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December 2018

And A Happy New Year (Let’s Hope It’s A Good One…)

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I think – I hope – when I look back at 2018 in years to come, it will flash by like a montage in a movie that connects a moment of revelation to the important action that determines a character’s purposeful and happy future path.

In many ways I’ve been living a dream existence for a little over a year.  My love of dogsitting grew word-of-mouth into an almost fulltime gig.  I’ve been lucky to pick up clients who live in beautiful homes, many with pools, where I stay with the various dogs and cats I’ve now fallen in love with – like Gigi, pictured above.  This existence has allowed me the time and space to focus on my documentary project, volunteering, and have the sense of freedom that I seem to crave.

Unfortunately, the forces of anxiety and depression were strong with me this year  – something that all of these wonderful things couldn’t keep at bay.   This thwarting of desire to enjoy and be present in this unique chunk of my life devoted to my passion project added to the overall frustration I felt with myself and the world and my sense of hopelessness.

The lessons learned over the years from my constant struggles with these energy-zapping conditions sent me back to therapy later rather than sooner, but way earlier in a spiral down than before!  Basically, my need to serve others overwhelmed and conflicted with the expectations I put on myself to get through the “to-do” lists of my own life and the film.

Since then I’ve made some baby-steps toward creating boundaries with others and being more realistic about what I can accomplish in a day.  Instead of always setting myself up to fail and focusing on what I don’t get done, I’m trying to pave my road with little wins by acknowledging what I doget done. My resolution for the coming year is get keep getting incrementally better at that.

I’m excited for 2019 as it will start the next chapter in my life.  On January 28 filming will officially begin for The Silent Goldens documentary!  I’ll continue writing blogs and include production news as we work.   Additionally, I will soon be launching an interview series on this site with other suicide loss survivors about their own choice to speak out publicly with their stories.

Thank you to all who have been following this journey through these posts. I’m fascinated to see what comes next and I hope to keep you interested as well!  I wish you all health, happiness, love, and good communication with others in your life as we approach the New Year.  To those who need it, I add my wishes of  and healing, comfort, and peace.

Christmas Caroling in My Head

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Trying to explain my chronic anxiety to others, even my doctors, always raises my level of anxiety.  I get frustrated trying to describe why one day a minor problem might be rage inducing, while on another day it might barely register as a problem.  I can’t articulate how my list of things to-do on paper is ceaselessly running through my mind as “must-do now” list, which I constantly reprioritize.  If I have conversations about it,  I leave them ruminating about something I said, the way I said it, or what else I should have said.

When my anxiety level is very high, I do have a physical sensation of a hand on my back between my shoulder blades nudging me forward, like it’s saying “go, go, go” only I have no clue where I’m supposed to go or what I’m supposed to do.  I’ve never able to accurately described the baseline level I live with however, until a revelation a few years ago during the holiday season while listening to the 24/7 Christmas music radio station.

I love the holiday season and the music.  One of my favorites is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24), the instrumental mash-up of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Carol of the Bells.  You can listen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHioIlbnS_A

The intense rolling beat, the triumphant vibe, and the familiarity of the melody have put this song into heavy rotation on my personal device playlists for years.  Then one day as I was listening felt more connected to it somehow, like my mind inside my head was bobbing along. The underlying beat and the repetitive short bursts of tunes felt more driving than rolling, much like the hand I feel pushing my back.  The back and forth between the instruments felt chaotic and overwhelming.  Even in the quieter parts of the song there’s an ominous anticipation of the crash of the drum and the intensity ramping back up. At the end, you feel a little drained.  This is what it’s like in my mind.

My brain is constant motion and my thoughts are repetitive and invasive, constantly telling me to do more.  The varying intensity of my anxiety always affects my mood and sometimes my ability to function. When my levels are low, the anxiety feels like background music – but it’s still there and I remain ever vigilant waiting for the next thing to trigger me. The busyness of just thinking can sap all my energy.

Now when I hear the song I find it amusing to have this thing has always given me joy be useful in describing my distress and am comforted that for all 3:25 of the song I feel understood.  Where words fail, music speaks my mind.

The Language of Grief – A Book

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Stacy Parker and Ruth showing off their living quarters at Kibbutz Yahel near Eilat, Israel. 1986. No idea who or what is happening on the lawn – or with our hair.

In January 1986, a year after my mother died, I enrolled in a semester abroad program in Israel on the pretense of sparking my interest in returning to college but in reality to escape home when my father remarried.  One of the people I became close to on the trip was Stacy Parker but we did not stay in touch for long after as she lived in California and I was getting ready to move to NYC both in the midst of launching our “real” lives.

She knew my mom had died, but, as she has now told me, I did not speak about it at all and she didn’t feel able to ask because of her own aversion to  the subject at that age.  I knew through the grapevine that she had lost her first-born daughter, Alyssa, in 1997 at age 2, but only when we became Facebook friends years later did I learn how involved she was with organizations dealing with palliative care and hospice for children because of her experience. I also realized how close she lived to me and when I was ready to face my own grief and get involved with suicide related groups, I reached out to her to better understand the nature of volunteering in the grief world.

Our friendship resumed over lunch as if no time had passed as we shared our stories of loss, the need to talk about it, and the desire to use our pain to help others suffering. Even though suicide wasn’t a common factor in our losses, the traumatic nature of them was. While our discussions often focus on grief and death, it is never in a morbid way.  It’s been normal for Stacy for years and her comfort talking about it helped mine grow.

Spending time at her home and with her husband and teenage son and daughter impressed on me how someone who has passed can be kept ‘alive’ in a way, as there are pictures of Alyssa around and they honor her during special occasions.  She is not some memory too sad and upsetting to be discussed nor does her presence overshadow their present life.

Stacy has known about my idea for The Silent Goldens documentary since it’s very early days and has been supportive and helpful in multiple ways and I was happy to return the favor when she asked for some input on her latest project, a new book called Grief As a Second Language, which is now on Amazon.  She even uses my story as an example in one of the chapters – but you’ll have to read it to find out which one!

One goal for my website and this blog is to promote other people’s projects that are in line with my mission to get people talking and sharing.  So let this post serve as a  plug for her book.  Here is the review I posted on Amazon about it :

 Having experienced traumatic grief after my mother’s suicide, I found this book covered the wide range of feelings and experiences I faced in the aftermath.  With the author so openly sharing her story of losing her daughter and how she got through the worst of it, the book reads like a letter from a friend who understands, not an expert listing generic advice about dealing with the “stages” of grief.   The details of everyone’s story are different but loss brings on many common emotions and situations that only others who have experienced can truly understand.  Stacy simply shares what she learned and did to give others the space to come up with a way to start healing that works for them.  I’d recommend this book for anyone with a recent loss or anyone who wants to prepare for the inevitable sadness we all must face.

I’m excited to go to her book party on Jan 8 and get my signed copy!!!

Check it out on Amazon!