Happy birthday – the kids are alright.

Happy birthday Jason,

This year we celebrated your day in typical birthday style; with your favourite food (meat!) and a round of “Happy Birthday Dad” before diving into cake. As always, we talked about you lots (do your ears burn in the afterlife?) and shared funny memories, most of which have been told millions of times but never cease to bring a smile to our faces.

I’m sure you had no idea that your birthday is the day after World Suicide Prevention Day and that you took your life during Mental Health Week.  I mean it’s not like you were following suicide survivors or mental health experts on Twitter – Hell neither was I back then.  But regardless, I have no doubt that you would find some twisted humour in this irony and find comfort that they are another reassurance that I couldn’t forget these dates if I tried.

The last message I received from you was asking me to tell the kids that their cat had found his way home (apparently he had wondered off during their visit with you – I’m guessing too many love squeezes from little kids).  I’m not going to lie, I rolled my eyes at your insistence. It was a busy week. I was trying to wrap my head around your recent behaviour and this seemed pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But now, looking back, I’m glad I attested that the message had been passed along and they were relieved at the news.

You loved our kids, first and foremost. I know that. They know that. And if nothing else, these anniversaries are a natural opportunity for me to continue to reassure them of your love. The week before you died you told me I was a good mom and that you knew I would always take great care of them.  I told you that they needed you too but I’m not sure you heard me…

Since your death I’ve been angry, sad and terrified that you left this parenting thing all up to me. You should be here too –  sorting out the hockey season, meeting new teachers, dealing with (pre) teen complexities and just watching them grow with me. Despite our separation, I never wanted to do this alone. Lucky for me (and our kids), we have found an amazing tribe and feel less alone than ever before.

For the longest time after your death, the kids and I just clung to each other to keep safe. I hadn’t realized how much so until recently.  It was a necessary part of our grieving and sometimes we still cling. But slowly, we’ve opened ourselves up. We’re working through our grief, we’ve survived more disappointment and fall-outs and now, we are regaining our trust in the world.  Things are good.

So this year for your birthday I just want you to know that the kids are alright.  They’re strong, creative, inquisitive individuals who hold a love for this world deep in their hearts. They are a perfect blend of both of us (obviously they are most like you when they drive me crazy and say things that make me roll my eyes). We talk about you often, not just on special dates. They miss you terribly but we’re doing good.

Happy birthday, Hoop.

love,
e

 

#TeamAdventurers
Twitter: @pixiepaperdoll7
Instagram: @pixiepaperdoll

 

Addendum:  

For those of you who have been following our journey for the past 3 years or those who have just discovered us today, thanks for your time.  While my intent was never to be a mental health advocate (I write for my own head clearing), I am always incredibly honoured and humbled when people reach out to me with their own stories of how mental health has touched their lives and how in turn,  my writing has affected them.
While I am happy to start a conversation and to help assure you that YOU are not alone, I am also not a mental health expert.
If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, please know that there is professional support available.
For those of you living in Ontario, contact The Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600.

Dear Jerk.

Happy Birthday Jason

Dear Jerk (6 months later)

Stigma Fighters

#BellLetsTalk Day

In the Words of Bob Dylan, “Play it Fu**ing Loud!”

The Black Dog

#BellLetstalk Day (2016)

Happy Birthday Jason!

Approaching Doomsday

Three Years…

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Three Years…

Dear Hoop,

This coming Saturday marks three years since your death. Three years of replaying every last conversation we had. Three years of seeing you through my rearview mirror as you buckled up the kids and said good-bye for the last time. Three years of watching you live and breathe in our kids. Three years of questioning your actions. Three years of living with my guilt.

But this year I had decided to ignore the anniversary. I’ve moved on (didn’t you get the memo?). I am happy. I have an amazing life.  I am so fucking balanced that acrobats and accountants are wondering how I do it. (stop laughing, it’s true..mostly.)

Yet somehow you have managed to slip into my subconscious.  Despite my best efforts, you have snuck past my mental roadblocks and have invaded my dreams. For weeks now I’ve been tormented with the most horrendous nightmares that I’ve decided to just stop sleeping all together (The local coffee shops can thank you for the influx in sales).  I won’t go into the gory details (’cause obviously you already know them) but for real… STOP IT!!!!

And I’m not the only one feeling you this week.  Sunday was like all of us were PMSing on steroids.  Even Lucy was hissing at everyone that walked past her.  We didn’t have to mention your name or reveal the impending date but it was there.

Last night at dinner I was casually talking about our upcoming weekend plans when Moxie looked me straight up and said, “but what about Daddy-Day?”

God dammit.

Oh right, D-Day. You remembered.

Deep breath. That’s okay, I do better when I’m not in the elephant’s shadow anyway.

Me: Of course we can do something to remember Dad. Let’s think about some options. But in the meantime, do either of you want to talk about it or do you have any questions?

Her: Well I learned a lot about depression when I wrote my speech and I know that there are lots of kinds of depression so I’m just wondering… what kind of depression did Dad have? I mean.. he didn’t seem depressed?

Me: You mean he didn’t seem sad?

Her: yeah.. how is that depression? Wasn’t he really happy?

