Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bittersweet Mother's Day

Today marks the 24th Mother's Day without my mother. The first came just days after she passed away in a Pittsburgh hospital, after being deemed too sick to undergo the liver transplant that could have saved her life. She left us on a Wednesday morning, taking her last breaths as my father, two younger sisters and I battled rush hour traffic from our motel to UPMC. My older brother and sister were with her when she passed. When my father and I arrived, they ushered us into a room filled with the sounds of crying, moaning and sniffling. I remember stopping in the doorway and looking at my mother's beautiful, unlined face, her expression as stoic in death as it was in life. And the only thought that crossed my numb mind was, "You've killed her."

My mother and I had a volatile relationship. She had a hair-trigger temper when it came to me, and when she became angry, she lashed out, striking me with whatever she could grab (frying pan, cutting board, belt). If nothing was close at hand, she'd grab handfuls of my hair and bang my head into the nearest wall, or kick my thighs. The violence ebbed after a few strikes, to be followed by hours, days or weeks of silence. If I kept up with my chores the way I was supposed to, I was rewarded with silence. I envied my younger sisters their ability to climb into her lap and cuddle with her, and longed to feel those arms around me, hugging me close. Her only means of affection for many years were to allow me to kiss her on the cheek. When I hugged her, her arms remained at her sides. When I said, "I love you, Mommy," she'd reply, "Me, too."

I don't remember when I first incurred her violent anger. I have flashes of affection from my younger years; the most vivid, lying on a couch with my head in her lap, while she gently stroked my hair. I think I was six. I'm told she was very affectionate when I was a baby and toddler, and photos back that up. showing me dressed up to the hilt and my mother, equally fashionable, posing with me. Photos show a charmed life and maybe it was. I only remember bits of my childhood, during which our family dynamic changed, twice. The first change came when my older brother and sister joined our family. This happened when I was four (I think), while my father was in Vietnam. One day, I had an older brother and sister. They were my mother's children from a previous marriage, and my father adopted them so we could be one big happy family. Within the next three years, our family had grown again, as my two younger sisters entered the world. In a space of four years, I went from being an only child, to the youngest of three, to the middle of five.

By all accounts, and for as long as I, myself, can remember, I've been a handful. I took, "don't do that" as a dare to, in fact, do just that. I once fell, chest-deep, into a clay pot filled with kimchi because I had to figure out just how deep that pot was (it was buried in the ground, with only the lid showing). Another time, I took one of my dad's razors and tried to peel off my fingerprints because I didn't like them. I melted a box of crayons on a space heater, to see how long it would take the solid wax to begin breaking down from the heat. I spoke and acted without thinking, then made up incredible tall tales to try to avoid being scolded or punished. 

Sometime after we moved, en masse, from Korea back to the US, the rages began. I can't pinpoint the first one. From our time in the US, they seem to have always been part of my life. The rages also had a soundtrack of admonitions, recriminations and threats. The most common: "Why can't you be like (older brother), (older sister)? They never cause me any trouble." "Why can't you do anything right?" "What's wrong with you?" "What did I do to deserve such a child?" and my favorites: "One day, your father and I are going to get divorced, and everyone will know it's your fault." "One day, I'm going to die, and everyone's going to know it's your fault." I believed every word she said, and promised her (and myself) that I would do better. But those promises only lasted a few days, at best.

Things got worse when we moved to Germany just shy of my 13th birthday. High school, hormones and constant tension at home. I couldn't seem to stay out of trouble. I couldn't seem to just do what I needed to do to maintain silence (aka: peace) in the home. Years later, a therapist helped me figure out that I pushed her buttons to get attention from her. I craved more than the silence that accompanied me walking the straight and narrow, doing the chores I needed to do, not sneaking out of the house while my mother was at work or league bowling, often imploring (or bribing) my younger sisters to remain silent. She always found out, though, and I knew she would, and the punishment would come.

