Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Enter the fuckery

Sorry to have kept you waiting so long for this, but now you'll get a good week-of-event rant.

As some of you know, I'm in charge of what is now the largest event of its category on the West Coast. It has the highest turnout of any of the National events in this program, and we have reasons to be proud.  Thanks to those of you who have supported me in this endeavor! (Shameless request for donations for everyone else...)

I love my job and I'm passionate about what we do, and...I think I'm about ready to do a meditation series on becoming more patient. That, or move to Denver and start eating mushrooms. (Not really.)
Here are some real questions I've gotten:

Q: How long does it take to do the walk?
A: It depends on how fast you walk.
Follow up: Oh! I guess that makes sense.
(What I wanted to say): Seriously? Do you also need to know how long it takes to eat lunch?

Q: I have an injury and want to use my bike as a scooter in the walk. I won't pedal, I'm using it as a mobility device. You allow wheelchairs so I wanted to know is this OK? (There was a lot of other stuff that makes me think it was someone fucking with me, but you never know.)
A: Um...sure.
Follow up: I've decided being in a crowd presents an unacceptable risk of injury, so I'm not going to go.
(What I wanted to say): Good luck ever leaving your house.

Not to mention the event I've been helping run from afar that's in our state. Now, I get that it's their first walk, but it's less than 250 people. So out of all of the questions I expected, I did not expect these:

Q: What do we do with the leftover t-shirts?
A: Give them to volunteers?
(What I wanted to say): Oh hell, eat them.

Q: I want to make sure this form's information is correct.
A: It's your city that is permitting the event, so I think you need to ask them.
Follow up: Oh I meant your office address. (Keep in mind we work with their office ALL THE TIME.) I just ended up looking on your website.
(What I wanted to say): This requires true genius, thank you.

I'll keep you posted on how much hair I have next week.

PS Ninja edit from today:
Q:  I am woefully short of the fundraising needed to win one of the incentive items (since there is no fee to register and this is a fundraiser), do you happen to have any extras?
A: (Truth) No, I don't.
(What I wanted to say): Why yes! I'll take one from someone who *has* done the fundraising. Would you also like your lunch catered at the event? Valet parking?

Monday, March 25, 2019

Grief sucks

A friend of mine who lost his son to suicide posted a single sentence on social media recently: "Grief is a motherfucker."

This is a not a fun post, it's something I'm writing to get some of this hurt out of my system, because it keeps rolling around in my head.

As many of you know, I work for a mental health advocacy organization. This legislative session is the busiest one we've had since I started working there, and it's also been the one I've been the most involved with (my boss is our policy guy. I'm still learning.)

Over the past few weeks, I've helped people draft written and oral testimony about, essentially, how our current mental health system sucks. (Note: no one disagrees with this. No one is boasting about the system we have now; but in true advocacy fashion, no one can agree on where to go from here.)

And as I've been talking to people who want to make things better -  essentially by sharing the very worst things that have happened to them or their loved ones - it isn't lost on me that these people either are or have the family support they need. And I wonder how many people we aren't hearing from, and am all too sure of what can happen to them in a system that sets us up for failure even when we're seeking help.

My mood crashed a few days into this project and I finally realized it was because 9 months later, I am acutely missing and mourning my friend. I'll call her Leah.

Like me, Leah was an assault survivor who had PTSD. Unlike me, she had a series of hospitalizations, abusive relationships, and no support to speak of outside of her network of friends.

If anyone knew how to get help, she did. She was a mental health first aid trainer. She was a peer support specialist. At one time, she worked for me. She was one of the kindest, most selfless people I have ever known.

Last summer, I sent her and two other friends a group text, telling them I was going to be in their area for work and that we should meet up. Then one of the other two friends called and said he had some bad news.

Leah died of suicide. We had a safety plan, she had promised to call, text, anytime if she started going into a bad place. The last time she called and left a message - and I will always regret this - I texted her asking if we could touch base another time, since this huge event I was in charge of was happening the next day.

Me, via text: Is everything ok?
Leah, in response: Yes, everything is great. I'm doing great.

And a month later, she proved very definitively that things had been anything but that.

What I'm discovering is that this is an entirely different form of grief than I've ever experienced. My grandmother died last year; nothing could have prevented her death from a brain tumor. My friend Lynne died of cancer that had spread to her bones; same story.

But I'm convinced that Leah died not because she didn't know how to get help, but because she knew the system so well that she knew exactly what kind of "help" she would get. And she knew it wasn't going to be any help at all.

