Because I Don’t Feel Guilty Enough…

September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness month. To honor the theme, I checked out the Netflix series exclusive: 13 Reasons Why.

13 Reasons Why starts with the voice of Hannah Baker, (Katherine Langford), detailing the 13 reasons (people) she has chosen to take her own life. This narrative takes place on 13 audio cassette tapes that were given to (or will be passed on) to the 13 people who caused her such distress.

The journey chronicles Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) on his quest to find out what happened to his crush, what he could’ve done and what he can do now.

POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT

The show, co-produced by Selena Gomez and her mother, touches on a lot of tough subjects. It hits hard but does it miss the point? Maybe a little…

The acting is well done. The story telling in engaging and… two things don’t sit well with me.

The first problem I have with it is Hannah Baker takes zero responsibility for her actions.

Even in the end, when she says she’s going to give life one more chance… if so and so doesn’t do this, then it’s over. What? Most people are not mind readers.

This person did this to me, that person did that and no one cared, enough. As if that’s all it took to prevent someone from suicide. I think when a person gets to that place, it’s much like someone with an addiction. No matter what you do, it’s ultimately up to the person themselves to make sure they are safe.

It’s stated a couple of times throughout the show that Hannah is the one responsible for Hannah’s death, no one else. I’m sorry but mentioning that a few times throughout a series when each episode is dedicated to a person or reason for her suicide is not enough. Sure everyone could have done more. And know what? It probably wouldn’t have made a difference. I’m not trying to be pessimistic, just realistic.

Survivors of suicide have more than enough guilt without having the dead loved one come back and point a finger at them.

The part that especially ticked me off was when Clay confronted Tony and asked “Am I the reason Hannah killed herself” and he said yes. What bullshit is that? She even said so on the tape, “Clay you shouldn’t even be on these tapes”.  I guess I have to chalk that up to needing ratings? Cliffhangers?

I understand the stigma around suicide and I’m not saying Hannah should be shamed for what she did but people, blaming everyone else for our own misery isn’t the answer either.

The second problem I have with the series is that when a suicide happens, an explanation is a luxury. Many times there are no answers. I know that in this case, for there to have been a series, there had to be a story but it gives a false expectation of death…

My sister did not commit suicide, she died from an accidental overdose. All that was left was speculation. There was no ongoing relationship, no instructions or list of reasons why she was gone. I understand the difference, she didn’t know she wasn’t going to wake up but this show, it explores in depth why she did what she did and it gave the illusion of being able to work through the problems and make people… be better?

That’s not how it works.

This series was very emotional. Its heart was in the right place, I just don’t know where the brains were.

 

If you do feel depressed and need help:

Text- CrisisTextLine

Call- 1-844-550-HERO (4376)

Visit- OnLineChat

 

 

 

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International Overdose Awareness Day

I thought I’d share the free write I did on Friday with my writing group. We started off by reading the obituary of Brian Doyle, writer and longtime contributor to The Sun magazine. If you’d like to read the beautiful tribute to Brian, click here.

I felt some measure of pride hearing about how Brian Doyle was unashamed to cry in public. Maybe to tip the scale a little for how much embarrassment I feel when it happens to me. And last night was an ocean of salt water heart tears. Not just for me but the group- everyone at the Overdose Awareness Vigil, there on Crystal beach. Maybe it wasn’t so much embarrassment but the strong desire to wail, unabashedly. Not just from my eyes, not just let the saline trickle from my eyes but to let loose the riptide that roared beneath. The torrent of emotions, the physical-ness of it. Clutching my heart, swaying with the imagined image of her in my arms. The primal screaming at an unjust world, a life too short.

I’d love to “give darkness the middle finger” but right now, it has me so completely enveloped, I can hardly move at all.

A lot of mothers who’d lost children spoke. There was a common theme among them. Their child, whether the world saw them as an addict, a nuisance or a criminal- they were and always would be their little piece of perfection. Perfectly imperfect.

They were, these loved ones lost, when sober were the artists of the world. The musicians, the writers, the painters. The kindest, most generous of souls. The people this world needs most.

