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Ruth Golden

The Kindness of Strangers

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I left my wallet with debit and credit card at a friend’s house and found myself with no cash this morning and no access to get any for a few hours.  Desperate for a Diet Coke, I scrounged up $1.26 in dimes and nickels and found a winning scratch off lottery ticket that I could redeem for $1.  My plan was to trade the ticket for the dollar can of soda and look for a snack I could afford.

When I asked how much the Hostess Donettes cost the cashier said $2 so I put them back and said “nevermind.”  He asked how much I had in the way that I understood I could buy them for the $1.26.  I said “it’s ok” and grabbed my can of Diet Coke.

At the register I asked to trade the can for the ticket then realized this gas station didn’t sell tickets so they wouldn’t redeem them.  He offered to take it anyway.  I told him there was no need as I had a dollar.  I nodded to the guy now waiting behind me to go ahead and began to count my change out.  Suddenly the guy who went ahead held out a $5 bill for me to take.  My eyes got watery at the unconditional generosity and compassion I was being shown by these men. I did refuse but thanked him and explained that I did have money, just not at that second.

I can now say for certain random acts of kindness do their job.  The one aimed at me, though not needed, made my day a whole lot better and gave me some hope for us all.  I will pay this one forward big time!

 

 

FUNdraising with Passion

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Never did I ever think I would be fundraising to do a passion project documentary. Throughout my career in TV production I had a few show ideas I took a stab at selling, but mostly I was hired to develop and execute a certain idea within a given budget. When I discovered I had a story, however, the passion was undeniable. Contrary to the way I am used to working, I now have the idea developed and am ready for production, I just need to raise the money.  It’s opposite world and I am not a natural fundraiser.

Asking for money for anything has always been difficult for me – even negotiating fair pay for myself, I am embarrassed to admit.  I found through doing fundraising for the Out of the Darkness Walks with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention I was able to ask because the money was not for me, but for a cause.  When I did it though, I was so touched by those who did donate.  Not just by the family and friends I contacted that generously supported me beyond my original goal, but those contributions from other people they reached out to who had been affected by suicide.  Some of them I knew.  All of them shared their connection with me.

That experience inspired me to create the page on The Silent Goldens website to memorialize donors’ loved ones lost to suicide and create a (hopefully) long list of people willing to be a part of the conversation on the subject. From the start I’ve been overwhelmed and, once again, extremely touched by each and every contribution.  It’s heartwarming on a personal level since this is a personal story, but it’s gratifying to have so many responding to the mission to normalize conversations around suicide.  Each donation gives me more confidence to ask for the next.

Support has come from all segments of my life – people from childhood, high school and college, bosses and co-workers from days gone by, friends and friends of friends and many other loss survivors. Many joined in on my birthday Facebook fundraiser and I truly got a rush of happiness each time I saw a name and now those I wasn’t in regular contact with are now popping up in my newsfeed again!  So bonus for me and thanks again to you all!

I was also humbled to have Carla Fine memorialize her husband with a donation.  Carla wrote a book No Time To Say Goodbye about her experience after his suicide and travels the world speaking about surviving this loss.  She led a writing seminar I  participated in at a survivor’s conference I attended.   She was the one that suggested I write a blog post about it for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s national website where it was published and went a long way to validating my documentary project!

This entire experience is helping me grow in many ways and I’m so curious to see where it leads and how the film and I can help suicide awareness spread!

A Spotlight on Suicide

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Most of my 25+ year career has been spent in a creative field – television production.  I only relatively recently discovered, however, the healing and help that creative endeavors can bring through developing my current documentary project,The Silent Goldens, opening the conversations about my family’s 30-year silence following my mother’s suicide.

Through my work with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I’ve been lucky to meet many others who are using their creative talents to help themselves heal while spreading awareness, de-stigmatizing the subject, and starting discussions.  One such person is Kelly O’Malley, a fellow loss survivor and producer of A Light In Dark Places: Plays for Hope – five one-act plays chosen through an open competition with stories focusing on different aspects of suicidal struggle and loss.

Being a lifelong fan of the theater, I jumped at the chance to meet Kelly in the spring of 2017 when she was gearing up for the second season of performances with proceeds to be donated to the AFSP’s Greater LA chapter.   We connected instantly and I was thrilled to work with her again this year to talk to the directors about the basics of suicide prevention and safe messaging, bring educational information to the shows, and be part of some Q&A sessions.

