Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A different kind of anniversary

It's been two years today since this happened. Two years of healing, of talking, of growing. Most importantly, it's been two years of watching life come back into our son. It didn't happen overnight. It didn't happen without hard work, tears, wrestling fears, and lots of prayer. It happened though, and for this healing I am eternally grateful. My son is not alone in this fight. Millions of others suffer depression, yet they never take the step to ask for help. Many give up completely and follow through with a suicide plan. It's hard for me to even write those words, knowing the reality for so many other parents is not as beautiful as ours.

I don't post this for pity or attention. I post this so that others know they are not alone. Bryan has said he is fine with letting people know if it encourages even one to seek help, to speak out. I'm so proud of him. I'm so thankful for his life. I'm so humbled to have been chosen as his mom.

This is a fight that our world must keep fighting. As followers of Christ, we must bring to light the reality of depression and its effects. If you need help, please don't wait too late. If you think your child needs help, please talk to them. You might be surprised at how much they tell you simply because you asked.

Here is our story, as told one year ago today:

One year ago today, I sat in this very chair that I now sit typing. Across from me was our son Bryan. It was a rather typical Tuesday afternoon, and we were going through the day's homeschooling assignments. I asked a simple question while I looked over his workbook, but he never answered me. I looked up to find tears running down his cheeks and a look of defeat on his face. As I reached across the table to touch his hands that were shaking, he said "I cannot do this anymore".

Those words changed the course of not only that day, but the whole year that followed. What I heard next pierced deep into my heart. My son looked down, unable to make eye contact and said, "I want to die. I want to kill myself mom. I'm not safe."

If you've never heard those words from your child or a loved one, you can't understand how I felt. Jeff got home shortly afterward, and he too heard those words.

We were shaken.

For those who may not know me well, let me explain that I am a psychiatric nurse. I do this stuff for a living. I've heard many people, young and old, utter those same words throughout my career. I've hurt with them, rejoiced in healing, grieved when things didn't get better. But never once had I sat in that spot as the mother of a child who was severely depressed. Bryan had dealt with some mild depression and anxiety issues in the past, but it had never gotten to this point. In fact, he had done so well in the year previously  that he had gone off all of his medication.

Yes, there were "signs". He was not sleeping as well. He was a bit more irritable. He was a little more withdrawn from us and from friends. But really, we had no way of knowing it had gotten this bad. You see, Bryan hadn't wanted us to know it was that bad. He had done a fantastic job of making it look like things were okay. I can't tell you how many times I've thanked God that on that Tuesday last January, he decided that he'd had enough.

Because Bryan not only was voicing suicidal thoughts, but he had a plan for harming himself, we had no choice but to hospitalize him for safety. It was excruciating to leave that hospital that night without him. I wanted to scream. I wanted to offer to stay home with him all the time until he felt safe. But in my heart, I knew that he needed to do this. He needed to go and learn that he had a voice and that he could learn to help himself. I still firmly believe that while it seemed that the hospital stay did little more than provide him safety while his feelings were intense, in all actuality it showed Bryan that when he voiced his feelings, he got help. It's important for people to know that they are heard, and Bryan knew it.

In the year that has followed, I've watched my son overcome. He's overcome depression. He's overcome suicidal thoughts. He's overcome stigma. He's overcome the overwhelming anxiety. He's overcome fear.

Is he perfect? Heck no! (are any of us?) But he has a strength that I had not seen before this year.

Today, I asked him what has been the key for his healing. Typical of Bryan, his first response was "I don't know. I got happy.". But when he answered seriously, he said "I started taking my faith seriously. It's not perfect, but I know I have God.". He also made changes in some of the music he had been listening to prior to this time last year, changing from some really dark and sad stuff to more positive music (Yes, screaming music can still be positive). And he's worked hard to be with people. As an introvert, that's not easy, and I've watched with pride as he has come out of his shell more this year and put himself out there to be in relation with people.

