Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Is This Working?

I'm a stay-at-home mom and have been for the past decade. Periodically, though, my husband and I (mainly me) reassess this set-up. I was never one of those girls growing up who dreamed of someday being a SAHM, cooking and housekeeping and playing with toddlers. This wasn't the plan. And when I first became a mom thirteen years ago, I was happily working at a job I loved and had no intention of leaving. I saw myself growing in my field and balancing my career and motherhood. Back then, that worked. I had a reasonable boss and a great support team that included reliable childcare (my dad).

But life changes. Nothing lasts forever. My husband decided to move the family back to Ukraine, so I had to leave my job. When we moved back to America, going back to that same work just wasn't an option. Things had changed too much. The group I had worked for had rearranged itself, was no longer run by the same person, and there was only room for me to work with them sporadically. So I went back to work somewhere else, with a different supervisor and different childcare.

But life changes. Nothing lasts forever. I got sick, so I had to leave my job. Basically, in a nutshell, I used up all my sick leave and was told after another three day hospital stay I could resign or be fired. And that's how I became a stay-at-home mom.

Since then, at least once a year, I wonder if this is what I should be doing with my life. There are things I miss about working. There is a certain feeling of worth that comes from earning a paycheck and being seen as a professional by others. As much as I tell myself I shouldn't care what other people think of me, I'm human and I do like when people think well of me. I liked the respect I had earned in the past and valued the reputation I had been building up. I also missed the camaraderie of coworkers. While I am definitely not a group project kind of girl, I do like having friends. Again, I'm human. One of the hardest things about being a SAHM is the solitude (just Google SAHM and you will find a gagillion articles and blogs about being lonely). I also honestly miss the work. I liked what I used to do. It was fun for me. It was what I went to college to do. It was a meaningful use of my time and skills.

So here we are ten years later and I am again looking at my life now, my family right now, and wondering if being a SAHM is still the best thing for the five of us. As much as I love sharing nap time with my toddler, I wonder if I should be back out there being a professional again . . . and if there is even room for me out there still. Have I been gone too long? Experience tells me going back would be hard, but I also know hard is not impossible. Where there's a will there's a way. But is that what I should do? Going beyond the can, is there a must? Does my family need the income? Do I need all the other benefits of working?
A large part of my days now.

And can my family afford to have me working? The reality is work costs. It means getting childcare set up and figuring out solutions for days off school, both the planned and unplanned ones. It means added transportation and wardrobe costs. And it means someone else is spending time with my kids. I know when I was a working mom, I was still The Mom and still had quality time with my daughters, but it was not the same as what I have gotten to experience as a SAHM being the one to get them ready in the morning, greet them when they come home from school, drive them everywhere, sit on the couch with them when they are sick, play board games with them on snow days, etc. Is that something I can give up now? How much do my kids need specifically me and is it ego answering or reality? Am I just taking the easy way out, equating hard with impossible, or am I really thinking about what is best for all five of us?

For now, the answer is I should continue to be a SAHM. There are pros and cons, challenges and rewards either way, but when everything is added up, my kids need me more than I need to work. I'm not in anyway suggesting working moms aren't serving their kids. Just to be clear, I fully believe that working moms are moms just as equally as SAHMs. They love their kids and provide for them in a plethora of ways. They do what is best for their specific families. This post is about my decision for my family alone, and when I look back at the past couple months, I know I would have been called away from any job I had enough times to risk losing it. I know I would have had to choose between taking care of my kids when they needed extra help and putting my all into a job (as Ron Swanson would say, I would be half-assing two things instead of whole-assing one). In one day alone I had medical issues for all three girls requiring three different doctors. The morning chats have become increasingly serious and the afternoons have become increasingly busy. Adding up my continued health issues which on their own limit what I can do in a given day plus my daughters' physical and mental health requirements, I cannot say that going back to work would be best for us. My bank account may disagree, the well-meaning people who keep telling me their ideas for me going back to work may disagree, and the people who view my lifestyle as less-than may disagree, but at the end of the day the priority is my family's health and well being. So, for now, I will keep things as they are. I will continue to volunteer knowing that I can get my experience doing what I used to get paid for but with the option of canceling if my kids need me or my health turns bad. It may not be as much as other moms or may seem on the surface like I do very little, but the core of my work will just have to be hidden a little while longer.

