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?