Days after each rage, I'd come home from school to find a gift of some sort on my bed; magazines I'd been coveting, clothes, cash to buy a favorite album. At the time, this confused me. I later learned this was her way of apologizing. During this time, I had taken to closing myself up in my closet and screaming into my clothes. Sometimes, I ripped a piece of closing to shreds, or ripped up a book, or smashed an album into pieces. I wrote short stories filled with anger and murder, always of the contract-killing type. At school, I released anger by punching lockers, the wall, and one time, my best friend. Once, I cut a blouse she had given me to pieces so tiny, they resembled cotton snow. I remember sitting in my closet with a pair of my mom's hair-cutting scissors, laboring over each tiny snip of the blouse. When she found the remains of the blouse and the scissors (I hadn't thrown them away, but stashed them in a bag in the corner of my closet), she grabbed the scissors and rushed at me. I don't know whether she would have stabbed me with them. I didn't wait to find out. Instead, I ran. Out of our apartment, out of our building and up the street, stopping when I reached a friend's apartment. My best friend lived in my stairwell, but I was afraid to go to her place because it would be too easy to make me come home. The friend whose house I did run to, took me in and convinced her parents to let me stay with them. I was there for a few days, going to school in clothes borrowed from her. After several days, my father came to talk to me. We both cried and he convinced me to come home. My mother stopped hitting me after that, but the soundtrack continued, with the same general message: "You're a fuck up." "What did I do to deserve you." "You'll put me in my grave." By this time, I believed that I would never amount to anything good, so why even try. However, I found her stoic silences more hurtful than the physical attacks or the soundtrack. To this day, I have a really hard time with anyone giving me the silent treatment.

There were also good times during these years - family drives around the German countryside, trips to Bavaria, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. I got to go to Spain twice (once for spring break and once for graduation trip). I got to go to (then) West Berlin as a sophomore, and Wiesbaden as a junior, after being selected as being one of the top tenors among DOD students in Europe. But these good times didn't come without stress and tension, because I continued pushing her buttons. I couldn't seem to stop myself.

Once we moved back to the US, I left home to live in New York City. I moved home twice during this time; once while looking for new work and a new apartment, the other, to recover from a pretty serious drug addiction.Although there was still stress, the tension seemed begin thawing. My lack of money-saving skills frustrated her, but I began to understand she was scared about whether I could take care of myself. I always managed to scrape by (and still do), but there was no foundation on which I could rely, should I get into financial trouble. I learned she only trusted me to take her to New York City, when she had to renew her visa. My older sister, who had lived in NYC much longer than I, offered to take her, but she said she preferred I take her, because I knew the "streets" better. That day was one of the happiest I remember having with her. Her visa renewal would take several hours, so we went to lunch, then went "shopping" at Bloomingdale's, one of her favorite stores.

We didn't start to mend our relationship until I moved to Alabama. Our phone conversations became less one sided. After several years, she began asking me to come home, but I couldn't afford it, or my schedule wouldn't allow it. She let me babble on about my work and I learned later that she was happy I had found a career I liked; that I was no longer "Queen of the Part Time Jobs," as she'd dubbed me during my NYC years, when I couldn't seem to hold onto a job for longer than a year.

Living so far away from home, my parents didn't tell me that my mom was getting sick. Very sick. My older sister flew me home one Thanksgiving to surprise our mother, who had taken to asking me to come home, more and more. She was happy to see me, and hugged me tightly (this is the first and last hug I ever remember). The food was bland because of her liver issues, and she seemed to tire easily, but this was a good evening. This was also the last time I saw her.

The last time I spoke with my mom was the day she was flown by medical helicopter from New Jersey to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, one of the few hospitals in the US at the time that performed liver transplants. The phone conversation was very brief, but the message was one my mother had reportedly wanted to tell me for a while:

Mom: "I love you. Everything I did was to make you stronger, better."
Me: "Shh... save your strength. We have plenty of time to talk about this. I love you, Mommy."
Mom: "Me, too."

The following day, my father called me from my mother's hospital room at UPMC and said she couldn't talk because she was on a respirator, but she wanted me to know she loved me very much. Something sounded wrong about this, so a friend drove me from Alabama to Pittsburgh. We drove all night, but by the time I arrived, my mother was in a coma from which she would never emerge. Doctors did everything they could to control a raving infection that was attacking not just her liver, but kidneys, too. She was placed on 24 hour dialysis while they worked to lower the astronomical ammonia levels in her body. When they finally admitted defeat, they removed her from life support and allowed us to take turns sitting with her until she stopped breathing on her own. My turn came in the middle of the night. I brushed her hair and rubbed lotion on her face, then sat next to her and rubbed lotion on her hands and spoke to her, I apologized for being such a fuck up and for stressing her out so much. I apologized for making her sick and begged her to fight to survive. To my utter shock, she gripped by hand, then began convulsing. I remember screaming for the doctor, absolutely certain that my mother was coming out of her coma. But the doctors came in, checked her out and told us there was no change. The convulsion was part of her brain shutting down or something like that. Later that morning, as my father, sisters and I battled rush hour traffic to get to the hospital for our next vigil, my mother died. The date was May 8, 1991. My mother was 51 years old. I was 27.