I'm told it's irresponsible to write about how people take their own lives, in case someone on the edge gets ideas about how they can try to do that. So let's just say this was not a spur of the moment action. It was well-planned. She left no note, no message, gave no clue anything was not, in fact, great.

Sometimes you think, working in this field, that you're somehow insulated. Then mental illness takes one of your own and you realize how very helpless things can look.

All I can think of is that she had no faith that things would ever get better. And that thought was apparently so unbearable that she couldn't find her way past it to the next day, the next month, the next year.

So grief sucks, but this kind of grief feels like a wound that will never heal. Every time I think I'm as ok as I will ever be, it's like a bandage gets ripped off and I'm bleeding all over the place, needing a tourniquet.

I read Kim Gordon's book, Girl In A Band (which is excellent by the way), and she was friends with Kurt Cobain from before Nirvana became big. Writing 20 years after his death by suicide, she says, There is no closure, and there never will be. Because someone died young, and violently.

So I think that's what, after months of grieving, I need to learn to accept. That really, I have to accept something just won't heal.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

I miss you people

I started blogging, in a way, to improve my mental health (e.g. venting.) And I realized after some turbulent times I probably need to go back to it for that reason...and also I miss you people!

So let's say this...my job is a lot different, but at the same place, so...you guessed it...it's time for a good rant!

I am working on more policy stuff, which I love, but still doing events, which I ... you get the point!

One of these days, I'm going to buy the shirt I've been threatening to make and wear it to my event. And that shirt is going to say one of the following things:

1. "I'm not your Mommy." Seriously. I have to organize shit for hundreds (and in the case of my biggest event, thousands) of people. Don't ask me at the last minute where the venue is. Or if you can have a meal tailored to the South Beach Diet. Or if I can give you a ride from an hour away.

2. "Not my problem." In the vein of "oh, my 10 friends forgot to register - and they're right outside! Can I bring them in?" As my father used to say when we were little, "Would you like your answer loud or soft?"

3. "Here's 50 cents. Call someone who gives a shit." Ok...that one might actually get me fired, but depending on the day, it might be worth it! Case in point today: we get a 1,000 word email (and I am not exaggerating) complaining that the various support groups (which are run by volunteers, and the spaces for which are donated by kind organizations), occasionally change times or locations.

This person wrote, and I quote, "My mother co-founded a rubber stamp club and in 20 years, they only switched church locations where they meet ONE TIME. They STILL meet on the SAME DAY, at the SAME TIME. Why can't you guys do that?"

Hmm...ok. We'll assume that a. None of our volunteers ever need to move, change jobs, retire, or have anything go awry in their life or their loved ones' lives. Or simply move on to something else. Also, do you have a 100-year-lease option for free in multiple spaces around the state?

4. "We're low budget. Very." The beauty of working for a small, grassroots nonprofit and doing fundraising is that you get to put the bulk of the money into programs. The not so beautiful part of being affiliated with a national organization is that people assume we're bigger than we are.
Case in point from last week: "I assumed there would be a van that would be taking people to your event (which is an hour away from where they live."

Why didn't I think of that? In fact, I should plan to take my work limo to the event. Afterwards, we could go sit in the work lounge. Then drive home in the work Batmobile.

So what's new with you?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What I wanted to say

Dear Tootie,

You are no longer suffering, and for that I am grateful.

I've gone through so many feelings since you left this world Saturday. Grief, relief, rage that you had to go through so much during your 82 years on this planet.

What I should have said to you is what I have only realized in the past few days: you were brave.

You raised five children and catered to a demanding, grumpy, negative, and often demeaning spouse for more than 60 years.

You had one psychotic break and hospitalization after another, one medication failure after another, one that finally worked and had terrible side effects. But you kept going. You didn't give up.

You didn't give up when the rest of the family felt ashamed of you, hid you during your times of illness. They told us you fell down the stairs again and would be in the hospital again. We worried. We finally figured out they were ashamed of something they didn't understand, something that was not your fault.

Yet, later on, you were open about living with bipolar disorder, which affected you so much since you got diagnosed so late.

You were not ashamed. You were strong. You inspired me. I should have said so, and would have said so, but I didn't recognize it until now. I was so focused on being angry at everyone who continued to marginalize you, to fighting for and speaking up for "the cause," that I was blind to what should have been more important.

