The Passing Years

purple flowersOver seven years have passed since that tragic day when I heard the words, “Barry is dead.”

How the years have flown by, yet at the same time dragged its weary feet. At times, I believed we wouldn’t make it through the turbulence. That was when the evil face of suicide tempted my elder son to join his brother; and later, it tried to seduce me. Yet, although the fight was sometimes hard, we stayed to live our lives.

Then there were the times when life almost felt normal — or as close as it was going to get to it, anyway. Smiles were easy to find, laughter was a second away. For those looking on, they would never guess our hearts were not quite as full as the smiles on our faces. But that’s okay. We have learned to carry on regardless. Only sharing our pain with each other.

And the pain is still there — buried beneath the surface.

As is the guilt!

For me, the only person who can relieve me of this burden is Barry. And Barry is not here to give me the answers I require.

Having said this, I do not dwell on it as often or as long as I once did. I have accepted that Barry is gone and no amount of wishing will bring him back. I also accept that we will never know, for sure, why he chose this path when other options did exist for him. To dwell on these things will only torture me further and will turn me into a bitter, old woman. I don’t want that.

Instead, I look at the photos I have of Barry and feel thankful that I knew him and loved him. Although I yearn to see him, to hear him, to hug him; I am grateful that our last words were “I love you”. And I cherish the memories we created together.

On bad days I will wonder what Barry would be doing right now, if he were still alive? Would he have a wife or children? Would he have joined the Army and made a career of it while seeing the world? But it is best not to dwell on these things for too long either. It only upsets me more. So I turn my thoughts to my older son who is a man in his own right now. He has a one-year-old daughter. She is a (good) reason why we must move onwards.

Time heals all wounds. And it does. There may be a scar, which will be a permanent reminder, but eventually the pain softens and the heart and mind allows us to live a life that is somewhat normal. And when the scar throbs more than usual, I find myself going back to the one thing that has always helped me through the grief — nature. I take long walks in parks, botanical gardens, animal parks, by the sea, in the mountains, beside rivers. Anywhere where I can see the sky, hear the birds, smell the flowers and feel relaxed.

I believe the worst is behind us. We cannot know what the future holds, but we intend to make it as good as we can … for us and for the new addition to the family.

WARNING Signs of Suicide

By: Dr Mike Shery

Suicide is among the scariest words in our language; it inspires an immediate horror among the family and friends of the victim. People frequently experience a gut-wrenching dread, denial, shock, fear … and even guilt.

It is a word so charged with universal dread, guilt and burning emotion that people will avoid talking about it almost at all costs. It has become an intractable taboo.

We must discuss it, however, because the statistics are staggering: In 2001 suicide was the 11th ranked cause of death in the United States, but shockingly, it was the third leading cause of death for 10-23 year olds.

One group in the United Kingdom which provides confidential emotional support for those suffering from a crisis estimates that more than 100,000 people attempt suicide each year there. And, of these attempts, over 6,500 will eventually succeed.

Even worse, some estimate that as many as 20% of those who suffer from bipolar disorder will succeed in killing themselves. NOTE: One out of every five!

It has also been estimated that as many as 50% of all bipolar patients may attempt suicide at least once in their lives. This appalling figure shows the urgency required to properly screen, diagnose and treat the suicide-prone patient.

Therefore, it is as clear as a flashing neon sign that suicide is not something to be cavalierly ignored; it is not going away. As socially responsible family members and friends, each of us must make a commitment to be aware of the warnings signs of suicide-prone despair.

We must do our duty by being prepared to help a friend or family member in crisis. But to do so, we must be able to identify that cry for help for what it is-desperation and not be quick to cavalierly trivialize it.

Please note the following warning signs and red flags. You may just save the life of a loved one.

Situational Red Flags

1. Victim of Sexual, Emotional or Verbal Abuse
2. Sudden or Unexpected Death of a Loved One
3. A Terminal Illness Accompanied by Drastic Deterioration in Quality of Life
4. Sudden Detrimental Change in Financial Status
5. A Condition of Chronic Debilitating Pain with No Relief in Sight
6. Talk about the Possibility of Suicide
7. Extraordinary Withdrawal or Sullen Behavior
8. Traumatic Loss or Disintegration of a Relationship

Emotional Signs

1. Depression
2. Feelings of Futility
3. Oppressive Feelings of Guilt
4. Pervasive Melancholia or Sadness
5. Feelings of Hopelessness or Helplessness
6. Overwhelming Gloom

Recovering from Depression!

Sometimes as a person begins to recover from a depressive episode the possibility of a suicide attempt may increase. This may happen because when a person finally makes up his mind to actually kill himself, he sometimes becomes oddly resigned and at peace with the situation; his mood can begin to elevate slightly.

Also, the depressive lethargy may start to lift, and where a person may not have been able to find the energy to carry out suicidal plans before, he now may have it. However, regardless of the reason, this can be a very crucial stage.