I didn't cry the day she died. I didn't cry at her funeral, although I pretended to sob, hiding my dry eyes behind dark sunglasses. I didn't cry while going through her things. My eyes remained dry as my older sister divvied up jewelry according to my mother's wishes. The same soundtrack played on repeat through my grieving brain. I had killed my mother. I had put her into her grave. I didn't deserve to grieve. I was the bad daughter.

For the next year, I lived like a zombie. I worked. I drank. I worked. I drank. My car, a 1978 Chrysler Cordoba, which had served me well for four years, died in a parking lot. My father bought me a zippy new car, a 1992 Plymouth Colt, and drove it to Alabama from where he was working in Texas. On May 8, 1992, as I was driving home from work, the dam broke. I drove and cried. Drove and screamed. Got pulled over by a cop, who took pity on me and urged me to go home.

The past 24 years have been difficult, becoming gradually less difficult, then bam! more difficult. I've learned this is normal. I am a mother. I've never raised a hand to my son and never spoken negatively to him. Anyone looking at me would see someone who's successful at her job, passionate about advocating for her child. Half of a comfortably married couple. I've been diagnosed with depression and medicated off and on. I've been diagnosed with ADHD, which finally describes a LOT of my behavior growing up.

However, the soundtrack continues, unabated. I live each day, waiting for the other shoe to drop; for people to finally see through my illusion of stability and success, to spot the fuck up who can't do anything right.

I've never considered my mother to be "abusive," even though technically, she was. I've always blamed myself for triggering her anger, and as unreasonable as it sounds, I still blame myself a bit for her death, although logically, I know that liver disease killed her. Therapy has tried to teach me that I need to let the past go and embrace the future. I try, every day, to do just that. Some days are great, until I make a mistake or hit some other type of emotional speed bump. The, the wheels come off and I go from Su the Human, to Su the Fuck Up (in BIG, NEON LETTERS). The slight difference between then and now, though, is that I'll hammer the wheels back on and try to move forward. It doesn't always work, and I'm in the process of finding a therapist who can help me reach the next level, and change the soundtrack in my mind to something more positive.

Of all the photos of my mother and me, there's only one in which we're both smiling. I think I'm around four, and we're definitely in Korea. I'm sitting on her lap and my mouth is wide open in laughter. She's smiling, too. I don't know what happened that day, but I'm glad I have the photo. I also realized I don't have many photos of me smiling with my son. I'll have to remedy that today.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mortality lesson... in the guise of a car/pedestrian accident outside my window

I stopped at my local Starbucks to do some writing this morning, but found myself distracted by what looked like an accident or crime scene at the intersection where the Starbucks sits. At first, I thought police were wrapping up a collision, but neither car I saw had too much damage and there was way too large a police presence for a mere fender-bender. 

As I set up my laptop, I noticed more police cars pull up, more crime scene tape and a hastily erected canopy/command post. Officers began snapping lots of photos and conferring with each other. I finally asked a Starbucks worker whether she knew what had happened, and she told me a pedestrian was hit while crossing in the crosswalk by a car making a left turn. She heard the pedestrian was seriously hurt and might not survive. I asked whether she knew how fast the car had been going and she didn't. She did say it was very dark, wet and windy out when the accident happened (around 5;30am. It's now 8:35am).

I tried to refocus on my writing, but my mind kept going back to the accident. Who was the pedestrian? Man? Woman? Teen? What were they doing out at 5:30 in the morning? Heading to work? Heading home from work? Will he/she survive? Does he/she have a family? Children? What about the driver? Did he/she see the pedestrian in the crosswalk? Was he/she speeding? Preoccupied? Switching stations on the radio? Drinking coffee? Racing to make the turn before the light turned red? How random is an accident like this?

(Update: a ladder fire truck has just arrived at the scene. I have no idea why.)

