpret people and circumstances for me in ways that gave me tremendous perspective.

So here I am 4 1/2 years later:  A lot of times I feel like in losing her I’ve lost my compass, but I do my best to follow the voice of the only One who can direct my path.  I struggle with depression, and apparently not just Postpartum.  I get lost in the mundanities and overwhelmed by the inane.  But even still, I know that I am strong.  I nurture others as she nurtured me.  I do my best by my own girls and pray like mad that in the end the balance sheet will show that I mothered them in a good way that helped them to get to know and to trust the voice inside themselves, and that my heart led theirs closer to their Father and Creator.  And as for the other side of that balance sheet, I pray like mad that God will fill in my gaps.  I feel so lost, so much of the time, but I keep walking with faith believing that I am where He wants me.  On the days that I feel desperate for my mother, and desperate to be mothered I cry out to God to mother me. 

I am still a young adult who grieves for and misses her mother.  But I go on.  And life is hard.  Very hard most days for one reason or another (and very few of those reasons are ever good ones), but it is also so very, very good.  And I hope I still make her proud.

Don’t Write About Not Writing (But I did!)

I can’t find my voice or my words, right now in general.  I’m not sure where to go here. 

I try to write and all I can seem to get down are reflections on my not-writing.  And that’s just…  boring! 

Wonderful people keep sneaking in and commenting and it makes me WANT to write here.  And I hope to.

I’m thinking perhaps my Lenten focus will be on finding my voice again in writing.  Writing and deciphering that voice is a discipline in itself.

Which is not to say that I will blog more necessarily, but it brings me a certain hope that some of those words might spill over here.

In the meantime, for those of you who ‘Stumble’ in and for those of you who know me and happen to check in, thanks for spurring me on.