After releasing the balloons, we watched them float up, up and…together. Those balloons stayed together, stuck with each other and with one single balloon (Ian Selleck) as the lead, guided the grouping and our eyes, heavenward. We held our candles and a moment of silence but ended on a hopeful note. The facilitators had everyone who was in recovery to stand in the center of the circle and lead everyone out into the newness of another night.

I want to offer a big thank you to Joanne Kittridge and Pam Lanhart for hosting the event, to and Star Selleck for sharing and being apart of so many addiction related events… I know Ian is proud. And to everyone who attended Thursday evening. We are all in this together.

#NotOneMore

Love you Nat.

 

nat_copy
Natalie Nicole Allen 9/11/1979-5/19/2016          9 Months sober

 

 

 

Why We Need to Stop Comparing Addiction to Cancer

First, I think we need to acknowledge there is a difference between drug use and drug abuse. Some people can use substances recreationally, not everyone can. People are hardwired differently. I don’t know why some people don’t have an issue with having one glass of wine at dinner, while others struggle.

I’ve been noticing the growing argument for “addiction is not a disease” along with some form of an analogy about a kid with cancer. “That five-year-old didn’t ask for cancer”. Ok, I get it. I do.

And I think it’s a poor comparison.

Whichever side of the disease vs willpower side of the controversy you’re on, please know that addicts don’t choose to be addicts either. I understand no one “held a gun to a drug users head and made them inject drugs”. On the other hand, do you understand that when you’re cancer free, you don’t have to work every day to stay cancer free. You don’t have the temptations surrounding you or when the stress builds up or a family member dies and you need that relief, you don’t think “man, I could really use some cancer right now”.

I once heard someone say that if there was a cure for cancer half way around the world, nothing would stop that person from getting their treatment but if there was a pill that could cure depression sitting on the table across from someone who is depressed, they might not be able to get up off the couch to get it.

Depression is a chemical thing. Addiction is a chemical thing. How terrible is it that the affliction some people deal with destroys the mind to logic out? It doesn’t seem like a matter of willpower to me. It’s more believable to me that there’s a glitch in the brain.

Comparing addiction to cancer doesn’t make any sense. They are not the same thing.

It’d be a little easier to compare it with diabetes. Type two diabetes can be passed on genetically or a person can live a lifestyle that leads to diabetes. That person wasn’t asking to get sick. Sometimes it’s possible to make lifestyle changes that will help get blood sugars under control but that person has to be very aware of everything they put in their body.

I know firsthand what it’s like to have unmanaged blood sugars. I have made many changes and in turn, my sugars are lower and I am getting healthier. I also know how difficult it is to maintain those changes. Sometimes I just want handfuls of chocolate. Or cheesecake. Or pasta. Sometimes I indulge. A lot of times I don’t.

Addiction runs rampant in my family and I lost a sister to a lethal mix of rx drugs and heroin. Four days before she died, we had an intervention for her. She looked into our eyes and told us she was done. She wanted to be clean (and had recently celebrated 9 months of sobriety before this last relapse). She knew her lifestyle could kill her. She did it anyway. I don’t believe it was simply a matter of willpower. It’s not right to think that had someone stayed with her that night, everything would’ve been ok. She needed 24- hour supervision. Sometimes it’s not a “day at a time” it’s a minute or a second at a time. Do you think anyone in their “right” or healthy mind would conspire and lie to loved ones just to be able to essentially kill themselves?

Addiction at the very least is powerful, can we all agree on that? It’s killing people and it needs to stop.

Can we stop comparing it to cancer? Trying to claim there are no “victims of addiction”? I’ve never done heroin and it’s ruined my life. Because the bottom line is, blaming people doesn’t help anything.

Comedy… and Tragedy

As many of you know, last night I participated in a stand-up comedy contest.

I am choosing my words very carefully because even though I don’t particularly care about burning THIS bridge, I don’t know what other paths it may be connected to…

With that in mind, I will not name the club or the contest so I can tell you that I’ve performed there twice and both times it was a bad experience.

Not so much the going up and doing my thang… just the atmosphere and the audience (which I think has a lot to do with the atmosphere).

