I have something to tell you that I really, really don't want to share with you because it shows you the places where I'm vulnerable. I'm sure you've caught on to the fact that I write my posts a few days in advance and then set it up to go out on the same day and time. That's why you receive everything at 10 am on Tuesday if you're in Central Standard Time. I wrote what I wanted to say to you last week and everything was set up to go just as usual and then I came upon this in my Facebook news feed...
When I saw this in my Facebook feed, I had the sheet torn out from under me
I feel forced at this moment -at the 11th hour- to share everything that I don't want to share because it scares me so much. In fact, the idea of pressing 'send' makes me a sweaty, shaky mess with an upset stomach. I won't be able to take it back. It will be out there forever and will move from the secret place in my head to a blog entry on my website and a newsletter sitting in your inbox. And it is because of these body responses I'm having, that I'm pushing forward and hitting 'send' anyway. Since I've seen this image, I have seen no less than a dozen people announce that this is 'suicide season'. And November is all about tapping into your truth so here goes.
I'm a happy, strong woman, a retired vaudeville performer, and comedian and when I was going through my breakup in May, only one person in Minnesota checked in on me to see if I was ok... only one person. I couldn't get a single friend to go out for a drink with me to help me process why, after two years, my boyfriend broke up with me in a text message. I find it very disingenuous when people post "If you're going to commit suicide, please call me." I reached out to local friends telling them of my desperate situation, and no one responded. When I asked later why they weren't available, the response I got was "You're so strong, and I thought you would be fine." That's one of the most fucked up things someone can say to a friend. Who doesn't need an ear or counsel? Can you name a single person? I can't. But to give you perspective The Pope has counsel. Tony Robbins has a coach, Oprah Winfrey has Gayle King, and King Arthur had a roundtable.
I'm not bringing this up to make anyone feel bad. I'm not bringing this up as a cry for help and trust me, I'm not bringing this up because I'm proud of it.
I have to speak my truth on this matter because I believe that the only way we can fix what's wrong, is to point a light at it. And I also think that there is probably someone reading this right now (you?) who needs to hear what I have to say so I'm breaking the silence. What I know is, that when you feel alone in this world, that's when things go wrong.
Being a single 41 year old without kids and working alone all day (for the most part) is incredibly isolating. When you live in a state where almost everyone is married with kids before they hit 25, it makes it an impossible feat to find someone who can hang out with you over the weekend. So I throw myself into my work which is common behavior for older single women, we work to fill those empty Friday and Saturday nights. We work until we burn and crash (hello! I just recently wrote about how this happened to me.). And in my attempt each weekend this month to hang out with friends instead of work, I was turned down and flaked on at every corner.
So, when I read the news that Kate Spade killed herself -despite everyone else- I was not shocked. The truth is, most people don't how to support strong people, let alone women. The stronger we are, the less supported we become by our friends and family. And if you're single, you're just kinda livin' in your own world getting shit done so it can be hard to relate.
In addition, "strong" people are so used to doing it alone for so long and being forced to put a smile on their face that everyone assumes their happy. Social media is extremely deceiving because we only see what is displayed for your eyes but not the rest. Did Kate feel like she could share her demons? Humans are so quick to rip a strong woman down when she's at her best, can you imagine the fear of sharing where you're most vulnerable and weak? *sweaty palms*
California is on fire, and many have died and even more are missing. I've listened to tales of people explaining how they drove through a wall of flames. The people who stopped their cars in fear, where consumed by fire. And the select few, who continued to drive despite their fear, survived to tell their story. Can you imagine if we disregarded the survivors of this horrific event because they were "strong" and made it? They still need us.
The images of the animals who escaped with burns, blisters and smeared blood almost all include someone sat with them nursing their wounds, as it should be. It is in these moments that we need others in this world care for us. Whether the flames you've pushed through are real or metaphorical, they've left a mark on you. Natural disasters require community. Not only to remind others they're not alone but also because we need help to pick up the pieces and rebuild. Self-love is important but knowing that there are other people out there that love you too, is just as important.
I want to tell you what's not working. If you do an internet search looking for helpful advice, I find most of it not helpful.
Telling people to reach out if they need help. It's well-known fact that people who are hurt or grieving don't typically reach out because they already feel like a loser and they don't want to further burden anyone.
Connection: What if you don't have any friends? What if you reach out and no one calls you back? Then where do you go? A therapist? Therapy is great, but loneliness and isolation are best conquered when you have a community of friends.
Be Grateful: God that's a beautiful sentiment, it is. But when you're down in the dumps, and nothing is working out, it might be tough to come up with a compelling list that's going to shift things around. What if your list makes you feel pathetic? "I'm grateful I got out of bed." I guess that's a good start but is that gonna quiet the demons? I doubt it.
You're allowed to scream, you're allowed to cry but do not give up.
What can we do? Become a hero or shero
I've driven through deadly blizzards in both Oregon and The Rocky's and this summer I drove through emotional fire. The only thing that's ever kept me going is caring for someone else, and I believe this is true for most people. As a general rule, I will move mountains to help someone else before I will myself (I'm trying to change that but it's a process). And from what I've witnessed, this is pretty typical human behavior.
I didn't come into my line of work because one day I decided I loved kittens and puppies and cotton candy and all things magical and wanted to make this my job, this mission was thrown at me when I was trying to save my soul kitty companion, Holly's life. I needed to save the person who saved me. One night, years ago, when I decided to leave my life in Hollywood behind and I felt all alone. I was sat looking out the window questioning what I had to live for, she approached me, put her paw on my leg and said "me." She kept me alive that night.
I'm not an expert, and I have zero education on this topic except for the Ph.D. I have in my own life and what I've witnessed in others. When we ask ourselves "Who needs me?" it can body slam us out of victim and into hero. And if we can't be our hero, we can usually always do that for someone else, and that's a start. Go to someone else's fire and help nurse their wounds.
Years ago I dated a man with debilitating Multiple Sclerosis that suffered from so much pain it would cripple his hands and legs. He would fly into natural disaster sites, set up a large tent and cook food for people who had lost everything. It brought him happiness giving to those in need. It also gave him an active community of people who loved him and surrounded him with thanks and praise and most of all; it gave him purpose and took the mind of his pain.
My brother, Matt, has been on three campaigns with Sea Shepherd. He joined them as a crew member when his marriage began to fall apart, hated his job and needed more in life. Being on a ship with a group of people saving ocean life is a pretty damn powerful way of finding purpose, connection, and lifelong friendships. Saving someone else's life can save your own.
Even small acts of kindness will hang a mirror that directs love back to you.
So for me, asking "Who needs me?" whether it's big or small, has usually been enough to keep me pushing through the darkest and scariest places.
And sometimes we need to hold on and keep faith that this will all make sense at some point.
Speak your truth and tell your story. If you pushed through your fear and survived the flames, tell your story and tell it loud because there's someone out there who needs to hear it. There's someone out there who needs to know how you were consumed by fear and became a soul warrior. Someone needs to know it can be done and you need to be the person to tell the story.
So, who needs you? Animals are always there for me, so they have been permanently added to my list of people to help. I'm currently working on a plan to help women with animals escape abusive situations and find shelter with their companion animals. Keep your list over your heart.
The original email that was supposed to go out today can wait until next week, but this week I needed to speak my truth - If you can't be your shero/hero, play that role for someone else. And if we were all checking in on each other, maybe this wouldn't be suicide season?
Sending all my love to California and the devastating destruction caused by the fires. Sending love to those who are sad and lonely. Sending love to those grieving and are spending the holiday alone. Sending love to those without family and anyone else in need.