Suicide Prevention Tip

On my way home from rehearsal tonight I was listening to NPR’s “On Being.” The guest was philosopher, historian, and poet Jennifer Michael Hecht. She was speaking about suicide.

I am fortunate. While I have depression, it has never manifested itself as self-harm or suicidal thoughts for me. This doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone who HAS had those symptoms. It’s simply not the symptoms I have. But I’m always interested in the topic, as I have people in my life who have struggled with suicidal thoughts. If I am going to be an advocate for people getting help with mental illness, I want to be as informed as I can.

So when Ms. Hecht made this suggestion for suicide prevention, I knew I needed to pass it along. Immediately.

Here’s the deal.

Depression is a liar. A good one. This I know from experience. So when you are feeling depressed, it is nearly impossible to remember a time when things felt good.

So remind yourself.

Write yourself a letter. An actual, literal, handwritten letter. The next time you are feeling good, write to your future self. Remind yourself that those feelings of depression are temporary. That you have good times. That you have people you love. People who love you. Carry that letter with you. All the time. And if you’re feeling like life isn’t worth living, take out your letter. Read it. Trust it. And wait.

Because that feeling will pass.

Remind yourself in the letter that the feeling will pass.

I do not mean to oversimplify the feelings and thoughts. Nor do I downplay the importance of getting help. (Therapy, medication, or a combination of both.) But if you can just get through THIS MOMENT. THESE THOUGHTS. And just… wait. You might not feel all the way better. But you will remember that your life is worth it.

As Hecht says, “Your staying alive means so much more than you really know or that anyone is aware of at this moment.”

This. Will. Pass.

If you’re able to, go write that letter right now.

If some feelings of crisis brought you to this blog, and you feel that you are in immediate danger, please- PLEASE- I am personally asking you to call someone.
You can call 1-800-273-8255 any time.

Now. Go write that letter. And pass this along to anyone who might need it.

Wild Thing, I Think I Love You: Why my daughter can wear her natural hair however she wants

This is my daughter.

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She is not-quite five years old. She has a bold, confident, larger-than-life personality. She sings loudly in public. She dances with strangers. She makes friends everywhere she goes.

And she chooses to wear her hair in a way that reflects that.

And this is a problem for people.

Lily’s hair has been an issue for a long time. In fact, it has already been the subject of this blog. Twice. I’ve spoken about it in national media.

It’s a whole thing.

What I don’t understand is why it’s THE thing.

I did an interview with a radio host in Atlanta a few months ago. We had such a nice chat about transracial adoption. It seemed like I had really gotten through to her. (She opened the interview asking why white women adopting black babies was a trend.) And then. The very last thing she said before signing off, leaving me no time to respond, was “but those white women who don’t know how to take care of their daughters’; hair. That just makes me crazy.”

That is what you take away from learning about my family?

Before I go on. If you are new to this blog (hi!) please click the links above where I have talked about Lily’s hair issues before. I don’t want to repeat myself. But there is stuff in there you need to know. Really. Please.

I’ll wait.

(Jeopardy theme song)

Welcome back!

So as you can see, this is not a new issue. And it is exhausting.

Imagine my frustration, then, when someone who is on the fringe of Lily’s life asked me yesterday what “we” are doing about her hair. He is concerned that kids in kindergarten may make fun of her. (Heaven forbid a kid getting made fun of in kindergarten.) He had lots of advice. None of it was new information to me.

Immediately on the defense, I felt the need to go into everything I’ve explained above. I eventually brought Lily into the conversation because she was within earshot and I didn’t want her to overhear people she cares about talking about her like she’s not there.

And then he told her, “Do you know how pretty you would be if you let Mommy take care of your hair?”

And I saw red.

True, he tried to back-pedal a bit, saying that of course she was already pretty, she just would be even prettier…. And it would really bring out certain features… And she would be so pretty…

I got her out of there after an offer for him to go with her to the barber (I kind of want to take him up on it, for entertainment value. But I won’t put her through that.)

Shortly after I got home, I vented on Facebook. Because Moms don’ have afternoon coffee around the kitchen table any more. We have Facebook.

And yikes.

68 comments later and I realized how high emotions run with this topic. Almost all of the comments were supportive in the beginning. Then someone I hardly know told me the teacher was right, and white women need to understand how to take care of black hair. I won’t go into detail because it got really out of hand. I was so SO thankful to have so many friends stand up for my family. (Many of these friends are not white.) It went on for quite a while, and eventually she went back and deleted all of her comments. I am still getting messages of support from friends this morning.