The first time I was there, all the lights stayed on and it was a weeknight so people were anxious to get home (I think). No one laughed, at anything. It wasn’t just me. A dozen people went up and no one laughed at anyone. It was super awkward but I didn’t take it personally.

So here’s the play by play of last night:

Actually, I’m going to start with Monday night when I got an email stating that there would be extra points awarded to people who brought more than 10 people, more than 15 people and more than 20 people.

Great. So, it’s a popularity contest? Ok, well, all I can control is what I do. Their goal is to fill seats and sell alcohol. My goal is to get up and perform. I haven’t since August and I need the practice. I hope people think I’m funny but it’s not even my main objective at this point.

Last night. I’m supposed to check in with the promoter between 7:00-7:15. I’m (unbelievably) early. I check in and he reminds me I have 6 minutes and to watch for the red light. Got it.

Get inside, order some food, because I’ve been running around all day preparing and my sugar is starting to drop. Minor panic sets in.

No one knows the order of performers. I mean, someone knows but no one is telling. They want everyone to be there on time, so show up- you might be first.

The show starts, the MC did some jokes, complained that no one was laughing, and explained that 13 amateur comedians each had 10 minutes to perform.

What?!?!?!

Shar looked at me and said, “You’d better talk reeeeaaaallll slow”.

I was the second performer on stage.

It was so bright. So bright.

I felt comfortable enough, going through my spiel… until I saw a guy in the front row actually TRYING NOT to laugh. Part of our score is based on audience response, so he was there for someone else and didn’t want to give anyone else any help. Ironically, this made ME laugh.

The time ended up being 6 minutes, instead of 10. I got cut off on my last joke but overall felt good about the performance.

The rest of the show was hard to sit through. Not in an all bad way. I was tired, I had a headache, I was super glad to be done with this contest and there were some really disrespectful people in the audience.

People having conversations with each other, trying to talk over the comedian. People playing on their phones. Arguing.

The worst was near the end. I don’t remember the guy’s name but he was doing a decent job until someone yelled out “nigger”! He was shocked at first. Then there was some banter between the two. This woman had been talking throughout the entire show and other people were getting pissed. Someone yelled out “Go home lady, nobody likes you!”

“Shut up” someone else said.

I could feel my muscles tighten in time with the tension in the club.

“Where’s security?”

Eventually, security DID arrive and escort her out but not before she grabbed a glass and threw it at the manager’s head! All the while, this 50 something-year-old, football player structured woman is screaming at her scrawny boyfriend “Stand up for me nigger!”

A lot of my friends had left early because she had been such a disruption.

By the time the MC was reading the names of the winners, I was relieved to not be one of them!

“Are you ok?” a friend asked

“Hell yeah, it just means I don’t have to come back!”

On the plus side, seven people told me they thought I was great, I did a good job etc. That felt nice.

I have signed up for another comedy contest that will run in June, I think, but I plan on making comedy a more routine part of my life.

Thanks everyone for the best wishes, encouragement, and affirmations… I appreciate the support. I did what I set out to do, I’m not discouraged and I’m already writing new material.

Afterall, who doesn’t need more laughter?

 

A.R.T.-ist (Part 2)

Last night while writing my blog post, I fell asleep. A couple of times… so I cut the post short and in doing so, I forgot to tell you how it all ended!

After the last “pass”, Darlene asked if I wanted to work on it some more. I couldn’t though. I was so drained. I confessed that the second half of the time I didn’t even have a single thought. I needed all of my energy to just follow her hand.

“Ok, well, let’s get you across the bridge at least”.

I guess this is how all sessions end. Going over a bridge and towards a fountain.

So I imagined myself on a cobblestone bridge, holding my therapists’ hand. We walked cautiously forward. About half way across, I let go of his hand and bolted the rest of the way, without even looking back. I was about 6 years old and at the fountain we used to visit when we went to grandma’s house. I started to laugh and splash in the water that changed colors. Almost immediately I saw Natalie. She was her four year old self and transparent, as was our grandma who was seated on the bench, watching us as she always did.

At this point, I did have a lump in my throat and tears teetering on the edge of my eyelids.