My bosses ... for now.

Maybe next year will be different. After all, life changes. Nothing lasts forever.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Letter to my pregnant friends and new parents

OK. So things are a bit scary right now. In addition to the stuff I'm seeing on the news about the alt-right shit already starting, I got a lovely letter from the girls' school superintendent saying, yeah, hate crime is up in our county and in our schools specifically. Gee. Great. Tell me again how I'm being a whiny baby because I'm upset about the election.

Anyway, so I am totally and completely recognizing your fears right now. I know that belly grabbing worry. As long as they are still in you, you can protect them and shield them from everything, but what kind of world are they going to be born into? What kind of world do they get to grow up in? Is this really a turning point for our country or is it just hormones blowing everything out of proportion? Trust me. I'm right there with you.

total innocence
Here's what I decided, though, as I hugged my own little baby at 2:00 am. I was looking at her perfect little face and worrying about what kind of hate she would encounter as she got older. Her big sisters already have plenty of stories of hate from their peers, and after listening to the oldest tell me her fears as she recounted MORE stories of escalating hate speech, I was nearly in tears. My daughters are the most wonderful people I know. I don't want other people not seeing that. Then I realized the obvious. Other mothers and fathers and parent figures around the country were probably staring at their perfect babies and thinking the same thing. So what if I make sure that my baby grows up to be the antidote? I can do that. I can teach her to see the good and not be a racist asshat. I can teach her that immigrants are cool (her dad's one, so that makes that lesson easy). I can teach her that gender doesn't limit her. I can teach her that families come in all shapes and sizes and styles. I can teach her that love is love. We need a hero. Why can't Sally be that hero?

Even if she doesn't lead a massive cultural revolution some day (or fly around in a cool robot suit), chances are in her own small way she will spread love to the people immediately around her. Even if that is all, that is big. She will be part of the solution. If all of us hugging our precious babies or rubbing our growing bellies decided to be fighters and raise our children to love instead of melting into puddles of despair, think of how that will affect our country. Someone else's kid will have an ally. Someone else's kid will not feel like the whole world is against them because there will be that one light, smiling across the classroom.

So don't freak out just yet. You are powerful. You are growing a powerful person. What we need is a hero and you will give birth to one. You can do this. And in taking on this mission, you will feel stronger and braver. You will have a definite purpose and a willing partner (babies love love). And you will not be alone. Over here, I will be on the same mission raising my own little heroes.

Super Heroes assembling and plotting their next adventure.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Goodbye, Facebook. I need time to process.

I have not really said much about the election since Tuesday. My quiet has been for two reasons. One, I have been struggling to put into words the anxiety and disappointment I have been feeling, and, two, I have been too disgusted by the total lack of empathy which I have seen displayed time and again. What’s the point of saying how my family and I feel if no one can look beyond their own noses? I have only lasted a minute at a time checking facebook because it doesn’t take long to get to the person calling us crybabies or saying those of us who are upset need to grow up. Seriously? After eight years of listening to people say about President Obama “Not My President” and insulting him and calling him a terrorist dictator anti-Christ, we can’t have even one day to be upset about Trump winning? If you are actually interested in thinking about this situation from a viewpoint other than suburban white Christian heterosexual, here is why I am upset.

I’m not mad that my candidate lost (even though she did get the most votes and the whole electoral college thing is dumb, and even Trump was agreeing with that before the election and people from both sides in the past have said this system is messed up). I’m frightened that Trump and Pence won. To say that he is just another candidate or that the choice was simply between the lesser of two evils is to live under a privileged rock. What they want to do, and what Pence has already done in Indiana, is going to hurt a lot of people. They already have hurt a lot of people. Don’t believe me? OPEN YOUR DAMN EYES. Sorry for yelling, but talking hasn’t seemed to get people to see things.