*Insert an hour of me rambling on about how you WERE so happy when you were with them and how much you loved playing with them and how all of that happiness was so very real….despite the fact that underneath, you suffered from depression.  Sweet Jesus, I really wish you’d left me a guidebook or at least an FAQ list of how to answer their top 5 questions.

So we made a rough plan to do something to remember you on Sunday (’cause sorry, it’s not all about you and our Saturday is already scheduled).  It will probably involve food.  And it will probably involve some sort of activity where we share stories and send messages to you.  And it may involve some sort of exorcism to get you outta my subconscious.  But we will take some time to remember you.

And rest assured. you continue to be missed. every day. no matter what date it is.

 

xo

e

Twitter: @pixiepaperdoll7
Instagram: @pixiepaperdoll
#TeamAdventurers

 

Important Resources (because although I can speak about my own personal experience, I am NOT an expert):

If you are currently supporting a loved one with mental illness, please, seek out expert support.  Find support for your loved one and for yourself.

If YOU are considering suicide at this time, please, I urge you to call a crisis line in your area.

 

related previously posted:

Dear Jerk.

Dear Jerk (6 months later)

Stigma Fighters

Approaching Doomsday

Unicorns – by Moxie

 

 

 

 

The Black Dog

The other day, I unsuspectedly chose a book off a library shelf which had appeared on a recommendation list from a good friend.

Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt.

I read just enough of the inside cover to find out that Mr. Chartwell was a dog. Interesting. I was expecting a cute animal persona, as was the character in “Come Thou Tortoise.” by Jessica Grant. 

But polar opposite to the likeable tortoise,

Mr. Chartwell is an asshole.

Winston Churchill famously described his depression as the Black Dog and the premise of this book is that there really was a black dog. His name was Black Pat Chartwell, and he was a six-foot-seven talking dog who walked on his hind legs.

Many reviewers have tsked Rebecca for making light of a serious disease. But for me, it turned something that has been so abstract and untouchable into something I could begin to understand. It personified depression into a big, messy, smelly black dog.

I loathed Black Pat Chartwell and throughout the book, I felt his heaviness press down on me. Yet, under his strangely seductive spell, I couldn’t get enough of him. I devoured it in two days. (one of the many perks of retirement mixed with day camp).

Just after finishing the book, I opened a letter I had received in the mail. It was from the Lighthouse, program for grieving children. They had written me to thank me again for our participation in their program this past year and wish us luck in our new endeavors in Peterborough.

“You have two incredible, deep thinking and warm hearted children, and clearly you are to thank for the amazing and resilient people that they are becoming.”

(*please pass the tissues..)

I very often think about their dad and his depression. I am plagued by all the ways I might have been able to help.. and all the ways I did try to help. Had he felt the enormous and unyielding weight of this massive black dog? How the hell do you save someone from an invisible giant dog that refuses to go away?

Fuck you Mr. Chartwell

I’ll leave you with the song, Little Black Submarine by the Black Keys. Jason used to sing it with the kids and, at their amusement, they would mis-sing the words as “oh can of beans” (you’ll hear it). I used this song in a playlist I made for the kids and some of his close friends and family. I since discovered that it was written about depression. I’ve learned to (awkwardly) play it on the guitar. I like the company it keeps me during bouts of insomnia. Maybe one day I’ll play it for you.

So many people are talking, singing and writing about depression. Stop the stigma. Keep talking. Keep singing. Keep writing. We are not alone.

To all of you fighting this black dog, submarine or just an asshole disease; Keep fighting and don’t let the weight suffocate you.

peace and love,

e

@pixiepaperdoll7

#BellLetsTalk Day

January 28th, 2015 is Bell Let’s Talk Day; A day to talk openly about mental health issues.

January 28th, 2015 also marks 267 days since Jason (my ex-partner and father of our kids) took his life.

267 days of grief.

267 days of heaviness that fades but never goes away.

267 days of regret.

I’ve been criticized that I’m writing about his death in some sort of self-serving way. But the way I see it is that if I had been louder about his depression while he was still alive … if I had insisted on talking to him and those who love him about what I saw… then maybe…………………………

In any case, it’s time to be loud now. It’s time to make noise and TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH !!!!!!! For Jason, for Rain, for Moxie and for everyone everywhere affected by depression.

I’ve been tasked with explaining depression/suicide to Rain (10) and Moxie (8).  “Why did he do it?” is a conversation that we’ve had numerous times.  Thankfully I have had support from a bereavement group and with their help, have formulated this basic answer.

“Your dad would have done anything to help his friends and family.  But when he needed help, he didn’t ask.  He was embarrassed by how yucky he felt inside and wanted to hide his feelings.  He thought it made him stronger.  But instead it made him feel alone.  There are 3 things we need to take away from this:

1. Your Dad loved you so incredibly much.

2. His death had NOTHING to do with you.

3. Whenever you need help, ask someone.  Talk to someone. Don’t hide your feelings. ever.

Since his death, the kids have talked openly about this disease called depression to their teachers and friends at school.  Their grief has been demonstrated in countless art pieces.  We share tears, laughter and memories daily.  But the important consistency here is that we are talking about it.  We are not hiding it.  We are not ashamed by it.

Join us.. talk about it.  We are not alone.

xo

Team Adventures

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