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Ruth Golden

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.

The Games People Play

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The incredibly limited playlists on LA radio have that song  “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me.”  It goes round and round in my head.  One time I heard it as I was pulling up to a suicide prevention event, so that was weird.

But today I want to talk about the word “loser.”  I understand the concept of competition and when there can only be one winner, there will be losers.  It’s the word for “not winners.”  But they are losers of that particular competition.  The label isn’t supposed to make a statement about your life.   I know about losing.  Especially in sports.  I have never won a trophy.  Admittedly I rarely participated, primarily because I didn’t want to be a loser.

.Because the word has been co-opted as an insult, it has taken on this broad meaning that implies worthlessness as a human being.  It’s thrown around against people we simply don’t like, people who don’t live the way we do, people who struggle with problems we don’t understand, and so on.   Many “winners” have been called losers.  Many go on to lose.

What is the competition?  What are we winning?  How are we losing?  Randomly assessing someone to be a loser says nothing about that person but clearly exposes our judgmental tendencies.

The cultural definition of success isn’t something the whole world is vying for and let’s be grateful for that.  Different interests, different desires, different opinions make this world go round and allow us to have shopkeepers, doctors, teachers, engineers, trash collectors, movie starts – if all these people only focused on the very narrow vision of “winning” this game, we’d be hurting for the services and communities that make our society thrive.

There is the board game Life.  I’ve played it – recently in fact.  I enjoy it but I used to get freaked out if I lost thinking it was an omen about my life.  But I’ve since learned that life has many paths, many challenges, and many, many interruptions.

Many might call me a loser right now.  I don’t have all the accoutrements of an adult life.  I own a 17 year old car (18 on July 3!), I live in other people’s homes doing dog and house sitting full time.  I was playing the game of tv producer and it was making me crazy.  It turned into a game I didn’t want to be playing so had a mid-life crisis breakdown and am still in the metamorphosis stage.  My stages seem to take longer than other peoples’ but I know I eventually get there.

So am I loser?  Maybe, but I say there is no game.  Life is not something to win or lose.  There is nothing tangible, no definitive mark, no mountain peak to reach –  just infinite mini-games you can choose and challenges you can set for yourself to make things interesting.   Everything becomes a lot more fun when you aren’t striving for an invisible, unattainable goal to avoid a label that makes no sense in the first place.

A Procrastinator’s Predicament

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Every day at the top right corner of my computer screen I am asked if I want to update my system. This has been going on for months, yet every day I drop down the menu to ‘remind me tomorrow.’

Whenever there is an upgrade or update, I purposely wait until it’s been tested in the mass market and all the bugs worked out and confirm with those who know better than me than all my programs will work. Once those hurdles are cleared, the procrastination sets in.

Initially I always somehow truly believe that I will quickly get around to doing it, thinking that when I am reminded tomorrow I will either do it or set it to happen overnight. I know it is that easy. The next day, I realize it would be just as easy to set it to go tomorrow, and I click that option again. There is no telling how long this will go on – primarily because I forget about the whole thing as soon as I make the in-my-face notice go away and when I see the notice again the next day, I don’t ‘feel like it’, so again it goes undone.

I don’t know what my record is for procrastinating, but I generally miss a couple of update versions before I do it. Lately, though, each time I see the notice I actively wonder when the tomorrow will actually come. When will I be motivated to click that button, and what will be the instigation? I am in what some psychologists might call a ‘precontemplation’ phase, where I am preparing to do something by thinking about it.

I can’t explain the reasoning behind it. The issue isn’t whether or not I need to update, as my work proceeds without problem, it’s why something so easy and helpful has become a “thing.”  I feel no fear around updating, see no reason not to, and it takes no effort for me to do it, but yet I can’t seem to push myself to make it happen. Maybe it’s part of my aversion to being told what to do.  And the days go on.

Perhaps this blog will be the catalyst. If so, I’ll let you know!

Forever Mom

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Today is my mother’s birthday. She would be 81 had she not died in 1985 just two month’s prior to her 48th.   It is hard for me to picture what she might look like at 81. I’ve seen my father age to (now) 82 and the difference is pretty dramatic compared to photos from the last year of my mom’s life.

Before I began talking about my mother’s suicide, my memories of her were very flat, based on the real or imagined photos I was left with of specific moments and events. When I did open up, she came back to life in my mind in a way. The memories I had became more three dimensional, and many that had been packed away returned.

I then began placing her in current-day situations and conversations to get a sense of what she might say or do, how she would react to world events, or her thoughts about my life – personally and professionally. In all these scenarios everyone else is present-day, while she remains in looks, energy, and attitude, the 1985 Debbie Golden, or my version of her. My mom is forever 47.

It’s a little odd to think about since I’m now a bit older than that, but a mother is always a mother so even if I get to be 81, that beautiful young woman I’m hanging out with in my mind will still be mom – forever loved and missed.