The thing that really struck me was the apparent randomness of this type of accident. How many times do we step into a crosswalk? Do we ever expect to be struck down while crossing the street? And how many times do we make left and right turns? How much do we pay attention to people standing on the corner, waiting to cross? Do you gun it to make the turn before the light turns red?

Why am I obsessed with this scene? Is it because I've been obsessing over my own mortality lately? 

I will turn 51 years old in 15 days. That's the same age my mother was when she passed away. Logically, I know that I won't drop dead as soon as I turn 51, but I can't help wondering, how prepared am I to die? Are all my affairs in order? (No) Have I achieved everything I've ever wanted to do? (Not even close). Am I ready to go? (Sometimes, I feel as though I am). 

Morbid, yes. Unusual, no. 

Several friends have shared similar fears with me (they've all survived past the age of their parent's death). I don't think about it constantly, but it has been on my mind a lot lately. You just never know if or when you'll stare your own mortality in the face, and I guess no one is ever "ready" to go. 

(Update: the reason for the ladder truck has become clear. Investigators are using the ladder extension to snap photos of the accident scene from above).

Well, I've been sitting here for 90 minutes. My coffee cup is empty. So is the Starbucks, but I'm not a seat hog and I've been here long enough. I won't get any writing done with this accident on my mind. 

Time to pack up and go make the best of this day I've been given.

How are you spending the day you've been given?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Self-Esteem (or... how to be your own Number One Fan)

This was the Daily Om post that landed my email in-box today, and I would say it resonates with so many people right now. The exercise seems very simple, so take a look. If the exercise works for you, check out some of the other inspirational posts, classes, workshops and products offered at the Daily Om website.

Having low self-esteem is a common issue and with some introspection you can start to loosen the grip of this negative thought pattern.

Our primary relationship in life is with our selves. No one else goes through every experience in life with us. We are our one permanent companion, yet we are often our worst critic. To remind ourselves of our magnificence, we can do this exercise: “Five Things I Like About Myself.”

Begin by writing down at least five things that you like about yourself. This is not the time to be modest. If you are having trouble coming up with a total of five items, you know that this exercise can really benefit you. Be sure to include more than your physical attributes on your list, since our bodies are only part of who we are. If you are still struggling with what to include on your list, think of what you like about your favorite people, because these traits are probably qualities that you possess too. Another way to complete your list is to think of five things you don’t like about yourself and find something about these traits that you can like.

Continue this process for a week, thinking of five new things you like about yourself everyday. At the end of the week, read the list aloud to yourself while standing in front of a mirror. Instead of looking for flaws to fix, allow the mirror to reflect your magnificence. You may feel silly about standing in front of a mirror and reading aloud a list of your admirable attributes, but it might just bring a smile to your face and change the way you see yourself. Remember, it is when you feel the most resistant that this exercise can benefit you the most. Because we are constantly looking at the world, instead of looking at ourselves, we don’t often see what’s magnificent about ourselves that others do. When we take the time to experience ourselves the way we would experience someone we love and admire, we become our best companion and supporter on life’s journey.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Still searching for my Corner of the Sky

I post a lot of motivational quotes on my social media sites and receive messages from people, thanking me for being so thoughtful. I'm glad they get enjoyment and inspiration from  my posts, but in reality, I'm not posting those quotes for them. I'm posting them for myself.

I've struggled with dark moods all of my life, and always felt as though I didn't belong; not in my family, not in my school, not even with my friends. I felt like the proverbial "bump on a log," never quite fitting in, never quite getting the joke, or getting it hours, days or even years later. Case in point: in junior high school, a classmate signed my yearbook, "To a black-haired blonde." I didn't understand what he meant at the time. Nearly four decades later, I came across his message while thumbing through the yearbook and it finally hit me: HE THOUGHT I WAS AN AIRHEAD. And like an airhead, I had no clue.

Oh, I know I'm smart enough. Okay, maybe I'm more savvy than smart.I have street smarts and maybe a smidge of common sense. I've done a lot of stupid things in my life, so maybe less than a smidge of common sense. I've lived a fairly charmed life and my career spans stints in the recording industry, public relations and broadcast news. I never underwent special training for the jobs I had; I picked them up intuitively and always met people who (knowingly and unknowingly) helped me succeed at each position. I made friends along the way, but still felt as though I didn't "belong."