So.

Here are some things I need the world to know.

1. My daughter is not pretty. She is gorgeous. She is stunning. She stops people on the street because they can’t getter over her charisma.

2. She calls her hairstyle “Lily Hair.” She chooses to wear it that way. Just like she chooses to wear princess dresses and sunglasses.

3. I believe she will outgrow the drama surrounding her hair. Just like she outgrew needing to poop in a diaper until she was 4 1/2. (“But WHY won’t she poop on the potty?” people wanted to know. “Have you asked a doctor about it? What about kindergarten?” I felt pretty strongly that she wouldn’t be pooping in diapers in college. One day she decided to be done with it. So she was. And never used a diaper again.) I feel strongly- as a Mom who knows her kid- that this will be the case with her hair. She is one of those kids who needs to decide things for herself.

4. I teach at a special needs school. I am around children with all kinds of special needs every day. Lily does not have very much in common with my students. There is a chance she could have sensory issues. I am looking into it. It would explain a lot. But she is bright. And she is passionate. And she is stubborn. (See “pooping in diapers.”) Given that, if there are issues she doesn’t outgrow, I would be the first person (Dad would be second) to say “let’s talk with someone about this.” Not only am I a teacher, I am someone who suffers from mental illness.

If there is an issue here, we will seek help.

5. I am not interested in teaching her that she needs to wear her hair a certain way so that the kids in kindergarten don’t make fun of her, nor so mommy and daddy don’t get judged by strangers. This is not the sense of self I have chosen to help her develop.

Now that all of that is out of the way.

Why on Earth does anyone care?

Seriously.

I mean, SERIOUSLY seriously.

It is hair. She likes it this way. It is a choice. She is a crazy kid. Her hair fits her personality.

WHO CARES????

I have been told it needs to be moisturized every day.

Yep. Just getting her hair wet in the bathtub is a two-man process. Getting any sort of product into her hair (wet or dry) is a wrestling match. LITERAL wrestling. Sometimes we don’t have it in us.

I have been told multiple times that it will lock and we’ll have to cut it all off in order to do anything with it.

Yep. Fully aware. This even feels likely to me.

And when that day comes, she will rock her super-short Afro just like she rocks her craziness now.

We have standards. She must be clean. She must be fully clothed when she leaves the house. She must eat healthy foods.

But this is hair. She is a small child. There are more important things in life.

Like friends.

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And ice cream.

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And helping.

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And the animals at the zoo.

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If you see these pictures and your takeaway is hair, I humbly suggest that it is your world lens that is out of focus. Not hers.

My Cinderella Story

“Impossible things are happening every day” – Rogers and Hammerstein

“Cinderella” was my very first musical. I had auditioned for our community theatre several times before, but had never been cast. Something clicked in my brain though, the end of my eighth grade year, about the energy required for a successful audition. I sang “Wouldn’t it be Loverly.” And I sold it, man. I was cast in the ensemble. And the rest was history.

It seems appropriate, then, that my first 5k would also be a Cinderella theme. Here I am with my medal. So cute, right?

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And while they are different versions of the same story, they both seem fitting. Wanting something so badly that seemed out of reach. The R&H version of the story features a song of hope. The Fairy Godmother sings that “impossible things are happening every day.”

Yesterday was no exception.

I finished C25K.

I wrote in January about my desire to complete the program. True, the actual 5k was almost a month ago. The hype and promise of a medal and location helped me push through. Running through Epcot Center at sunrise is considerably more interesting that running on the treadmill at the YMCA.

But yesterday I finished the 24th workout. Yep. I did all 24. In order. As designed. And I’m here to tell you. It worked.

Two months ago I could hardly run for a minute at a time. And now I can go out for a 30-minute jog. It. Worked.

I CAN breathe. My legs WILL hold out. This program breaks it down into baby steps. Which I still hate. But I guess they work or something.

The only thing to do now is keep going. 10k Lent Project, here I come!

Note: I have already started the project. But now I get to move from the 5k training to the 10k training. 18 work-outs in 35 days. Wheeeeeeeeeeee!

And one additional note: Those of you who were following my Flylady progress. I have been running a lot more than flying. My sink is still shiny. But as for the rest… Let’s hope the running success inspires some cleaning success.