It takes an exceptionally strong person to persevere when the people who are supposed to care for you most say they "wish you weren't so weird."

You weren't weird to me. You made me sugar cookies when I wanted them on a whim. You took one step at a time with me on the stairs to match my pace, when I was afraid of falling down them. You told me, when I was upset about my mother getting remarried to an awful man, that it was important that you knew how I felt on her wedding day. No one else wanted to validate a 9-year-old, but you did that for me.

In fifth grade, I naively asked you for a red velvet pinafore, not knowing your medication made your hands shake. You still made it for me.

*Ninja edit: Speaking of brave, I just remembered how you chased off a bear from your cabin porch in Minnesota.

You were just five feet tall, but you said you shook a stick at him, and told him not to come back, and he ran off!*

You were the only grandparent I connected with. It isn't an accident that you were the first person I hugged. (Meanwhile, I refused to go sit on my grandfather's lap, telling him, "I don't like you!" What can I say, I was born with good people sense.)

You continue to inspire me not to give up. I have so many more choices than you do. For that I have both gratitude and sadness.

You lived with so much shit you never should have had to live with, and now you are free.

I only wish I had told you how strong you were.

Thursday, January 25, 2018


I'm surfacing. 2017 was the most challenging year of my life, and I wanted to thank all of my friends in the blogging community for showing me so much wonderful support.

I want to send a message to anyone out there reading this who lives with depression or suicidal thoughts and tell you it gets better. To all of the survivors, you are stronger than your abusers. Getting well and carrying on and healing is the best revenge. It can be dark and horrendous and it can feel like not waking up again is the only way out, but it does get better. I swear. You do not have to die.

In the meantime, this organization saved my life. My boss allowed me to keep my job and believed I could recover even when I did not, and when a previous therapist wasn't sure. (Incidentally, note to former therapist: thanks for nothing. I'm stubborn and stronger than I thought.)

I'm raising money again this year for an event I'm in charge of in May with renewed focus. We never give up hope on anyone. I thank everyone who did not give up on me. If you feel so moved, I would love to have your support.

More to come - being able to be upright and go to work every day is a blessing, and there is much going on. I'll visit your blogs soon!

Thank you all again. I'm so grateful.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


I keep apologizing for not posting often when I do post, and then feel bad when I don't post, so here it is: I had a traumatic experience in January that basically stole some of who I am. It's hard to do just the day-to-day stuff. It is a slog sometimes to get out of bed and get to work, go to the grocery store, or what have you.

I'm not sharing this looking for sympathy, but I feel like I need to vent with my thumbs and writing helps. And maybe it will help someone else going through the same thing.

All trauma is hard to talk about. Some types more than others. Having tried everything else I usually do to try to get well, and having nothing work so far, I started doing group therapy. The second meeting involved check ins, and one woman (everyone in the group is female) said she hates it when people tell her how she is - e.g., you're an angel, you're this, you're that - even if it is meant to be a compliment.

And the word that came into my mind was theft. We are all in that group because something was stolen, some part of us, that none of us are sure we can recover.

Some experiences make our brain short circuit. Do a Google search for complex PTSD and see what you think. On the surface, academically, I know this makes sense. I know things take work and effort and time.

Still, my brain acts up. Why can't I do this on my own? Why can't I cast one day and one night aside as a 24 hours, and move on?

It is hard not to give up. That is exactly what my boss told me not to do when I burst into tears talking about this a couple of months ago. He is not a really expressive guy but he said, I know this is frustrating. And I know nothing has worked so far. But keep trying. Don't give up.

I'm trying not to.


Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Cancer, you're a dick.

Dear Cancer,
Fuck you. With a capital F.
I get that death is the cycle of life. What I do not get is why, despite pouring billions of dollars into research, we can't eradicate you.

I do not get why you keep robbing us of people suddenly and unexpectedly.

I understand that death is a part of life. I do not get why you have to come in and swoop down on those who are just beginning a new part of theirs. Like the fates snipping the thread.

You took someone who spent his entire life providing comfort and a voice for those who are most marginalized. And he planned to do it after retirement, yet you couldn't wait to get your hooks into him.

I am told anger is part of the grief process. I'm fucking angry. I am also sad, because I emailed someone yesterday about meeting whom I will never meet again - at least in this life. Because having watched other two people very close to me die of your filth, slowly and painfully, and having lost others when I was too young to know what was going on, I just feel helpless.

I would never wish you on anyone. But why do you go after the saints among us?