When I dabbled in community theater while living in Hunstville, Alabama, I had the good fortune to be cast as Fastrada in the musical "Pippin." I didn't know much about the show before I auditioned, but was told my vocal style would fit the role, so I tried out. After the cast was selected, we got together as a group and watched a VHS version of the Broadway show, starring Chita Rivera as Fastrada, Ben Vereen as the Narrator, and William Katt as Pippin. When I heard his song, "Corner of the Sky," for the first time, my heart ached and tears poured down my face. This song perfectly described how I'd been feeling since I could form thoughts.

Nearly 25 years have passed since that experience, and while I've achieved success in my work and have a loving family, I still feel as though I don't belong anywhere. Sometimes, that feeling sparks a deep sense of loneliness that lingers for days, even weeks at a time. There's no logical explanation. It's been labeled "Depression," and I've been given medication to "even things out," but medication has never helped. It's dampened things down, turned me into a zombie, left me able to cope but not feel. Without medication, I feel very deeply, sometimes too deeply. I try to plaster on a smile (grimace) and embrace the routine that is my day. All the while, my brain works overtime, peppering me with criticism and blowing even the smallest mistake out of proportion (MISTAKE = FAILURE). 

I just started taking St. John's Wort to see whether it would help mute that critical voice and even out the chemical imbalance in my brain without turning me into one of the Walking Dead. 

Meanwhile, my heart still yearns to belong somewhere. 

I yearn to find my corner of the sky.

"Corner of the Sky" - Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
From the musical "Pippin"

Everything has its season
Everything has its time
Show me a reason and I'll soon show you a rhyme
Cats fit on the windowsill
Children fit in the snow
Why do I feel I don't fit in anywhere I go?

Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I've got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky

Every man has his daydreams
Every man has his goal
People like the way dreams have
Of sticking to the soul
Thunderclouds have their lightning
Nightingales have their song
And don't you see I want my life to be 
Something more than long....

Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I've got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky

So many men seem destined 
To settle for something small
But I won't rest until I know I'll have it all
So don't ask where I'm going
Just listen when I'm gone
And far away you'll hear me singing
Softly to the dawn:

Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I've got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky

Monday, December 8, 2014

Two murders. One legacy.

December 8th is an emotional date for millions of music fans around the world. On this date, not one, but two icons were cut down in the prime of their lives and careers.

December 8, 1980. New York City. Mark David Chapman walks up to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, as they leave their limo and head toward their apartment building. Chapman pulls out a gun as they walk past, and shoots John five times in the back. He's rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, where he's pronounced dead.

(John Lennon: October 9, 1940 - December 8, 1980)
(Photo: John Lennon Archives)

December 8, 2004. Columbus, Ohio. Former Pantera guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott is performing with his new band, Damageplan, when Nathan Gale storms the stage and shoots Darrell in the head three times, killing him instantly. He then continues to fire from the stage, killing three more people and injuring seven others, before a police officer manages to shoot and killed him.

("Dimebag" Darrell Abbott: August 20, 1966 - December 8, 2004)
(Photo: Supern4ut/Flickr)

These two have been remembered across every social media platform today, but as I read tributes, I noticed something. Many of those who were remembering John didn't mention Darrell, while those remembering Darrell seemed to feel the need to justify why they're not paying homage to John.

As far as I'm concerned, these two extremely talented musicians share a similar legacy: creating groundbreaking music that helped change the landscape of their respective genres. Both were struck down way too soon (John was 40; Darrell was 38). Both were branching out on their own, following careers with wildly successful bands (John: Beatles; Darrell: Pantera). 

The Beatles wanted a Revolution. Pantera wanted to Cast a Shadow*

Both bands inspired musical revolutions of sorts, and the deaths of both men continue to cast tremendous shadows in the hearts of their legions of fans.

Give both of these men their due. 
Mourn them equally. 
Celebrate their legacies fully. 
Blast their music loudly.

But, please, don't feel as though you must mourn just one and forsake the other. The world is big enough for both, and your heart should be big enough, too.

*Note: I took liberties with this song title to make it fit the sentence structure. The exact song title is "I'll Cast a Shadow"

Monday, September 1, 2014

Is it writer's block... or something else?

I've suffered from? with? writer's block since March. I have a "to do" list of stories to write, as well as work on my second novel. However, every time I sat down to my computer and opened a blank document, my mind went blank and remained that way until I gave up, shut down my laptop and walked away, silently berating myself about my lack of motivation or downright laziness (depending upon what day it was). 