Running Through the Fog

Man. Those few minutes right after running are the worst. For me, anyway. All the blood rushes to my head and I feel hot and exhausted and a little sick. It only lasts for a few minutes, fortunately. Then it’s replaced by a feeling of, well, that’s what I was trying to figure out the other day.

I had just gotten out of the shower at the YMCA. And there was that feeling again. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. But it was familiar. And then it hit me.

Summer. (Cue Olaf…)

This was exactly the way I felt in the evening after spending the day in the sun. It was peaceful and calm and focused. And just… happy.

Suddenly I felt like a genius. Excerise does something to my body that feels like spending time in the sun! QUICK! SOMEONE CALL SCIENCE! (Science already knows.)

Obviously, both activities cause our bodies to release endorphins. This is useful information for any human with an able body. But it could be a game-changer when that body suffers from depression. Especially around this time of year. I wrote recently about The Februaries. And it seems like they should be over now. (Cuz, you know, it’s March.) Unfortunately the Februaries are followed closely behind by another tough season: Daylight Savings Time. Or the beginning of it, anyway.

“What? That’s nuts! I LOVE Daylight Savings Time! All that extra sunlight makes me soooooo happy!” – Everyone reading this who doesn’t have depression, and maybe some who do.

And I agree with you, in principle.

The reality has always been a little different for me, though. And lots of others. You can read about it here.

I recover, eventually. But the combination of The Februaries followed by Daylight Savings has resulted in one giant, three-month-long slump. Every. Single. Year.

That’s, like, a quarter of my life. And that’s not OK.

So I’m at the YMCA and I’m getting dressed. And I wonder. What if it doesn’t happen this year? What if the endorphins released after my run are enough to counteract the imbalance created by the sudden surge of serotonin.
I mean, I should basically be a scientist you guys. (Dear Mindy, This is extraordinarily old news. Welcome, though! Love, Science)

I may learn to like this extra hour of sun thing.

My Body is a Temple: Running Through Lent

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The other day I was running in the treadmill at the YMCA. And I looked down at the clock. And I was filled with awe. I had been running for fifteen minutes without even really thinking about it. Sure, I was distracted by something trashy on daytime TV. But when I started the c25k program in January even those baby steps seemed tough. Running a whole minute was a challenge. And now three? And then five? Then eight? The first time it jumped to ten I thought I’d die.

Even a few days before, during my first run back from vacation, I had trouble finishing the whole 20 minutes. I walked for a bit in the middle. And here I’d run 15 like it was nothing.

I spent a good part of that run thinking about the phrase “Fearfully and wonderfully made.” My run became a prayer of thanks. Thanks for my body, and its design. A body that is so adaptive we can do things one day we thought impossible the day before.

I wasn’t raised in the tradition of giving things up for Lent. I was always under the assumption that it was just for Catholics. And we weren’t Catholic. My friends at school always seemed to forget anyway. Or they would give up something unimportant to them. Or they would just skate by using the letter of the law. “I mean, these are sugar free, so it’s not REALLY candy, right?”

As an adult, though, I have some to understand Lent as a period of preparation. A time when we make a sacrifice as thanks for the ultimate sacrifice. A time of reflection and thanksgiving. I’ve realized we don’t actually have to give things up. We can add to our lives. Last year during the Lent season I finished my memoir “Hope Springs.” This year by Easter I want to have sent it to as many agents as I have information for. I’m about halfway through the list and have gotten stuck. Easter gives me a deadline.

But there’s something else I want to do this year. I want to run. Because I can. Because God gave me a body that can run a little further every day. And I’m thankful for that. After finishing my first 5k a few weeks ago, I’m now going to continue my training with the 10k program.

Of course during Lent we all want to read our Bibles more. (And by more, I mean at all for a lot of us.) So during my runs I’ll be listening to an audio version of the Old Testament. I have one with music and a cast of stars and sound effects that occasionally make it sound like Lost.

I’ve already taken a few runs this way and learned a few things. First, the “begats” are not helpful for running uphill. I can’t imagine this making it into my training playlist at any point. Second, the story of Abraham and Sarah is no less painful for me hearing it compared to reading it. And I always get a little worried I’m gonna get pregnant at 90. Let’s all agree together that won’t happen. In Jesus’ name Amen. Finally, running and listening gives me an interesting opportunity to listen. And question. And wonder.

I’ll keep you updated. Anyone have any Lent projects they want to share?

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