Side note:  The plays are staged at the world famous Stella Adler Studio of Acting on Hollywood Blvd where Kelly studied.  The real deal school where she, Brando, DeNiro, and now I have graced the stage!  Even with all my years in the TV industry, hanging out backstage with the actors in that building before a show was the most “Hollywood” I’ve ever felt!    (Photo above – Kelly to the right of moderator, me far right.)

As a theatergoer, seeing the show back-to-back a few times allowed me to notice some nuanced changes in the performances as the days went on, and being a part of the whole experience allowed me to ask those involved about their artistic choices, creating a very interesting learning experience.

The play series and alightindarkplaces.org, the non-profit Kelly has started, are meant to raise awareness, open discussions, build community, and bring hope to those struggling – and she is absolutely doing it as evidenced by the very thoughtful questions brought up in the Q&As.  This was a remarkable event with powerful stories and a cast and crew who were all extremely dedicated to the material and passionate about the overall message of hope.  I saw many familiar faces from the first year I was involved and a number of people I spoke to had a direct connection to the cause, so were also using their creative talents to add their voices to the conversation.

Kelly’s hard work has impressively doubled the play submissions each of the 3 years to over 150 this year. I applaud and thank her and all involved in A Light In Dark Places: Plays for Hope, not just on behalf of my AFSP chapter, but as a survivor. These plays do a great service in allowing people to witness the deep pain so many others live with and how human connection – achieved through conversation –  can help. I am excited to see how her mission and the submissions grow in 2019 and am motivated and inspired  by what she’s done to keep pushing forward with my own project!

Ready to Fly

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In Burbank there is a dry cleaning store called Milt and Edie’s that is very noticeable because of its pink exterior and is known for the witty and clever sayings they put up on their main sign.  A few weeks ago one read:

Your time as a caterpillar has expired.  Your wings are ready.

Those words resonated with me on a profound level as doing this documentary ending the 30 year silence in my family about my mother’s suicide is the start of the next phase of my life.  My mission is to share my story to spread awareness about suicide and the need for loss survivor support.  My goal is to find creative ways to do that.

Since my mom died I have felt stuck in many ways at 19, my age when it happened.  I certainly haven’t lived a traditional adult life with marriage, kids, home ownership, steady employment, etc.  Not knowing what I wanted, I’ve been afraid to commit to anything and over the years and slowly built a cocoon-like zone of comfort around me. Now I am feeling claustrophobic.

Luckily my work for 20+ years in television activated my passion for storytelling along time ago and has given me the tools and experience to do it well, allowing for a convergence of my skills, my story, and my emotional growth that has let me poke holes in my cocoon to develop this documentary idea.

Today I am picking up my wings, putting them on, and beginning the edit forThe Silent Goldens official fundraising teaser tape. When finished, it will mark the end of our development period and we will begin fundraising in earnest to raise the $150,000 needed to complete primary filming then the rest of the $500,000 total budget*.

Today I feel like I am starting a new job.  The timing of this happening now only reinforces the feel of change in the air for me as back-to-school  is around the corner and both the Jewish New Year and my birthday are coming in September, events which always fill me with a sense of renewal and opportunity.

The project is ready to film once we raise enough funds to begin.  I am ready to dig in.   I don’t know where or how far this project will take me, but I’m excited to start walking this new path to discover where it leads.

Donations for The Silent Goldens documentary are gratefully accepted through the International Documentary Association under our fiscal sponsorship agreement.   https://www.documentary.org/project/silent-goldens

 

     

Things That Make Me Happy Part 1

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I’ve decided to take note of the small things that make me ridiculously happy.   It could be an object, an animal, or something someone says –  anything that evokes that flutter of joy in the heart and gives the brain a little lift.  It is a great way to feel gratitude and to remind myself that it is the things that have meaning that matter – big or small.

A few weeks ago I purchased the pair of socks pictured above (worn but washed) and here is why they fill me with delight:

Not All Who Wander Are Lost is a saying I recently saw on a piece of art at one of the homes where I dog sit. It resonated with me deeply as I am currently in a wandering phase of life.

That saying being on socks was perfection to me – a mantra for moving forward on an item that helps you do so!

I love bright colors – especially pink.  Always have, always will.  As you can see, the socks are very colorful and anchored by a bold and beautiful shade of it.

Socks were something on my “I need” list, not just my “I want” list.  I would have bought them anyway but it was nice not to have to justify it to myself.

I’d said my life with these socks is off on the right foot and I can’t wait to see where they take me!

Thoughts After Kate Spade’s Suicide

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When suicides are in the news, they always draw my attention as both a survivor of suicide loss and someone that is working to spread awareness and prevention information about this issue.