Know what conversation I have with my daughter every day?
“Will Trump send Tato back?”
“No, honey. Tato is a US citizen. He can’t be deported.”
“But Trump wants to? What about my friends? Will they be sent back?”

Then I have to explain the logistics of mass deportation and why it is highly unlikely. She still comes back round to, “but they want to do it.” That hurts. And we aren’t having this conversation daily because I am a bad mom who over exposes my kids to the news. This is what they have been talking about on the playgrounds since Trump first started his campaign based on racism, and on the playground they aren’t thinking in terms of logistics or constitutional law. They are thinking about their families and their friends. They aren’t thinking “it’s ok because my dad is white and he is only talking about Muslims and Mexicans” because they aren’t that fucking racist. If someone says immigrant they think of their dad and their neighbors. They think of our friends who are refugees. They think of their relatives still living outside this country and wondering if they will be allowed to visit. Do you have any idea how much anxiety this causes? Do you have any idea what kind of affect that anxiety has on them? Are you willing to even try?

People say, “oh you should just explain things to them and not let them listen to Trump.” Two problems with that. First, I have explained things but the fear is brought up again day after day as the same hateful rhetoric is repeated. Second, I do try to shield them from Trump, but he isn’t the only one saying this stuff. His followers and apologists are saying it. The alt-right is gleefully shouting it now that they feel validated by our President-elect.  Are you saying for the next four years I can’t let my girls listen to their President? Forcing them to hide their heads in the sand will not help.
As for us overreacting or predicting disaster before it hits, it has already hit. Hate crimes against Muslims is up. Hate crimes against the LGBTQ community is up. Anti-Semitic rhetoric is up. People are being threatened. People ARE being attacked. The fear is justified. Do you know what that fear looks like in a little girl? She stops eating. She complains she can’t breath. She starts compulsively chewing on her lip. She doesn’t want to go to school. This is a real problem not an imaginary one. She has seen and heard and physically felt the increase in attacks as people feel emboldened to share their hate. When the top leader of our country and his sidekick are spewing hate, of course the lower haters feel validated and empowered. That is then manifested even in middle schools.

I won’t even get into the misogyny stuff or violence against women or threats against the press (my husband is a journalist, so these threats I take VERY seriously). If you can’t see the racism manifesting or empathize with the victims of homophobia and Islamaphobia, then I’m not holding out hope here either. 

To say we have to be ok with all this or that it isn’t so bad or that we need to get over it IS condoning it. It makes you an accessory to hate. Sure you won’t personally be burning Pride flags or beating Hispanic homeless men to death, but you are allowing it to happen by looking the other way. You are saying there is nothing wrong with it happening. You are saying you don’t care about the suffering of other people. You are saying you don’t care about my family or our closest friends. You are name calling the people being punched when they crying out.

I don’t unfriend people for political differences. I think political discourse is good. In the past, however, it has been about differences of opinion regarding the details of policies. We have been heading towards the same goal but discussing different paths. That discourse has helped us think more broadly. Now, though, what I see is a total lack of empathy. That is something I have been struggling to accept. How can these people who say they love my daughters also say they don’t care about them? We are just trying to wrap our heads around what the future will be and come up with ways to survive our new hostile America. What we need is hugs not “oh, grow up!” While I try to figure out what to do about all this, I think I better just stay away from facebook. Until I can decide how to handle friends being ok with people hurting my kids, I better just not handle them at all. Otherwise I will soon just start unfriending people or screaming “FUCK YOU” at them. Until this mama bear can CTFD (as I have been told to do by people who claim they didn’t vote for Trump but they don’t think he or Pence are that bad), I will just live in my real world. My daughters are going to be needing my extra attention now anyway.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

But how DO I talk to someone with depression?