I know I'm not the only one afflicted with writer's block. People have written about this affliction for centuries, which made me wonder what causes it? I took to Google to find out. Maybe by researching and writing about this, I might find some way to break through my inability to create, and maybe even help someone else along the way.

Here we go.

According to the Random House Dictionary, "writer's block" is defined as "a usually temporary condition in which a writer finds it impossible to proceed with the writing of a novel, play or other work." The website "" says "the expression 'writer's block' was coined and popularized by American psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler in the 1940's"

So, we know the meaning and apparent origin of the phrase "writer's block;" now, on to what may cause it. Google has more than ten pages of links containing possible explanations, as well as ways to overcome it. I decided to begin with a post on Yale University's website. As I read the post, I realized this pertained to the writing of term papers. You can read all of the tips by clicking on the link, however, two causes and solutions caught my eye:


  • You're anxious about writing your paper


  • Focus your energy by rehearsing the task in your head
  • Consciously stop the non-productive comments running through your head by replacing them with productive ones
  • If you have some "rituals" for writing success (listening to classical music, etc.), use them


  • You are so stressed out, you can't seem to put a wordon the page


  • Stretch! Stretch as many muscle groups as possible
  • Breathe deeply. Close your eyes; fill your chest cavity slowly by taking four or five short deep breaths. Hold each breath until it hurts, and then let it out slowly
  • Use a calming word or mental image to focus on while relaxing. If you choose a word, be careful not to use an imperative. Don't command yourself to "Relax!" or "Calm Down!"

The University of Illinois at Urbana offers a broader explanation of possible causes and tips to overcome writer's block. The article also illustrates "Weak strategies for dealing with writer's block," and offers more effective ways to get back on track. The bullet points are below - click on the link above to read the complete article.

Here are the "weak" strategies:

  • Using trial and error
  • Insisting on a "perfect" draft
  • Waiting for inspiration
  • Using words looking for an idea

Here are the "strong" strategies:

  • Taking notes
  • Freewriting/Brainstorming
  • Piecework
  • "What I Really Mean Is" (WIRMI)
  • "Satisficing" (satisfy + suffice)

A website called "io9" offers this ambitious headline: "The 10 Types of Writer's Block (and How to Overcome Them." Here's the list. To read each explanation, read the story by clicking on the title.

  1. You can't come up with an idea
  2. You have a ton of ideas but can't commit to any of them, and they all peter out
  3. You have an outline but can't get through this one part of it
  4. You're stuck in the middle and have no idea what happens next
  5. You have a terrible feeling your story took a wrong turn a hundred pages back and you only just hit a dead end
  6. You're bored with all these characters, they won't do anything
  7. You keep imagining all the reasons people are going to say "your story sucks," and it paralyzes you
  8. You can't think of the right words for what you're trying to convey in this one paragraph
  9. You had this incredibly cool story in your head, and now you're turning it into words on your screen and it's suddenly dumb
  10. You're revising your work, and you can't see your way past all those blocks of text you already wrote

Then, there are others who believe "writer's block" doesn't exist or is a poor excuse for some other, underlying problem. At the website "Writing World," David Taylor starts out claiming he doesn't believe in writer's block, then goes on to describe what looks suspiciously like possible causes for writer's block and suggestions as to how to overcome them.

So far, I haven't found anything to help overcome my particular brand of "writer's block," real or imagined. So... maybe there's another type of malaise plaguing my creative mind. If there's a bright spot in all this, I guess by researching this topic and posting the results, I've technically written something.

Perhaps all is not lost, after all. I'll leave you with these wise words by the extremely prolific Stephen King:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robin Williams' death sparks global "group therapy session" on Facebook -- AND IT'S AWESOME

Robin Williams (1951 - 2014)

Earlier this week, we learned about Robin Williams' untimely death, apparently by his own hand. Immediately, a number radio and television talk show hosts (national and local), as well as a few "high-profile" people, took to the airwaves and social media to criticize Robin for taking his own life, throwing around words like "selfish," "thoughtless" and "coward." One Seattle-area talk show host even said that he could understand someone committing suicide because he/she had no access to mental health care or treatment, but couldn't understand how someone like Robin Williams, who could afford to pay for treatment, would resort to suicide instead. (Note: this is not a direct quote, but pretty close).