Like many others, especially of my age and gender, I felt Kate Spade’s death deeply.  First it was a reaction to her age as she was just three years older than I am. There was also her brand’s aspirational yet attainable place in my world as I was forging a career in NY in the 90s.  I have owned and loved 2 Kate Spade bags and one makeup case over the years.  I still have the make up case – even though I don’t generally wear makeup.

Reading she left behind a 13-year-old daughter, however, changed my entire relation to the story. I was 19 when my mother died by suicide and suddenly I was looking at everything through a child’s eyes. The film that plays in my head of the immediate aftermath rolled and I substituted the characters in my story for the ones I was reading about in Kate Spade’s family. I pictured her daughter being pulled out of class the way I was called to the Dean’s office as a college sophomore and told her mother killed herself. Just like that.

I then thought about her being around a swarm of adults who just had the floor drop out from under them and wonder if anyone is truly focused on her pain and loss.  I think about everything she will miss sharing with her mom going forward and find myself so grateful for the six “extra” years I had with mine.  I mourn the loss of her security and innocence.  I feel for the struggles she will face, the confusion and anger she will feel, and the lifetime of “what ifs” that will likely haunt her. I hope the family knows there is help out there and reaches out for it – for all their sakes.

I also wonder how all the information (true and false) that is now public will color her view of her mom’s life and death. I’ve found much of the coverage of this story appalling. My work as a volunteer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has educated me about the importance of how suicide is discussed, especially in the mass media – and things are bad out there.

Even without training and experiencing a loss, as a human being I just know that reporting on the contents of a final note is inexcusable. Could there be a more personal document?  She did this in the privacy of her home, not in public, so outside of feeding morbid human curiosity what right does the public have to know? None. Her daughter likely hadn’t even digested that her mom was dead, made sense of the concept that she killed herself, or seen the note by the time it was in the news.  It should be her right alone to share that information if she ever wants to.  Couldn’t the police just simply say a note was left?

Not disclosing the contents of suicide notes is one of the standards in place that were agreed to between numerous mental health and media organizations based on over 50 studies showing certain types of coverage can be triggering for vulnerable individuals.  Good reporting, often just a shift in phrasing, can change misperceptions, help reduce the stigma, and encourage help-seeking behavior. The full guidelines and statistics can be found on AFSP’s website.  https://afsp.org/about-suicide/for-journalists/

Not revealing the method is a very important component to safe reporting.  The first article I read  –Page Six of the New York Post – calling you out!– was barely a paragraph or two long but gave a detailed description of Kate Spade’s manner of death.  Even worse, headlines on various sites seem to be not-so-subtly implying there could be a connection between her and other designers who died the same way. I didn’t even have to read the articles to get their gist.

Then, of course, there are the  “why” articles?  What was the one thing that caused her to snap?  There is no answer.  Something dramatic like a relationship breakup, job loss, death of a loved one, may have triggered a suicidal episode, but the complex layers of issues that allow a person to get to that state come into play and overtake the mind. Many people go through incredibly painful changes, losses, and traumas and don’t die by suicide. As everyone is saying, on the outside she had it all, but on the inside she obviously did not.

It’s human nature to want to understand things that are incomprehensible and make sense of tragedies.  I admit I would be fascinated to learn more details of their stories, but research shows 90% of people who die by suicide suffered from a mental disorder and/or substance abuse at the time of death – so what can we ever really know about their state of mind? Often these conditions, temporary or chronic, go undiagnosed and untreated so the mysteries deepen.

Kate Spade’s sister wrote that she was obsessed with watching coverage of Robin William’s suicide. There was an abundance of reporting on his death and much of it not safe. If true, that, along with her husband’s statement confirming she’d been struggling with mental health issues for a few years, is a good example of how triggers along the way can build up until the whole dam breaks. And it’s just damn sad.

Take care of yourselves out there!

This link for the AFSP will direct you to resources if you are worried for another or yourself, if you are a loss survivor, of if you or a loved one has attempted.

https://afsp.org/find-support/

If you or someone you know is suicidal
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Text TALK to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7

If someone is actively suicidal and has access to lethal means call 911.

 

My Brain Broke Again

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For a year now I’ve been publicly sharing my story of how keeping emotions about my mother’s suicide death inside for 30 years led to a breakdown – a massive panic attack in a Target five years ago followed by a months long deep depression.

