Tag Archives: mental health

Hey there, humanity.

Hey there, little brat.  Up the stairs you come yapping on your cell phone.  It’s a quiet zone up here.  We come up here to get away from people like you.  You ignore the signs, and keep on talking.  Quite the nuisance, disturbing the rest of us.  But you don’t care.  What the hell is wrong with you?

Hey there rich girl.  With your high heels, dark sunglasses and oversized Coach bag.  I saw you push by that other women to get up the stairs.  Kind of rude, don’t you think?  But you don’t care.  Tons of seats available, but you have to get up there to get first choice.  What the hell is wrong with you?

Hey there, Mr. Stink.  I’m glad you sat at the other end of the train car.  Just walking by filled the air with the smell of sweat and cheap cologne and frustration.  But you don’t care. I bet I’ll smell that for the rest of the ride home, so thanks for that.  What the hell is wrong with you?

Hey there, Mr. Elbows.  Tons of empty seats, but you choose the one next to me.  Hard to sit comfortably with your fat wing slamming in to my ribs every time you move.  Can’t you see I’m working here?  I know you can see that before you sit down.  But you don’t care. What the hell is wrong with you?

Hey there incompetent mother.  Your kids been screaming since we left the station.  I mean really, why did you bring her on the train at rush hour?  Her ear shattering wails make it seem like you’re pinching her, but you just sit there with a defeated look on your face.  You should be more considerate of others!  But you don’t care.  What the hell is wrong with you?

Hey there Mr. Drunk.  You can’t fool us; we know you just puked in the bathroom. We heard it. And now you are staggering around trying to find where you were sitting.  You walked past it twice.  Looks like you’re going to lose your cellphone too. It’s on the seat you can’t find.  You probably have some sob story about how you lost your job or how your wife left you or something.  Like you’re the only one who has suffered. And we have to put up with your melancholy alcoholism. But you don’t care.  What the hell is wrong with you?

Hey there Mr. Crutches.  We’re trying to get home here.  Waiting for you made us late.  If you can’t move a little faster than that, you shouldn’t be getting on the train at all. So inconsiderate.  Probably on crutches because you did something stupid.  And even if you didn’t, it’s not as if it’s our fault, why should we have to wait?  But you don’t care. What the hell is wrong with you?

Hey there you douchebag blogger.  Tapping away at your laptop.  Sunglasses still on and a frown on your face.  Sitting in judgment of your fellow commuters, because they don’t fit your ideal.  Because they are talking to their mother trying to figure out how to get home.   Because they have insecurities they hide behind fancy clothes and baubles.  Because they’ve just worked 12 hours and have more work to do when they get home. But you don’t care.  Because they are just so exhausted that walking even a few more steps to another seat is just too much.  Because colic has ruined their life. Because Life is painful, and they don’t have the skills to cope.  Because disease and injury chose them, it was not chosen by them. But you don’t care.

All these people who just want to get home, just like you.  But you don’t care.

What the hell is wrong with you?


Sad Superman

Image

I have been called a hero.  I’ve been called strong, amazing, heroic.  And I can say without the slightest of hesitation, I do not feel any of these things.  It’s mystifying to me that anyone could ever identify me as a hero.

And why, you might ask, have I been identified as heroic?  What feat of superhuman rescue did I perform?

I loved my daughter. 

It doesn’t get more complex than that. 

Perhaps I should give you some context.  Because calling someone a hero for doing what they are supposed to do as a parent, seems just a little odd.  My Father, after the death of my daughter, tearfully praised me for all I had done for her in the months leading up to her succumbing to the depression that ate away at her soul.  That I had taken the time off of work, had stayed with her, walked with her, tried to help and heal her.  He said it was heroic.

My friend called me amazing, and heroic, because after all our efforts to save her failed, I stood up and delivered her eulogy.  I planned her funeral, I walked behind her casket, and I didn’t fall down.

Yet another friend called me heroic for being able to walk in to her room, and begin the process of sorting through her things.  To seek people and places to donate my child’s belongings, just as I know she would want them to be used.

And even another called me Superman, for doing all these things, and for not falling apart completely.

To me, these are things that I can’t accept.  Trying to help Amber through her depression, trying to save her life, that was nothing more than what I SHOULD have done as her father.  Delivering her eulogy?  She deserved nothing less than her father being willing to stand up and tell her story.  And the rest?  That’s just the sad aftermath, that all who lose a loved one must ultimately undertake.

But let’s pretend for a second, doing all of those things make me heroic.  Let’s perpetuate that illusion for a second.

The only thing it means, is that I’m a failed hero.  I’m the sad Superman, who despite rushing in to rescue, watches as his efforts fall apart.  Hand desperately outstretched, trying to catch the falling victim, and missing. 

The Superman who can’t fly, so he has to run to try to keep up with what he can’t catch.  No super hearing or vision, no inhuman strength.  Just a bent man in a crumpled cape placed on his shoulders by other people.  Face in his hands, living with the regret of not being the superhero that he needed to be to get the job done.