I was just talking about this with someone. If I said my kid had been in a car accident or had cancer, I'd get casseroles and prayers and offers to help. Saying my kid has severe depression and anxiety instead draws criticism, accusations that I have failed as a parent, and general negativity and avoidance. Saying I have struggled with it usually means I am written off as unstable, crazy, weak, and generally less reliable as a person. Depression is a real, serious medical condition. It is something that can be seen on MRIs and in autopsies. It is something that requires medical intervention to treat. It is something that whole families are affected by. It is also something that CAN be treated and there are ways to have positive conversations with people who are in the middle of it.

Worried about someone? The best way to talk to someone who has depression is to simply ask how you can help and be a support. This doesn't mean walking on eggshells assuming you have the power to push them over the edge, and it doesn't mean enabling unhealthy behavior such as staying in bed all day, avoiding all social interaction, self-medicating with alcohol, etc. Help and support is often just listening while the person talks themselves through a bad episode. It means letting them know they have a support person. Sometimes just knowing that there is someone out there who is willing to listen makes all the difference. It means giving them options and alternatives because they may not know that help and recovery are possible. It can also mean going that extra mile occasionally. Every task is overwhelming when in the grips of a bad depression episode. Some things you may have to do include:
  • Helping with things like connecting to professional resources
  • Contacting insurance companies to find out which resources are covered (or helping the person find an insurance program if they are uninsured) and to make appointments
  • Take the person grocery shopping for healthy foods
    • This not only gets them buying and eating things with the intent of promoting their health, foods which will give them the extra energy their bodies need as they fight their depression, it also gets them out of their rooms and moving, interacting with at least one other person, and focusing on something other than their depressive thoughts.
    • This is called opposite action. More information about opposite action can be found here through Now Matters Now.
  • Removing methods from homes (if they express suicidal ideations and say they have a method in mind, remove access to tools to complete that plan such as sharp objects, guns, medications, etc)
    • Learn more about removing lethal means here from Now Matters Now
  • Opening the curtains. Literally.
    • This sounds like a little thing, but trust me it can be harder than it sounds. Depression causes a desire to burrow away into a cave. The person will most likely fight having the curtains opened up to let sunlight in. 
    • This is also part of the opposite action technique for surviving depression, but it is one thing that is often overlooked and often needs another person to do for the person with depression.
  • If you know they have a plan and are afraid they will follow through with it, you can take them to an ER or if you are out of town you can call the police to request a well check. Sure the person will not like either option, but keeping them alive is better than avoiding annoying them. As long as they are alive they have a chance at recovery.
If you are not sure if a friend or family member is struggling, the best thing to do is ask them. Also, watch their behavior closely to look for these clues from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. People with depression are really good at hiding it, but subtle slips do happen. Pretending to be healthy is exhausting and can't be maintained 24/7. You can also keep the Five Signs in mind as you interact people. 

Don't be afraid to start the conversation. They are most likely wishing someone would, but they think either people don't care or that they will be negatively judged or that the whole situation is hopeless so what's the point. Be the life saver and let them know they don't have to drown.

Monday, October 5, 2015

"I would hate to have to take the loss beads."

Yesterday my girls and I volunteered at the Out of the Darkness walk in Leesburg, VA. It was cold and windy and overcast and blah out, but wouldn't have stayed home even if it had been pouring. The reason we were there was too important. It is too important. It is the reason we are going to another walk next weekend. We must do everything we can to try to help the fight against suicide.

Being a part of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a huge mix of emotions for me. On the one hand, it makes me feel powerful. I am actually doing something about a problem instead of just sitting on my couch feeling bad about it. On the other, it drags up a lot of emotions, especially when I listen to the stories of people who have lost someone to suicide.

When I was a little girl, I battled depression. Bad depression. I was suicidal by the time I was in fourth grade (nine years old). I was hospitalized because of my suicidal ideations in fifth grade and again my sophomore year of high school. It was a very long, very hard battle to come out of that darkness and become the person I am today. There were times I took one step forward, two steps back, but there were also times I took two steps forward and only one step back. Eventually, with a lot of help and support, I learned life skills to keep my head above water. I learned how to recognize when I was slipping back into depression and what I could do to stop that slide. I eventually was able to manage my life without the assistance of antidepressants (one common concern I hear is that people think they have to take them for life, but that isn't always the case). The girl I was, the one who didn't plan on living past high school, grew up to be a wife and mother.