Behavioral Red Flags

1. Hoarding Prescription Drugs which Can be Lethal when taken En Masse
2. Obtaining Possession of a Weapon
3. Overt Attempts to Bring Closure to Personal or Business Issues
4. Sudden Attention to Ones Will
5. Increased Reading or Conversation about Suicide
6. Gifting Away Personal Belongings
7. Reconciling with those who are Estranged
8. Sudden Interest or Attention in Ones Insurance Policy
9. Excessive Withdrawal or Isolation from Others

Thoughts and Comments to Note

1. I wish I had never been born
2. This life is a pile of crap.
3. I wonder what the best way to kill yourself would be.
4. My kids are the only thing I live for.
5. I can not see any way to get out of this mess.
6. Nothing ever gets any better
7. Nothing is worth living for.
8. I just do not care about anything anymore.

Of course, none of these signs by themselves are absolute proof that someone you know may be considering suicide. Any of these may be present individually, and a person still may have given little or no thought to suicide.

However, if any clusters of these are present take particularly strong note.

It is also possible that a person may give little, if any, warning of thoughts of impending suicide and still attempt it.

So, how can you be sure? Ask directly. Share your observations tactfully and honestly. Be open to talking about this with your loved one.

Is it awkward? It certainly can be, but even more important, it could save the life of someone you love.

About the Author:

Dr Shery is in Cary, IL, near Algonquin, Crystal Lake, Marengo and Lake-in-the-Hills. He’s an expert marriage counselor and psychologist. Call 1 847 516 0899 and make an appointment or learn more about counseling at: http://www.nextdayappointment.com

What are the Differences Between Anxiety and Depression?

By James Lowrance

Anxiety and depression have a lot of similarities and some are even of the opinion that these are the same type fear-emotions, that simply manifest differently in different people.

When you look at a list of symptoms for each, there are indeed a great deal of similarities. Both can manifest with feelings of hopelessness, agitation, feeling withdrawn, fatigue, lack of ambition, inability to enjoy things that used to bring pleasure, fear of the future, inability to cope with stressful situations, etc…

It is also true that anxiety and depression often co-exist, in fact persons with actual anxiety disorders almost always have a degree of depression, along with it and persons with clinical depression also commonly have co-existing anxiety.

So what would be considered some major distinguishing features of each? The fact is, many times they are not easily distinguishable, in fact many Doctors, such as MDs, that are not also psychiatrists or psychologists, many times find it difficult to distinguish them, so many times will diagnose a patient with common emotional manifestations, as described above, as a combination of both anxiety and depression.

One Anxiety Disorder that is more so a mix of both anxiety and depression, than the other Anxiety Disorders, is “Generalized Anxiety Disorder”. With this type anxiety, patients commonly experience a mix of both anxiety and depression. They may at times have stronger manifestations of depression and at other times, stronger manifestations of anxiety, while at other times, they are both about even in manifestation.

So what would be a major distinguishing feature of each, that helps us to recognize the difference between the two? A major distinguishing feature of depression, that is often listed as one of it’s major symptoms, is “profound sadness”. Anxiety sufferers, sometimes have spells of emotion, that causes them to have crying spells etc.., but it is not the same profound sadness that is more chronically severe with depression. Anxiety sufferers on the other hand, have as a major feature of it, the “fear emotion”, which can be the bewildering type, such as severe anxiety attacks or panic attacks or can be the chronic lingering type, that manifests as severe worry and apprehension.

The chronic worry aspect of anxiety, is what is most often mistakenly referred to as depression, when it is actually a fear emotion; fear of the future, fear about health, finances etc…, and though it is not in the depression category, can result in depression, due to the prolonged periods of stress it causes.

To better illustrate this, let’s look at a couple of example scenarios. In the first one, we have a man, with a very important business meeting coming up. In this meeting, he will be required to convince the heads of his company, that his past accomplishments, merit him a promotion to a more important, advanced position with the firm. The meeting is two weeks away and yet the man has such hopes in doing well at the meeting, that he worries himself sick, during the entire two weeks leading up to the meeting. Family or friends observing his period of chronic worry, might make the remark; “He sure has been depressed these past two weeks.” The fact is, the man was experiencing a manifestation of anxiety, called chronic worry, being triggered by a fear of failure.

In a second example scenario, we have a woman who does lose a long held position she had with a prestigious firm. This causes her to sink into a deep feeling of profound loss, that she feels she cannot recoup from. She has continual feelings of sadness and has constant crying spells. An observer remarks; “She has just been a bundle of nerves since losing her job and she’s really going through an anxious time right now.” In reality, the woman’s experience is more so in the depression category because she is experiencing profound sadness over losing her long held position.

While we may be able to better place these examples of emotional scenarios into either the anxiety or depression categories, we also realize that both of these people very likely also experienced aspects of the other emotion as well. Again, this demonstrates how closely related these emotions are and how they often co-exist and can also fuel each other, causing worsening symptoms of each.

Thankfully, there are treatments, that help both emotional disorders simultaneously, such as SSRI Antidepressants, that are designed to help patients with both anxiety and depression, or either of them. There are also treatments, such as “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy”, that offers coping and overcoming skills, for both anxiety and depression.