Meanwhile, others  rushed onto social media to express shock and sadness over the news, and to share their favorite memories of Robin, along with which of his many film roles resonated most strongly with them. They also shared their own struggles with depression or experiences with friends and loved ones they had lost to suicide. Some posts were extremely brief - a line or two. Others were long enough to be considered blog posts.

What happened next is astounding.

People who shared their struggles and experiences found response after response from others who had faced similar struggles and experiences; or words of encouragement from those who have never known the suffocating pull of depression. Some responded by sharing their favorite uplifting quotes, or a simple gesture, like the word "Hugs" or a heart symbol (<3). 

But they responded.

Since Monday, Facebook has been one global "group therapy session." People have been surprised to learn some of their most successful colleagues and  friends have faced demons ranging from addiction to depression to failed suicide attempts. They've learned some of the personalities, artists and musicians they respect most have lived with the heartache of losing a loved one. However, everyone who shared a painful secret learned one important thing:


Below, I've re-posted some of the most touching status updates and posts from this week (with the posters' permission).  If something resonates with you, please feel free to share it. If you feel like joining this conversation, please use the "comments" section below.


No matter how much you're hurting, please know this:

  • You are loved and needed by someone, whether you realize it or not.
  • You are surrounded by others who may not have walked in your shoes, but want to hear your story and find ways to help you regain your footing.
  • And most importantly:  YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

A few Facebook posts that generated much conversation and incredible sharing:

Jon Horton:
So we have come to a time in our society where suddenly everyone is talking about mental health issues. It took someone we universally love, to become the victim, before the public at large, takes notice.

Look at your Facebook feed. Yes that one that defaults to the Top Stories instead of the one you really want to see. Post after post has a picture or scene or quote from Robin Williams. Many people are screaming for people to acknowledge that Mental Health is to be taken seriously.

For some of us, it's a daily reality. Whether it is depression, or bi-polar, or anger, or anxiety, or pondering ending the pain like Robin did.

Awareness... It takes a celebrity committing suicide to make us look inside as a society, all the while never considering that stranger, acquaintance, buddy, best friend, soulmate, may be in just as much pain, just as much fear, just as much closeness to the edge, may be in the same situation.

We all need to be there for each other... Mental health situation or no.

If someone who brings such joy, is in such pain, something is wrong.

We need to ask ourselves, are we kind? Do we consider others before we consider ourselves? Do we focus on others instead of the person in the mirrors?

If you have the bandwidth, to use today's term, to reach out to others, why don't you? Are we scared that we might catch something? Are we afraid that the person might make a negative difference in our lives? Or consider, the fact that we might be the difference in saving one.

Be kind to one another. Don't be afraid to listen. Don't be afraid to share.
And if you, yourself, is the one in pain... Don't be afraid to share your feelings. Just telling one person can be the genesis of change... The beginning of the healing... The start to the journey.

We only have one life. Take care of yourself. Take care of the ones you love. Take care of each other.

The smile you see may be the cover for intolerable pain. See beyond the smile. See the person. Be there. Tell them they are never alone.

Because, as Robin said, the fear we express is the fear of dying alone, when, instead, our greatest fear is that those around us will leave us feeling alone.

You, are not alone.

Meg Jarrell:

Reading many of the posts from my friends the last 24 hours has been hard. I've seen words from so many people I l care about that have struggled with or continue to struggle with depression that it seems to be everywhere. My heart breaks for them, but I'm trying my hardest to see the bright side of the equation too. The side that applauds their bravery and honesty in sharing their fight.

So instead getting sucked into my sadness, I'm working hard to find hope that when they face darkness, they will know they're not alone. The hope that if I can help, they'll be brave enough to reach out and let me know. And if I can't, that they find someone who can.

When did life get so hard?

Kevin Miles:
Depression is often a tunnel of overwhelming despair that is too long and too dark to see the light, even if you know it's there. 

If you know someone you care about who is in that tunnel, don't assume you know the depth of their pain. 

Do everything in your power to help them get the help they need and do everything you know to make sure they know they matter.

Michael Keeves:
I Am A Safe Place. 

I declare that if any of you need to talk or fear you may be dealing with depression, I am here for you. I am a safe place. 

I encourage all of you to declare this. 

All we have is each other.