Yesterday, one of the people being remembered was a teenage girl named Emma. As her family got up and spoke about her, and then as a long line of her family and friends filed off for their walk each saying her name into the microphone, my stomach twisted up in knots and I fought back tears. That really could have been me. That really could have been my family and friends saying Emma into the microphone to remember me. It really was that close. I had to shake off the What-Ifs and turn my attention to my daughters, though. I did survive and have them now. Instead of a memory, I am a mom. And I am so grateful.

That gratitude and my understanding of just how hard the fight is - not only to survive being suicidal but also to survive the stigma of mental illnesss - is what drives me now to support AFSP. At their walks, I am not the only person who nearly lost her life to suicide. I am not the only person who went to funerals for people who died by suicide. I am not the only person who wants more "struggled but lived" beads handed out instead of "loss of loved one" beads. Together we are stronger and we can change the discussion. We can support better research to identify what is causing suicide and how to help people before they die. We can get the word out about that research and break down the stigma. Nothing damages stigma like the truth. We can say SUICIDE over and over until others are willing to talk about it, too, without lowering their voices. We can support each other as we struggle.

My daughters are involved because they owe their lives to suicide prevention. They are involved because I want them to grow up knowing that mental illness is just like physical illness and should be addressed not hidden. They are involved, too, because on their own they care about people. Just as Yasya didn't want families broken by childhood cancer, the girls don't want families broken by suicide loss.

Next week they are walking in the DC walk and are fundraising to help support the life saving work AFSP does. If you would like to support them and help them be Super Heroes, please click their links.
Donate HERE

Donate HERE

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"Mom, can we talk?"

Sometimes listening, sometimes doing the talking.
School has started up again which means after school conversations are starting up again. Don’t get me wrong; I talk to my girls all year, not just after school. Our after school chats, however, are extra important and why I’m glad I have a schedule that allows me to take that time with them.

You know in the movie Tinkerbell when she is going through the various talents to find hers? (If you don’t know what I am talking about, ask a preschooler or click here.) Well, if I were a fairy the talent that would have lit up and sent a shock wave around would be the talking talent. I’m a talker-fairy which is good because that was my job for years as a retreat leader. I got paid to talk to people – lots of people – and listen to their stories. It was perfect and great prep for being a mom now.

The fact is talk saves lives. That isn’t being hyperbolic. It is true. We must talk and connect. We must be aware of what is happening in the lives and minds of the people around us. We must talk with our children to help them understand their lives and minds. We must talk through problems to find realistic solutions and create actions plans. And we must talk with our children to affirm and reaffirm and reaffirm again their value as intelligent, amazing human beings. It’s important stuff.

I know from watching others come in and struggle with leading small groups that this isn’t a skill that everyone comes to naturally. I also know from listening to the teens that this isn’t something that all parents seem to be doing, or at least aren’t doing well. I wonder if it is because parents, like adults thrown into leading small groups of teens without any training, aren’t sure where to begin or how to do it. So here are my top tips for starting those conversations, keeping them going, and getting the most out of them so more and more adults can build meaningful connections with the kids and teens (and other adults) in their lives.

