Something Good- Day 333-337

My grandfather passed away Friday night, and I have been thinking about what I wanted to share about him ever since. He was the kind of grandpa you see in movies. He had that twinkle in his eye, stubble on his face, and a quiet humor. We did not talk much, but I enjoyed the time I spent with him. We would build puzzles together on Christmas, go out to eat at his two favorite restaurants, and share hugs every time I would see him. I am glad that he passed quickly after his last hospital visit. He was surrounded by family in his final hours. I feel at peace that it was his time to go. He had many health struggles in the last few years, but I am glad he never had to live in a nursing home.

His funeral was today. I was able to attend the services. The stories shared were a beautiful tribute to his goodness. It was also nice to be able to see extended family that I have not had the opportunity to see for years.

I had made the difficult decision on Friday to not rush to my grandfather’s bedside to say my goodbyes. I am one of over 45 grandchildren and did not feel the need to be there in the midst of closer family. I learned he had passed on Saturday while spending time with friends. I was grateful that I could take time off work to attend the funeral though. I talked to my boss on Monday, and they were able to work out coverage for my shifts.

I spent most of Tuesday getting everything ready to go, both at home and at work. We left right after work Tuesday evening. We arrived to my brother’s house late that night. His children were all happy to see us and excited to spend some time with us. It has been good to be with family over the last couple days. I return home tomorrow, but I am grateful I was able to make this trip.

Finding Hope

Grief is one of the hardest things I have ever had to experience. There are so many dimensions to grief. Sometimes it will come out of nowhere and swallow you whole. Other times it is just on the surface and the smallest reminder will make it come out in suffocating waves.

I have contemplated suicide for as long as I can remember. I am not sure why I am this way, but I have found a medication that helps me. For some reason, my brain just doesn’t work the way it should on its own.

Anyway, I have been reading a book about finding hope after suicide. My sister bought it for a friend, and I decided to read it first to see if it would be appropriate to give someone else. It brings up so many emotions in me, both because of the grief I am still trying to navigate and because of my own thoughts and experiences with suicide.

Right now the book is talking about healing. The author said that when she was a child, she felt like she had to bury her feelings to be strong. Her therapist challenged her to start sharing her feelings in order to heal from the traumatic experiences of her childhood.

A few years ago, I talked about abuse I faced as a child that I had never told anyone. I wrote about it on this blog and told the person I trusted most at the time, someone who was quickly becoming my best friend. It was hard to share something so personal. My parents were shocked by my experiences. And it caused some ripples in the next few family gatherings with accusations about why it was allowed to happen. I did not blame my parents for what happened, especially because I was too ashamed to tell them. But it was healing to finally tell a secret that I had been hiding for years.

As this book talks about sharing the story of her mother’s death, I feel emotions that I have not felt in a long time. I wonder if I still have hidden demons that need to be uncovered to fully heal. I wonder if I need to talk more about my nephew’s death to cope with the grief that surrounds me. I wonder if I need to reveal more of my deepest secrets to fully recover from all the wounds I hold within me.

I have discovered over the last few years that healing is not easy, but allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can make us into much better humans than we thought possible. Healing allows hope, and hope can lead to love, and love can mean finding happiness even if the midst of painful experiences.

A few years ago, I felt like I was finally the person I always wanted to be. I was able to help people without feeling guilty or unworthy. I was patient and forgiving when others made mistakes. I could stand strong in difficult circumstances because I knew where I stood. That all disappeared when my nephew died and I moved to run away from the memories. I shut myself off from the world again because some things were just too painful to talk about.

I think that now is the time to heal again. Now is the time to talk about hard things and learn to hope again. I can find hope in my difficult experiences by sharing the things that have hurt me and allowing myself to trust in ways I have forgotten. 

Something Good- Day 41

Today was a hard day for my sister. She is adopted, and today is the anniversary of her dad’s passing. But we watched a movie and made frozen hot chocolate to get her mind off things. I never knew how hard grief hurts and all the reminders, but it is nice to have someone there with you, even if there is not much they can do.

Grief

I never understood grief. I had never lost anyone close to me suddenly or unexpectedly. My great-grandparents have all passed on, but their deaths were not a surprise and I was not emotionally close to any of them. When my nephew passed away, I suddenly understood loss. For years I struggled to understand why one of my best friends was so emotional about certain things. I could not sympathize when she struggled with a coming date that commemorated a birthday or reminded her of the day a loved one died or so many other dates that seemed to mean something to her. I simply had no experience with grief and while I tried to be supportive, I admitted to her that it was not something with which I could sympathize.