I write this today with his permission. I write this because depression is no respecter of persons. It hits the young and old, rich and poor, white collar and blue collar, fat and thin, athletic and non-athletics. It doesn't care if you're from a family of faith and pray every day; it still creeps in, telling you that you're not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough, not...... Depression sucks the air from your lungs and leaves you gasping. It sharpens its claws on your heart, ripping it to shreds before you know what hit you. It replaces optimism with fear, unbelief, panic and paralysis. 

Depression kills.

Our family is one of the lucky ones. In my heart, and because of conversations with Bryan throughout this year, I believe that had we not sat down together that afternoon, Bryan wouldn't be here today. I believe that had I not listened that day, this would be a whole different kind of anniversary for us. To say that I celebrate this day is an understatement that I cannot begin to explain. Our family can rejoice even while countless other families stare at an empty chair at their tables tonight.

If you're reading this, and you are experiencing any of the things I've written about, please get help. Call 1-800-783-TALK if you don't have anyone you can talk to. Call your best friend. Call your mom or dad. Go to your spouse. Call your doctor. Call your church and talk to a pastor. Talk to someone. And if you suspect that your child (or spouse or friends of whomever) is suffering, don't stop asking questions and telling them you love them. Because let me assure you that it's worth them being aggravated to let them know you are here. Our family can attest to that, and Bryan will assure you that we've never let him rest in that area.

I've witnessed God's healing in many areas of life. This one is extra special because I've watched as God has breathed life into our son again. And y'all, that is a beautiful thing.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

on Petrino, football and what's getting my feathers ruffled...

If you know me at all, you know I love the Louisville Cardinals (really, throw up your "L's" people!). I don't try to hide it. Heck, if you know who I am married to, you know that I'd have no choice really in rooting for the 'Ville, not that I'm arguing. I bleed red; I just do.

If you've been alive at all in the past week and live in the good ol' state of KY, you know that the Cardinals have been all over the media. Word has it, Bobby Petrino is back in town. I won't discuss here one way or the other how I feel about his return. I will say this: his win ratio in his previous stint here left me less than surprised at his return. But that's not what this post is about.

I'm frustrated at the negativity I see about the whole thing. It's become less about football and more about personal attack. I see bravado on both sides of the arguments from Cardinal fans. And good gravy, don't even get me started on the crap I see from those who aren't even fans at all (ahem, UK peeps).

I get it. We love our football. We love our teams. We love red or blue or whatever other color you want to throw in there. We love our mascots. We love our players when they play well. We love our programs when they win. blah to the stinkin' blah.

I've learned a couple of things in the discussion. I've learned the winning record of Petrino in the past. I've learned the names of assistant coaches. I've learned more about people's moral failures than I ever needed to know (I mean, is it really our business!?). But more than anything, in reading blogs, facebook chats and articles, hearing news stories and talking to people around me, I've learned one truth.

People love to keep others down like a dog loves a bone.

I'm not going to discuss how I feel about moral failures in general or among coaches. I'm not going to discuss sanctions against schools or programs or anything else like that. BECAUSE IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW I FEEL.

No matter what the offense, there will always always always, 100% of the time always (did I mention ALWAYS) be those that refuse to let a man get back up. They'll drag what's in the past back to the forefront every single time in order to reopen the wound. Just read anything about Petrino right now if you don't believe me. Some believe he's changed; others are harping on former offenses like a tic on a hairy goat.

I can't stand it anymore. I really don't care what he did or she did or you did. Because quite frankly, I'm too exhausted trying to repent and fix what I did. Give it a rest, people, beacuse you know what? You're not perfect either.

I'm a darn good nurse. Thank goodness that my employer didn't search back to when I was fresh out of nursing school and failed my Boards and made the assumption that I must stink as a professional. Because you know what? I screwed up. But that doesn't mean I'm not a good nurse now.