  1. Turn off the tv, computer, whatever screen is near you, and keep your phone put away. Have you ever tried having a conversation with someone who was looking at a screen instead of you? Did you really think you had their full attention? When we look at screens instead of the people we are with, we are nonverbally saying, “yeah, you’re important, but not interesting enough to drag me away from this more interesting thing.” Don’t think kids and teens pick up on that? They do. Just ask them.
  2. Stop multitasking all together. Again, this is about showing the person you are talking to that that person is the most important thing in your life at that moment. Chatting while doing dishes or driving or vacuuming (if you can even hear each other) is fine for light conversations, but for real, deep connecting conversations stop everything else. Let your kid know he or she is the single most important thing in your life and give him or her your full, total, complete, nondistracted attention. The dishes can wait.
    Giving the girls our full attention. listening to how life's going.
  3. Be genuine and 100% honest. Kids can smell a phony a mile away, and teens hate hypocrites and fakers. Once they think you are lying or putting on an act, you will have to work VERY hard to regain their trust. You want them to be honest with you? Be honest with them. Does this mean confessing all your sins in graphic detail or disclosing information about their emotional processing level? Of course not. What you do say, say truthfully. You don’t like broccoli? Say that! “I don’t really like broccoli, but I eat it because I know it is important for me to get vitamins and minerals from multiple food sources. It isn’t enjoyable, but the result of being healthy I do like.” If they pick up you are being honest, your words will carry more weight.
  4. Be open. One thing I discovered quickly as a retreat leader was that for every ounce of my story I shared, I got a pound of the teens’ stories in return. Once I showed that I was open enough to tell them things about me, they felt more comfortable sharing their stories with me. I usually had to go first, as an ice breaker. This means I need to be comfortable with my story, and I am very selective about what parts I tell and limit details as needed, but usually the details are less important than the act of sharing at all. An example would be telling about your experience with your fifth grade teacher. Then wait and see if they share their experience. If they don’t, gently prompt. To listen, first we have to talk sometimes.
  5. Open ended questions are the best prompts. Ask more specific things and follow them up with more questions. Follow up questions are key to getting to the heart of the matter. It’s unlikely I’ll ever get the full story from one question. I keep digging and never lose eye contact. Show them you really are interested and care about their stories. Keep digging! The simplest follow up is “why?” Just be sure to be clear with your questions. “Why do you think your teacher called on you less than the other kids?” “Why did you choose to play with those kids today instead of your usual crowd?” “Why do you think the principal made that a rule?”
  6. Acknowledge – without judgment – their feelings. Whether or not you think their feelings are rational or the feelings you would have, if they voice those as the emotions they are experiencing, those are the feelings they have. Repeat them back to let them know you heard them. “You’re feeling angry and frustrated because your whole class was punished for a few kids talking in the hall.” When our feelings are acknowledged, we feel empowered to express more which just leads to better mental health. It also helps us feel closer to the person we are talking to. Once those emotions are disregarded, the kid or teen who expressed them will shut down and not feel comfortable sharing more. That leads to a dark place of bottling up feelings which is not healthy for anyone of any age or gender.
  7. Finally, work TOGETHER to create an action plan if one is needed. Sometimes chat sessions are more about touching base or venting. Sometimes, though, change is needed. Rather than lecture (another way to shut down communication), say, “let’s find a solution together.” Listen to their thoughts about different options. If they say something is impossible, question further. Are they just overwhelmed? Can the problem be broken down in smaller parts that are more manageable and less overwhelming? They may have already tried to solve the problem on their own and know through trial and error that some things really don’t work. By working together, you not only tighten your bond and understanding, you also add a level of accountability. They have some ownership of the solution, and you know what steps to keep an eye out for progress on.
If in these chats you ever suspect your child or teen needs more help than you can give, never hesitate to seek the help. If you suspect they are battling depression or other mental health issues, get them connected to a professional to talk to. Because talk saves lives.

Blissful bonding - chatting, listening, sharing stories, touching base, etc.

Friday, September 4, 2015

“I can survive today.”

My younger daughter was having a rough morning, wanting to just go back to bed, but then she sat up and said, “I can survive today.” YES! That is the attitude that wins battles. We weren’t talking about lifetimes or years or months or even a whole week. Just one day at a time. That is how we get through life sometimes. One day at a time. It is a slogan for AA and it is a slogan that fits the fight against mental illness, too.
The fight is real and often feels like this - being the one face down while everyone else is smiling.

The fight is something I know very well. I have fought depression my whole life. I was hospitalized for the first time when I was just eleven years old. I have fought, and I am still alive. I have also been to funerals for people who have died by suicide and have had many friends reach that point of suicidal ideation, too. Mental illness seems to surround me. It is a very real illness, but it doesn’t have to be a fatal one.