I understand grief now- not in an all-encompassing depth of knowledge, as I only have a glimpse of the journey that I now travel, but I now understand that grief is real. I have nights of not being okay. I have days where everything seems to remind me of that terrible tragedy. I know what it is like to ache for a part of you that will never return. I try not to sink too deeply into my grief. I know that I must cling to happiness because depression constantly reaches for me, simply waiting for me to slip back into its grasp. I must not succumb to the grief because it will swallow me whole if I choose not to fight. However, I do need to greet the grief. I need to welcome it and entertain it for a while because it is now a part of me that needs to be addressed. There is a balance to grieving and a balance to living. I must do both. I will do both as I traverse these new emotions that I never thought would be a part of me.

I Still Want to Die

Life is good. Life is super good. Everything is going well. I got into college with the major I want for my second bachelor’s degree. I got into the classes I need. My previous school work transferred well. My job is good. My family is great. I have more friends than ever, and they are completely amazing. Life couldn’t be much better.

Yet, I still lie in bed wanting to die sometimes. I’m not saying this for you to feel sorry for me or worry about me or reach out to me. I’m saying this because it’s real. And maybe because it’s real, I’m not alone. Maybe someone will understand and relate and connect. Maybe someone will not feel so alone after reading this, knowing that someone else feels this way too.

The hardest part about feeling this way is feeling like you can’t tell anyone. Because your life is good and you have no reason, no right to hurt… As if you were in control… And you break because you don’t know why, and you cry because there’s no excuse, and it makes you want to die more because you don’t deserve to feel sorry for yourself, you don’t deserve to be loved because you can’t even make yourself happy when you have every reason to be.

And the problem is that you are happy. You’re incredibly happy. And most of the time you feel like it. But you still want to die. In the darkness of your room, the darkness of your mind, you still think of death. And it seems so beautiful. And you don’t understand the fear because death seems like the only escape. But you are happy. I am happy. You keep repeating it to yourself because it doesn’t make any sense. Why do I want to die when I’m happy?

But it’s okay. It’s just a bad day. It’s just a bad night. Tomorrow will be better. Just go to sleep. Just sleep. Tomorrow will be better.

This was sort of written in a stream of consciousness style. I didn’t edit it. So hopefully it makes sense.

Shame

World Suicide Prevention Day was started on September 10, 2003. Two years after 9/11/2001. To recognize suicide the day before we recognize that tragedy can’t be an accident.

I read this post today about shame. It says that the difference between guilt and shame is where we put our feelings. Guilt tells us that what we did was wrong. Shame tells us that we are the problem. In the post, the soldier talks about the shame he felt after his brother died in one of the twin towers. He wondered or regretted why he lived when his brother or fellow soldiers had died.

I don’t know very many people who have died, but I can say that I know that shame. I know what it’s like to wonder why you’re alive when you don’t deserve to be. I know what it is like to feel that I am a problem. I know what it is like to question the purpose of my existence when I see the darkness of the world.

Today is September 11th. It is a day of remembrance. But please as you are remembering, don’t feel shame. I know it is easy to say and harder to do, but you are better than you think. Yes, good people died on this day and the following days 14 years ago, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have lived.

The merits of the lost and fallen do not discount or displace your worth. You are alive for a reason. I am alive for a reason. We may not know what the reason is yet, but for now I hope you can just trust that there is a reason. And I will do the same.

Six Years Later

Six years ago today, I woke up in a  psychiatric hospital for attempting suicide.

I’m not big on anniversaries. I would hardly remember my birthday if Facebook didn’t remind me. And so it is today. Facebook said I had memories. So I went to check them out and saw all the posts of people looking for me because I didn’t realize they take away literally everything when you go to a hospital for attempting suicide, and I hadn’t planned for that by telling people where I was.

Normally I wouldn’t even mention this or bring it back up, but it felt strange to look back at these memories today. It felt strange because I was thinking about suicide again. Not in a serious, I want to do it way. I just still have the thoughts. I still want to die more often than anyone probably realizes.

It’s why I started going back to therapy again. It’s why I’m trying so hard to stay busy all the time. Because I just can’t stop. I can’t stop doing because I can’t stop thinking about suicide. They told us in the hospital, you don’t control the thoughts that come into your mind, but you control what you do with them.