Let the man do his job. Let the players play. Let the AD be the AD. Let. It. Go.
And if he messes up and repeats the same behaviors on the field and off again, let it go again. (that's not to say, keep him if he does it again. There are consequences for our actions, but I digress) Because guess what? You and I will mess up again too! And again and again and again.

By the way, if you comment on here about your opinion of Petrino, I will delete it beacuse you clearly didn't get the gist of this post.

Go and be peaceful, y'all. Life is too short for this nonsense.
Oh, and GO CARDS. L1C4~

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Count

It all started as a joke back in December of 2012. I made a remark to Jeff that I was tired of being called ugly names by parents of kids that I work with when their demands weren't being met immediately. He jokingly said, "You should keep track of how many times that happens in the new year".

I went with it.

Beginning on January 1, 2013, I kept track of every time someone that I was trying to help at work called me a bad name or said something nasty to me. Now, let me remind you that I work part time, so in 2013, I worked 0approximately 192 days (with time off for vacation accounted for and only working 4 days a week regularly). In those approximately 190 days, I was called names/cursed at 95 times.

Even I was surprised at the number. You see, I expected that if it were that high, I'd be frustrated and ready to quit my job. I expected that I'd feel defeated and angry even. But last week, I worked my last day of 2013 and the count was finished, and all I felt was sadness.

Sadness? Yes.

I spent time this year talking to people who have worked as prostitutes, ladies who dance naked for a living, people who have served prison time for child abuse and drug charges, people who are wealthy, people who are poor, people who are addicted, people who are gay, people who are straight , people who believe in Jesus, people who vehemently deny His existence, and everyone in between.  One of the greatest things about my job is that I'm able to talk with folks of all walks of life. I love that! I love talking and getting to know people who don't think like I do or live like I do. I believe we are supposed to spend time with people who are different than us. But I digress...

Out of all of the people I listed above, do you want to know who it is that spoke the worst to me, and is one of only two or three that I actually remember specifically? It's probably not who some of you would guess. The one person who treated me the worst and sticks out most in my mind is the pastor who is nasty when he calls.

I talk to him regularly. It's never been good. I have never had a conversation  with him that left me smiling. Truth be told, if I were not secure in my faith and my personal relationship with Jesus, I'd never want anything to do with Christ or any of his followers at all after talking with this guy. And so I'm left with overwhelming sadness by this.

Here's the deal. I can't expect those I work with or come across in my day to day life who do not believe in Jesus or have a relationship with him to act like Jesus. None of us can. It's ludicrous to expect that. But if we DO profess to love Jesus and His word, and we say that we want our lives to reflect His, then we better be living like He actually lived.

I'm tired of the arguing, the backbiting, the gossip, the hatred, the plain ol' meanness that I see among believers, myself included. Before you think that I'm getting on a high horse, please hear me say that I am an offender too. I've claimed the name of Jesus while looking down on others. I've hurt people, even if it is unintentional. When we fail to try and get to know the real person and not just what we see on the outside, we aren't acting like Jesus. I don't like it when someone does that to me, and I have no business doing it to others.

One of my goals for this year is to spend more time with people whose lives look differently than mine. I want to really love people, and if that's my goal, well then I have to KNOW them better. I want my life to really look like Jesus' life, and let's be honest, Jesus was constantly offending the religious leaders. I'm not saying that I want to offend people in the church; that's not my goal. But I don't want to keep from really loving people just because I'm afraid of what some in the church might think. I want people to see Jesus in my actions, hear him in my words, and feel him in my touch. It will mean getting out of my comfort zone, getting dirty at times even. But if I really want to be like Jesus, I have to act like Jesus, and when I read the Scriptures, I see Jesus hanging with those who weren't like him and serving them.

John 15:8 records Jesus saying this: "When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father".

Oh, how I want to produce much fruit in 2014!

No more keeping count of the times someone curses me this year. I don't need it. Here's to fresh starts with a God who never leaves me alone. May I bring him much glory this year.