First let me state unequivocally that depression is real. It has real, measurable effects on people’s bodies. Studies have shown that there are changes in the brains of depressed people. So let’s just stop saying it is an imaginary problem or people simply being weak. There is nothing simple about it and nothing imagined about it. It is a real, physical problem, and it is a real, complex problem. Don’t believe me? Check out a few of these studies about suicide, mental illness, and treatments.

That being said, like any other problem, it can and MUST be addressed. Just like kitty litter boxes, if ignored the crap just builds up. Is treating depression hard? YES. But hard is not the same as impossible. It does require time and commitment and struggles that often feel impossible, but that doesn’t mean that staying in bed is a better option. Doing what is hard is what is required. Just as people with cancer must go through treatments which feel impossible and are dreadful (my mother said she felt worse after her surgery to remove her cancer than she did before), but ignoring the cancer will just ensure it grows and spreads and eventually kills. My mother went through the hard part – the surgery and treatments – and survived. I went through the hard part – being separated from my family for hospitalization, facing many tough conversations with my family about life, accepting responsibility for my role in my depression and my treatment, and making significant life changes which often mean doing the opposite of what my brain/depression tell me to do – and I am not just surviving; I'm thriving. (It is also true that just as some people do everything to fight their cancer and still are killed by it, some people who do everything to fight their mental illness in the end still die by suicide. However, that doesn’t mean fighting shouldn’t be attempted or that suicide is inevitable.)

So how do we balance acknowledging depression is real and pushing the need for treatment? Advising people about their need to change their lives to ensure survival often sounds like the harsh criticism people ignorantly give (becoming internet cartoons). Get up. Do something about it. Shift your thinking. Open the curtains. Go to work or school. It is hard to sound sympathetic and compassionate while trying to help someone who is deep in depression. Do we simply let them stay in bed or on the couch stewing in their depressed thoughts? Do we hug them and leave them alone? That isn’t helpful.

The best, number one thing to do is to first and foremost get the person to a professional. They need someone to talk to. Talk saves lives. They need someone who will be able to offer them unbiased solutions and possibly medication to help adjust chemical levels in the brain (and then to monitor how those medications are used and how effective they are because not every medicine works for every patient and misuse can cause problems just like any other medicine). This cannot be stressed enough. Get them to help.

If the person is you, you also need to fight on your own. Fight for your life. Don’t be ashamed or fearful or throw in the towel thinking the fight is too big. Fight. Don’t wait for someone else to fix you or to fix your life for you. Kick yourself in the butt and get up and survive. This means, as I’ve said, doing the opposite of what your depression says. This means going through really, really uncomfortable situations. This means battling demons and spending time in what feels like a dark, horrible place for eternity. But fight. And make the lifestyle changes. This website has the best advice for that. NowMattersNow.org was made with the input of people like me, people who survived their own suicidal ideations. The advice is compassionate, acknowledging this is a real and difficult battle, but also provides a kick in the butt and some real direction. I recommend it for everyone I talk to about depression. Getting to professional help can be a challenge, but while going through that challenge (remember hard does not equal impossible, so don’t give up on finding professional help) check out nowmattersnow.org for things to start doing. Depression doesn’t just go away by napping through it like a cold. It takes active participation in treating it (and above all getting OUT of bed and out of the house).

These research studies and projects like NowMattersNow plus many other educational programs are funded by the American Foundation forSuicide Prevention. Their mission is to reduce the number of suicides 20% by 2025. This is possible. I am happy to volunteer with them because they really do put their money into valuable programs, and every person there truly is dedicated to intelligently fighting suicide and providing support to the people affected by it. If you would like to help, too, a good place to start is with one of their walks. The walks happen all across the US plus there are virtual walker options – participate without physically walking at the location.My family has a team participating October 10th in D.C., and my older daughter has set a personal goal of raising $1,000. She has seen how depression and suicide affect families and wants to help. You can help her reach her goal by making a donation here. Or join our team by clicking here. Walk with other families touched by suicide loss, learn more about the education, research, advocacy, and support programs offered by AFSP. This is a fight worth fighting and a fight that can be won.