I was torn. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I didn’t feel the same heaviness that had been with me all these months and I was afraid. I was afraid if I felt better, that was somehow betraying my sister. It hasn’t even been a full year yet, how can I just be “over it”? Isn’t that dishonoring her?

No one wants to feel bad but somehow I felt I HAD to…

Then I remembered a quote from long ago:

“Suffering is no proof of love”. Nor is it proof of loyalty or dedication or anything other than suffering.

My brain and my body are still at odds with each other, for now.

I expect that will change in time.

The thing that won’t change? My love for her.

A.R.T.-ist

This past Thursday, I had my first (real) A.R.T. (accelerated resolution therapy) session.

It was pretty amazing. The first time we met, we talked about what issue(s) I wanted to work on and if A.R.T. was a good option. I was there strictly to work on my grief over Natalie. She had me recount the “scene” that currently plays through my mind when I feel like I’m losing it. I started from the morning of May 19th, when I got the call from my brother up to the viewing and funeral. It’s a four-day scene and she said I needed to chunk it down. Thursday I was ready. I started from sitting in the bank, waiting for a teller so I could open a checking account. I was in a chair, reading a story about the mayor and how whenever someone in Minneapolis was killed by a gang or gun violence, he would go with police to inform the family.

“What a horrible job to have” I remember thinking.

I remember hearing my phone ring and seeing Justin’s phone number.

“He’s going to ask me to work” I thought.

That was not the case. We talked and then I held my stomach all the way to my parent’s house.

After I went through this “scene” in my mind (while following the movement of her hand) we did a body scan.

“What do you notice?” she asked.

“I have a headache. My chest feels heavy, so heavy I feel like it might cave in on me. The rest of me feels numb.”

“Would you like to move that around?”

“Um, sure…”

She told me that some people imagine a magnet, sucking the pain out of them or angels pulling out the energy. I had a vision of Bruce Lee, punching the headache away.

Half way through though, he got tired and I saw my grandma. She held my head in her hands.

“How do you feel?” Darlene asked.

“I still have my headache but the pressure in my chest is gone. I mean, I feel so much lighter…”

The second “pass” ( a term meaning a round of hand movement while I follow it with my eyes -similar to EMDR therapy) was me getting to be the director. I just have to adjust the scene to something more acceptable.

We begin again. The first thing I notice is that I’m standing in the bank in a long, flowy skirt and a Hawaiian shirt. Natalie was married in Hawaii. I’m reading the paper again and the tiny, thumbnail photo of the mayor turned from a black and white copy to full color and climbed out of the paper. He sat in a chair to me and took my hand.

“It’s going to be alright” he assured me.

I was confused.

“You’re going to get some bad news, but it’ll be ok, I promise.”

I pulled away, scared.

The phone rang. It was Justin.

“You know how Nat always wanted to join the circus?”

“Um, no…”

“Fuck it. I’m not going to lie to you. Natalie met up with CW and they went flying together.”

(CW was a friend of the family who passed away in 2006 due to a fatal car accident. Natalie often had dreams of him where they’d go flying together.)

My breath caught in my throat. I was sad but not overly so. I felt almost a relief… she wasn’t in pain or suffering. She was with loved ones, watching over us left here on Earth.

Justin continued “I think we need to do something. Get together, maybe watch some fireworks, see if she says hi”.

(Fireworks are our mom’s symbol for death)

Next thing I knew, we were on a hilltop, watching colors explode in the sky. Shortly after the show started, the word “hi” appeared, along with a heart and the name Nat.

Another body scan revealed my headache had vanished as well and I felt an odd sensation, like trying to keep a beach ball under the water and it just won’t stay submerged. Intellectually, I knew I was sad. Who wouldn’t be? It’s a terrible thing to go through and yet, I couldn’t get my body to go along with it. I felt light and free. I could breathe without difficulty, without tears…

That was Thursday. Today, Sunday (Easter) it came back a little bit. One of the last of the lasts. The last of the “firsts”. First Easter without her. One more to go: Mother’s Day. That’ll be a bitch.

I’m going to keep going with this A.R.T. and of course, I’ll keep you guys updated.

Happy Easter! Good Night!

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