Do I blame myself that I couldn’t save her?  Do I cast fault at my own feet that my daughter chose to end her own life?  No.  The depression that consumed my beautiful child was something that even the real superman couldn’t defeat.  It was the kryptonite of mental illness, and all efforts to change it met with failure.

But oh, how I wanted to be Superman.  I wanted to stop the speeding bullets of her self-hatred.  I wanted to stand in front of them and have them deflect off of me like nothing more than crumpled up pieces of paper.  I wanted to have super vision so that I could see when she was harming herself, and I could swoop in to stop it.

I wanted to be able to travel “Faster than a locomotive” like Superman. Faster still, than the train that brought me home on that fateful day, so that I could have been there in time to stop it.

I could do none of those things. And although I don’t accept the fault, I don’t shoulder the blame for it, I live with the regret, that the enemy was stronger than me, the super-villian was too much, too powerful to be defeated.

I can’t wear the cape.  I don’t deserve it, and capes are useless when you are unable to fly.


Sad eyes and eggshells

Eggshells

I truly hope that at some point, I can write humour again.  I sincerely hope that I will be able to find enough funny within myself to express it.  This blog was never meant to be a soliloquy of angst.  Nor was it meant to be simply an offering of the absurd and chuckle-worthy either.

I am, however, there right now.  In a place within myself that finds it hard to smile, hard to laugh, and impossible to put together a full post with the intent to amuse. It’s an alien landscape for me, someone who has oft used humour and the absurd to cope and relate.  If I can beg the indulgence of those who would read this blog, I will get there again, but for now, I am using this as a not-yet-effective-but-here’s-hoping therapy.

Since my daughter died, I have experienced a range of communicated emotion from other people at a level and ferocity that I have never seen before.  Tears shed on my behalf, words of comfort, hugs and kisses and hands on the shoulder.  All things that I have seen, of course, all things that I have had happen before, but not anywhere approaching the deluge that walking the road of a bereaved parent has created.

Now if you will allow me a preemptive qualification of what I am about to write next;  There are some to which it does not apply.  To my beloved wife, to my closest of family, to those I have made family by choice instead of by birth; My Bunsos, my Pung Yau.  To some who are simply my friends, and have passed by the awkwardness that comes with human interaction: Please, do not read this and feel that you create the same problems for me as to which I am about to describe.  For me, your mere existence and presence transcends it all, and you are valued above all else.  Each of you who read this will know if you are one of these people to me, I have already told you, or, you already would know based on our shared talks and experiences.  In short, if you are worried about whether or not you are one of those people for me, you probably are, and if you have to ask, you probably are not.

now that I have that digression is out of the way;

The difficulty with the grieving and loss as experienced by the well-meaning support of so many people, is that so much of it is not helpful in the slightest.  Some of it is actually painful, in its clumsy attempt to comfort.  I don’t attribute any ill intent here.  I am thankful for the face value affection and concern that is given to me.  It is only because I have had so many people step up and simply be there for me, that I have found any will to progress in my life at all.

But we aren’t very good at this, are we?  Helping the bereaved?  Comforting the broken and lifting the fallen?  Oh, we try.  We want to be there for people, but for the most part, we haven’t the foggiest idea how to go about doing it.  In my experience, there are certain categories of people and how they approach it.  I fear this will be muddled and disjointed if I don’t retreat in to the laziest of exposition forms, the list.

The God Comfort

I grew up in a Judeo-Christian non-Catholic home.  In other words, all the religiosity, and about 1/3rd the guilt.  Suffice it to say, I know pretty clearly most of the ideas, doctrines and standard goto’s that Christians will use in times of pain and strife.  And I label it as Christanese, a special language used among Christians, that is easy to accept as comforting if you are the one giving it, and has all the comfort of a burlap blanket, when you are receiving it.  Saying like “God cares about what you are going through” or “just trust him” or “God has a plan.”  Utterly meaningless to one who has lost.  It offers no answers, and it only opens up questions as to what your concept of God is… either existent or non-existent, close or distant, caring or capricious.   It can be taken to an offensive level as well, by those who challenge your doubt or anger or disillusionment as lacking in faith and being a weak Christian (if, by that point, you are even able to identify yourself as one in the first place.  I can assure you that clutching the body of your only child to your chest as you scream in anguish, can all but extinguish even the faintest notion of an all powerful being.)  It’s a standard refrain of those who have to justify their OWN beliefs about tragedy, by passing it on to you, and has all the benefits to the giver of feeling both righteous and comforting as they leave the bereaved in their wake.

The Everything has its reason

This one angers me.  I have, in a few instances, had to bite my tongue until I think I could taste blood, when someone had the gall to tell me that there is some reason, some purpose, behind my daughter taking her own life.  And when I say reason, I mean some cosmic or religious notion of reason, not the straightforward “She was incurably depressed, and decided to die” reason.  Some over-arching supernatural gambit as to a purpose.