It’s been six years since I have hurt myself. Six years of no self injury whatsoever, no matter how much I wanted to do it or how many times the thoughts have come. I made the decision six years ago today that I would never make people worry about me like they did that day. I would never again take the chance of hurting someone else by hurting myself.

And in all honesty, it’s been hard. It’s hard not to self injure when it comes to mind so often and it seems so easy.

I don’t know why I wrote this other than just to say, if you’re still struggling, keep going. You’re not alone. If you have mostly overcome self injury or a mental illness, but the thoughts are still there, it’s okay. You are not broken just because you have these thoughts. Having thoughts of suicide or self injury does not mean you have to listen to them or that you will do it again or never recover. There is hope. You are not alone. And you can get help.

I may always have thoughts of suicide and self injury, and I have accepted that. I will, however, never again act on those thoughts. Maybe that is inspiring or maybe it’s depressing, I’ll let you decide how you feel about it. For me though, it mostly just is.

Killing a Butterfly

It’s no secret that I struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, but I hope you also know that I am a hope-seeker and light-seeker. I am always looking for things to be happy about and grateful for and ways to use my struggles to do good.

Anyway, in seeking for light during my recent suicidal thoughts, I had a thought come through a memory. A few years ago, my brother watched “A Sound of Thunder” and told me how in the movie, a butterfly being killed changed the entire future. I thought it was interesting at the time, but in reflecting on this recently, I wondered if I’m like that butterfly.

I consider my life to be pretty insignificant. I mean, I know I have made a difference in some people’s lives, but it just doesn’t seem like I matter that much in the big picture. But what if killing myself would be like killing the butterfly in the movie? It may not matter that much today, but it could make a huge difference in a few hundred years.

If I don’t stay to write my thoughts, if I don’t stay to help a homeless person, if I don’t stay to teach a class, or do my job, or have kids, or get married, or just live out my life, could I be robbing the world of hope that it will need in the future? I know that I’m not a great person and I probably won’t do anything in my life that will change the world, but maybe just me living will change the world. Maybe just holding onto life until it stops holding onto me, will change the world.

I don’t know everything and I don’t know what my life will bring or the effect it will have, but maybe if it just has a butterfly’s effect, it will be worth it.

Spiders and our Frail Lives

It’s spider season and Halloween just passed so it is pretty much the perfect time to talk about the eight-legged creatures that so many of us despise.

I really hate spiders, but not for the reason most people do… I hate spiders because I hate killing them. I hate that I feel their life when I kill them. I hate seeing their guts. Spiders don’t scare me or gross me out, but spiders remind me how fragile life is and that’s why I hate them. A spider’s life can end in a fraction of a second and they don’t even know that it’s coming most of the time.

The same is true for us, we just don’t usually realize it. Life isn’t guaranteed. We don’t know how long we have left. We don’t know when our last day will be. So… shouldn’t we live so that if we died today, we’d have nothing to regret?

Some people say that everyone has regrets. I guess it depends on what you think of as regrets, but I have no regrets. I sometimes wish that I could have been a better person sooner, but I would have had no way of becoming a better person without having the experiences where I wish I had been better.

I think that the point of life is to love it. There is so much to love in life, but we miss it if we focus on our pasts. Our pasts are very important, but our present is what’s most important. I hope you all enjoy the present that you’ve been given and maybe next time you kill a spider think about how frail life is and live a little more.

(And this has pretty much nothing to do with autism, but oh well… sometimes you just have to speak what’s on your mind.)

A Hero Still

I know that loads of people are writing about Robin Williams and I hate to be one of the crowd, but I just have to say something about his death.

Robin Williams was my hero. He wasn’t an actor for me, he was a person. He wasn’t a comedian to me, he was a father figure.

This blog is about autism, but it is also my journey to find myself and who I am and where I fit in the world. Robin Williams is the symbol of that for me. His life was the quest to find himself. I don’t know if he did find himself or not, but the journey is the part that matters to me. His journey gave me hope when I was the lonely, depressed kid.

And even though his journey may not have a happy ending, it still gives me hope because it shows that he didn’t have all the answers. It shows that he still struggled and so it is okay for me to still struggle. And through his death, I hope others will find the hope to keep struggling. The suicide of a hero doesn’t mean we have to lose all hope for ourselves. It means we can hope and take solace in the idea that even the great struggle. We aren’t alone in our brokenness.

So Robin Williams is still my hero. Maybe it’s my autistic side, but I’m not really sad that he died because to me he isn’t dead and will never be dead because his hope still lives in me and I will pass on that hope to everyone around me. I love you, Robin Williams.