People experiencing these common emotional disorders and the family, friends and associates of these patients, should be aware of how commonly these disorders co-exist but should also learn about the major features, that help distinguish them.

Author’s Bio:

Age: 44
Diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, with co-ocurring anxiety symptoms,in 2003. I created the “JimLow’s Audios” website in early 2006, to help inform other patients about these and other disorders.

Finding Myself

Over the last six months, my outlook on life has improved a lot. I no longer feel like murdering people for no reason, so that’s a definite step in the right direction. I’m sleeping reasonably well, which does wonders for a person’s mental state. I don’t burst into tears at the drop of a hat. Yes, tears well in my eyes, but I no longer sob like I once did.

This all means that I’m moving along the road of grief and I’m doing well.

However, the last two months has seen me feeling exhausted. Even with plenty of sleep, I feel tired all day. Some days, which is becoming more regular, I can hardly drag myself out of bed, let alone get through the day.

Today, I decided to go to the doctor. My usual doctor is cutting back his hours and his surgery is no longer open before or after work, or at lunchtime. And he hasn’t opened on a Saturday for a couple of years. I find that if I leave work early, his surgery is shut too, even though it’s supposed to be open. So…I went to another doctor.

This doctor knows nothing about me so she asked a lot of questions. I knew it was inevitable that I’d have to mention Barry, but I thought that after almost 18 months I’d be fine with that.

I wasn’t.

As soon as I had to say his name, the tears came. I felt like a blubbering idiot, but she was understanding and waited patiently for me to continue. I told her everything that had happened in the last 18 months – the suicide, the attempted suicide, the loss of will to live, the sleepless nights, the anger, the pain, my memory problems and my lack of focus (which continues to plague me). She typed it all into my file and then gave me a physical. I’m to have a range of blood tests done to find out if there’s a medical reason for my exhaustion.

Later, I sat at home and realised there was a lot I didn’t tell her too. I’m not the same person I was before I lost Barry. I know I’ll never be that person again. I’ve become less tolerant of people and their ways. I get annoyed quite easily and find myself thinking how stupid people are for wasting their lives wanting worthless things. I get angry when people tell me the most important thing in this world is money. I want to tell them, convince them, that happiness is the most important thing. Money is nothing without happiness.

The biggest change in me, is that I don’t like being around people anymore. I never was a social butterfly, but I always tolerated functions and outings and made the best of them. These days, I don’t want to be around other people. I no longer hate people, or the world, for what happened to Barry, but I feel safer and more content when I’m just with the small group of people I call my family (and some of them are friends). I’ve become a loner.

One incident in a person’s life can change a person…for good or bad. Barry’s death certainly had a lasting affect on many people, including me. Finding myself has been more difficult than you can imagine.

The Things I Want to Say

Seventeen months ago, my youngest son died by suicide. Four months later, my oldest son attempted to do the same thing. Three months after that, I no longer cared about life and didn’t care if I lived or died. Two months further along the track, Gary started having suicidal thoughts too.

Seven months have passed since then and we all seem to have found a quiet place to settle down in and call life (except Barry, of course).

To the world we are finding a new normality and are coping well. To each other I guess this is almost true too. Yet, we can never be sure of how another person feels, can we? And when that person has adapted to pretending and they are extremely good at it, it becomes more difficult to see potential problems. However, maybe there are no problems to be seen. Maybe it’s just the imaginings of an active imagination. Whatever it is, the vigilance and fear have never left me completely. I wonder if they ever will.

There are things I want to write about, things that are troubling me, but this blog is frequented by many people who know my family (and who are my family) and that stops me from writing about some of the things I want to say. Words can build and they can destroy. I can’t afford for my words to be misinterpreted. But they are my words and now I feel I have to censor them.

Things happen and feelings change on a daily basis. A simple action or statement can make a huge difference in a family who have suffered a death by suicide. Knowing what to do with information shared is no easy task. Trusting your gut instincts are often relied upon. Thing is, my gut has already let me down and I can’t afford to let that happen again. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last seventeen months … it is to ask questions. I’m not saying this is always a good thing, because asking questions can lead to half answered replies and that only leads to more anxiety. Asking questions can open doors to the unknown where much can be learned, but it can also cause worry, and even more fear, when you suspect the whole truth is not being told.

Masks are worn in life…and I don’t mean by the grieving only. We hide ourselves and then feel let down and overlooked, which only disappoints us. The longer we hide, the harder it is to become visible again. Most of us don’t care much about this, but when we are always watching and waiting those masks become something evil. Barry moulded his mask to perfection. Now his family have learned to mould their own flawless masks. If only I could destroy the masks…

I’m tired of worrying. I’m tired of the fear. These things are leaving me feeling exhausted and defeated. When can I cast aside everything that is holding me in this cage and be free? When will I learn to trust again? When will I fall asleep at night and feel whole (and rested) in the morning?

I wish I could write the things I wish to say.