Let’s pretend for a minute that it’s even true.  That her death served a greater purpose.  I will never, NEVER accept this.  I will never believe that any purpose, particularly one that will never be revealed to me (as that is the caveat of the “everything happens for a reason” argument, is that we won’t ever know that reason) as sufficient.  My daughter died, and no reason that would remain shrouded can comfort me.

The I share your pain

Part of helping a person who is grieving, is sharing in the pain.  It’s crying tears with them, it’s wishing it weren’t so, it’s being struck mute by the enormity of the situation along side the people who have lost.  But those who recount tales of those THEY have lost, and state that they know what you are going through…. No.  No you don’t.  I’m sure your pain was horrendous.  I’m sure your loss was difficult to bear.  But I have yet to have someone who has lost their only child to mental illness say this to me.  It’s someone who lost their grandmother, or their great-aunt.  Sometimes a mom or a dad.  And my mind screams in outrage while I whisper my thanks.  I’ve walked behind my child’s casket.  The one I could not save from the demons of her mind.  You do not share my pain, you cannot.  It was my only child.  She suffered terribly, and then she died to escape it.  How can you begin to understand?  Perhaps I am being selfish in that thought… but the thought persists.

The what can I do for you

This one is the most well-intentioned of the lot, and as hypocritical as it is, sometimes is an immense help… and at other times the most useless of statements.  From the right person, from those who are closest to you, it is all the world.  It means they’ll take care of you when you can’t do it yourself.  It means they’ll make you a meal, listen to you cry, and cry with you.  It means a hug, it means a kiss, it means they are there.  And for the rest, it’s utterly meaningless.  What can they do?  What can the mere acquaintances do for you?  Because there is only one thing you could want people to do for you, and they have neither the ability nor the understanding to do it.  Take away the pain.  Bring her back.  Give me back my life.  Show me the way through this.  Tell me what I’m supposed to do now.  I know it’s paradoxical that it’s ok for some to say this, and others not, but logic seems to have no place in this process.

The I’m there for you

Speaking of being hypocritical, this one is worse.  These words dig in to your very soul from the people who you hold dear.  And they stay there, a warm core of affection and regard.  And from someone who has not penetrated that circle, it is all the fluff and vapid assurance as you get from someone asking how you are doing in passing.  They aren’t looking for you to say anything other than “fine, thanks.”  And in the case of the person disconnected from your reality, the aren’t looking for you to take them up on the assertion of their presence.  It’s more a salve to their own feelings, that they are in the presence of a broken man, than it is a genuine desire to help.  (They want to help, of course, so long as it doesn’t go further than an arm’s length distance, as the relationship is in the first place.)

Loss and grief gives you much doubt.  And in cases like this, it’s impossible, beyond the ones you know for certain, to know who is actually your friend, and who is tolerating your presence out of kindness at the time of your loss.  We do have a fundamental distaste at being dismissive or negligent with those who are suffering.  It’s more about our own consciences though, and less about the person that is enduring the pain.  And when someone asserts blithely that they will be there for you, you find yourself itemizing and calculating on whether or not this is a genuine offer of friendship, or one that you should let pass as no more than a polite construct, made out of the obligations of the social contract of civility.

Sad eyes and Eggshells

All of the other methods though, aren’t as bad as this one.  At least there is some effort, however misguided and clumsy, to the rest.  The one that hurts the most, is the looks of pity from afar.  From those who catch your eye, unintentionally of course, because eye contact would make it all the worse.  And the look in their eyes is one of regret and sadness, before they turn away.  Or, when they DO have to talk to you, they skirt the issue like it’s a rabid chipmunk.   Like a circus freak, you are watched and analyzed and marvelled at in morbid curiosity.

They walk tenderly on eggshells, listening for the crunch, and bolt at the first sign of their footing crumbling beneath them.  You are dehumanized, made in to an example of sadness, a picture of avoidable grief.  You want to scream.   Yell at them.

I’m still here.

I’m still human.

My daughter died, I didn’t transform in to someone else.

I won’t crumple to dust if you are near me or acknowledge what happened.  Can’t you see that?

But they can’t see that.  Or, choose the easier path. Or, are frightened of their own mortality in the face of someone elses. I don’t know. The reasons could be many and manifold.  And it resides behind the sad eyes as they scurry away.

The fact is, from all of the “methods” there is little that truly comforts.  Small points of light in an otherwise dark landscape, moribund of hope.  And I have only heard or experienced a few things that have even given me pause to think that there is a way through it all.

Being treated “normally.”  Being told that I’m loved. (Or, in the case of friends, the same kind of regard without the necessity of those exact words.) Genuine affection. Not batting an eye at the rapid vacillation between highs and lows, almost like a situational bipolar disorder.  Real smiles, without eyes that are mourning.  Genuine laughter, when laughter is possible, shared tears when they come, and quiet presence when nothing more is needed than contact.

And so far, in the realm of words spoken, only three have made any sense, even when I struggle with the potential for fatalism or despondency that could come from them:

So it goes.

In all it’s horrible truth:

So it goes.