I’d sporadically tried therapy throughout my adult life, but was very resistant – only wanting to focus on whatever specific problem I had come in about. Generally about 3 months in I would declare I was fine and end the sessions

I finally gave into the process curious to know why my brain broke. What I discovered in therapy helped me recover.  It allowed me to process all the things that had happened in my life that led me to need these services.  It gave me alternative ways of looking at things and specific tools to help me get through the layers that muddled my thinking to discover the root of the problem.

Shedding the BS in my brain cleared the way to finding my purpose. I created a new path for myself by working to spread my new-found wisdom and awareness about the damage silence can do with motivation and direction that I hadn’t felt in many years.

Unfortunately, all the new revelations didn’t magically erase the old destructive patterns in my thinking and my actions.  It tempered them for a while, but over the last two years that I’ve been developing my documentary, a number of stressful relationships, the general ups and downs of life, and my own issues have combined forces to put me into a major depression – again.  One that got so bad I had to reach out to the therapist who helped dig me out of my first hole for help –  again.

I can see now how it had been building, how I’ve been isolating, withdrawing, procrastinating, and generally going to the “blah” place for a while.  You are convinced sitting around is just what you want to do – even though you know the symptoms, your mind doesn’t acknowledge what’s happening.  Luckily for me, my place has never been so dark that I’ve considered taking my life, but I can see how someone might.  It’s scary when your brain can think of nothing good, refuses to focus on anything helpful or productive, and makes you act in ways that you really, really don’t want to.

What sent me over the edge this time was an anger I couldn’t make go away.  I can identify the straw that broke the camel’s back and triggered the rage, but it lasted way too long and permeated every facet of my life.  Every minor setback (such as finding my keys) had me ranting and raving and sincerely doubting that “this too shall pass.”  My analysis so far is that it built out of feeling overloaded and overwhelmed with other people’s needs and priorities while simultaneously frustrated that I was letting my compulsive need to help cut into my ability to move forward with my own goals. I need to learn to address my problems before I get to the point where I blow my stack.

Despite all I’ve been through the last few years, and the work I’ve been doing as a suicide prevention volunteer, I still need to hone the tricks of balancing giving unto others with self-care.  I’ve actually been to lectures discussing that issue for volunteers and I always quote the line about putting your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.  It makes sense. If you don’t you can’t breathe and quickly will be no good to anyone.  But often I feel like I wasn’t given the oxygen mask but have to do all I can to help anyway.

My goal is to get rid of that thing in my brain that keeps telling me that I “should” be the one that can be exempt from needing the mask. I’m not that special. None of us is. But knowing that doesn’t stop me from that nagging feeling. Depression is real, can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime, and it can be debilitating. Depression is also not my only problem, as I have also been diagnosed with anxiety disorder and ADD. Symptoms from the individual diagnoses can exacerbate the symptoms of the other ones.

So hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s back to therapy we go. This time, however, there is a firm foundation of strength I feel because I do have a plan, a direction, and hope for the future. I know this won’t last forever and my curiosity about what the recovery will reveal is growing. It was refreshing and comforting to see my therapist today and start this process. We agreed on needing to work on reclaiming my time (thanks for that phrase, Maxine Waters) and my focus and learn how to live my life for me.

Always remember:

If you are struggling or think someone you know is please speak up.

If you are worried someone is at risk of suicide ask directly and use the word suicide.  “Are you thinking of suicide?” or “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”

Here are the steps to take to help someone in crisis

If a person says they are considering suicide

  • Take the person seriously
  • Stay with them
  • Help them remove lethal means
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Text TALK to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7
  • Escort them to mental health services or an emergency room

 

Missing Mom This Mother’s Day

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Since 1985, when I was 19 and I lost my mother to suicide, Mother’s Day – and the build up to it – has not been fun for me.  I actually haven’t (yet) polled other people who have lost their moms about their feelings around this holiday.

At some point or another we will all get the punch in the gut from months long build up to one of these holidays whether it’s Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, Sibling’s Day, Valentines Day, etc, as we all lose someone close to us at one point or another.

For years, just hearing about this holiday was just as painful as hitting other milestones such as mom’s birthday or the anniversary or her death, but now feels like a poke in the arm causing my eyes to roll and my brain to state to itself “my mom is dead.” I think the fact that mom’s death was suicide and (before I learned about suicide) also made Mother’s Day, specifically, hard because of the idea that there is “choice” involved.

My cousin, Abbie Fink, told me that, over the years, she has thought about the things I didn’t get to go to my mother to talk about.  It really struck me because, once I put my brain on that, I know how much help and guidance I was both lacking and in need of still.

Talking about my mom out loud and with my family has definitely brought her back to life in my memories but as I listen to what others say about her I am starting to truly miss her.  There are a number of things in my life right now that I know she would understand and help me form a plan to deal with rationally and maturely while standing my ground. I want to know what she would think of some of the choices I’ve made and the person I’ve become.  I want that person who is just there for me because I’m me.  I just want my mom.

The additional conflict of this holiday is due to my father’s marriage a year after my mother’s death.  My sister, Leah, and I differ on the need to do something for Mother’s Day for my stepmom, Connie.   I respect and love that about my sister, it is a kind and inclusive gesture.  I am a little more black-and-white about the matter in that Connie is not my mother (and to her credit has rarely tried to act like one).  I actually discussed this with Connie and she is fine with it, having had her own stepmother after losing her mom when she was just a toddler.  And there is Stepmother’s Day on May 21 (the Sunday after mother’s day.) Now that I looked it up I guess I’ll have to do something!

I don’t hate the holiday, I think it’s wonderful to celebrate the special people in our lives and so many of my friends are moms who absolutely deserve to be honored and sincerely wish all those who are mothers a very Happy Mother’s Day, and that children everywhere relish the time they have together!

 

Project Update Spring Edition

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I am excited to announce we have raised enough money to complete a promo tape for The Silent Goldens documentary.  My fellow producer, Jamie Smith, the director, Jon Bendis, and I have honed in on a concept and are crafting the idea.

Additionally, we soon will officially become an LLC and engage a lawyer.  Both are big steps for me on this incredible journey.

Personally, I have been sorting all my storage items to find things we can use for visuals, which are sparking many childhood memories, and finding interesting notes and items I had forgotten all about.   I’m also doing my yearly minimizing sweep of stuff and am astounded, as always, how much more I’m willing to get rid of each time.  I haven’t added anything to the pile since I last went through it.

I continue to learn a lot about the film business and patience each step of the way.

My TV jobs had turned into such formulaic, speed them through the machine endeavors that I burned out.  The difference is fascinating but I’m itchy to start filming!

My work on the board with the Greater LA chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is picking up as many of the events we attend to spread awareness are in the Spring and Summer.  Lots of music festivals, Pride events, and health fairs on the list.  We have a couple of new board members so I’ve been able to focus my attention on being Community Outreach Chair and liaison to 3rdparty events.

Finally, I’m revving up my participation in my Toastmasters club for public speaking and am scheduled to redo my intro “Ice Breaker” speech next Wednesday.  We had a leadership change and a few new people have become involved since I first spoke, so I figured I’d do it again. I did rewrite it though based on the promo tape idea.

All my activities feed nicely into one another and are keeping this train moving.  I’ll be working on the speech until I give it then I’ll post it for anyone who is interested to read.

Thanks, as always, for your continued support and I will report each milestone as we hit it!

To Like or Not to Like

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I have become a Toastmaster.  It’s an international club focused on communication and leadership skills.  Public speaking is becoming a bigger part of my “new life” devoted to producing my film about my family’s experience with suicide, and actively volunteering in suicide prevention so my sister, Leah, very kindly gave me a membership as a gift.  I am enjoying it immensely, hear fascinating speeches, and really am impressed by the variety of members’ backgrounds, careers, and reasons they joined.

Recently, I had my first opportunity to be the “ah” counter, recording all the “filler” words like and, well, but, so, ah, um, er, you know…you know?   It was illuminating to really listen for those in other people’s speaking.  More than you think sneak in there so it is impressive to listen to a speaker able to avoid them.  The trick, they tell me, is pausinginstead of using a filler word.  The fillers simply allow your brain a moment to think, as does a pause.  A silence just sounds more thoughtful than an unnecessary word.  Go figure!

I have a lot of work to do.  My first 6-minute speech had 24 “ums.”  One every 15 seconds.  Now that I know that, I have become hyperaware of when I say them. That, of course, leads to the brain going off track and “umming” all the way back on.  It’s a challenge.

Noticing my speech also made my chronic “like” habit unacceptable.  Many other people’s too, actually, but I’m only working on fixing me.  This is the word I am now committing to, like, strike from my casual speech.  No professional ums.  No personal likes.   Goal set.    Stay tuned!

Check it out for yourself!  https://www.toastmasters.org

Computer update for those following these blogs:I did finally update the computer when I game I like to play started slowing down. Shortly, thereafter, I started having problems in the cooling system of my computer, which is now requiring an expensive repair.  I don’t know if it’s a coincidence of if my electronics were in cahoots.