First, I want to thank all of you who support me emotionally in my writing and art. I appreciate it more than you could ever know. I enjoy bringing a smile, a laugh or even tears to you. This is another long post and a little you may know already…but this is where I’m at.
I have been going through a lot of emotional upheaval in the last few months – losing my brother to suicide, trying to figure out exactly what I want to spend the rest of my life doing, and both of our kids leaving the nest temporarily (tomorrow.) Our son is gone during the week living and working with friends, but he likes to come home some weekends to spend time with us. He will be going out on an 8-day trip with his crew from the California Conservation Corps. Also, our daughter is going to visit a friend for a while, possibly the rest of the summer!
So…because of all of the things I just mentioned, I decided to do two things:
1) Go back to counseling for a while
2) Go to suicide survivors meetings
Last week I did both which I will continue a few more times. I do not feel at this point that I am going to need to go to either for a really long time. I have been in a good place mentally for quite some time now since recovering from some significant losses three years ago. What is really great is that my counselor can see me in the hour before my meeting starts on those two Mondays every month. Also, I met some great women at this meeting that I want to get to know.
Here’s what I learned at my first suicide survivors meeting:
- I am not alone – suicide has touched almost every family. Survivors feel angry, sad, abandoned, and wish we could have said or done something to prevent it.
- We feel guilty to some degree that we couldn’t stop it or didn’t see the signs.
Some people find their loved ones who died. I can only imagine how emotionally traumatic that would be to a person. Just hearing how my brother killed himself and hearing how people did CPR on him for at least 20 minutes, puts images in my mind that I will never forget. Finding out that his best friend had brought my brother a wheelchair the day he died and didn’t see the signs of suicidal thoughts in him, helped me understand why my brother may have made this choice.
When he called me a few weeks before he chose to die, the last thing he told me was that his legs didn’t work anymore. He said he could barely stand up or walk. I always knew that my brother was a prideful man. He never wanted to show weakness. He was always sensitive, loved animals (whom he knew could love him back,) and I think he just felt out of place his whole life. He was not a follower nor was he a leader. He was determined to go his own way which he always did. He didn’t confide in me or anyone else in our family about anything.
I can relate to some of this. I have felt this way for most of my life. Some may think I am projecting part of who I am onto my brother. However, I would disagree. He and I were a lot alike in many ways that I just never really thought about until now. I will always miss him even though he never did let me get close to him. For some reason I’ll never know, things were just always intense between us.
The difference between us, though, is that I hit bottom at 27 years old, reached out for help, and eventually began taking medications for depression and anxiety. My brother self-medicated from his teen years on, what I believe, was some type of mental illness. Thinking back over a lot of his behavior – his anger, impulsiveness, pride – makes me wonder if he had extreme anxiety which is why he drank. Alcohol is a depressant, though, and he was not one to sit around feeling depressed, which is why I think he became addicted to speed. All of this stuff can really mess up a person’s brain which just complicates mental health issues even more. It is a vicious cycle!
The saddest part of all of this for me is that about three years ago he called me to apologize for how he had treated me most of our lives and tell me he didn’t deserve forgiveness; he said he wanted to quit the drugs but couldn’t. He felt stuck, scared, and defeated. I think he just had not hit bottom yet – until he saw that wheelchair. Unfortunately, hitting bottom for him didn’t mean reaching out for help. I believe he may have thoughts like: “I am not going to become an invalid.” “I will not become helpless.” “I will not become dependent on anyone to help me with everyday things I can no longer do for myself.” I knew my brother well enough to know that this is very close to what had to be going through his mind that last day.
Yet I believe human beings are made to need other human beings. As much as some of us may not want to admit we need people – we do. Isolation is not a solution to relieve anxiety. Desiring to get away from people is natural – for a time. But to stay alone for weeks, months, or years is to disconnect. Disconnection from healthy relationships leaves a person in their own head where they can deceive themselves so easily into believing lies such as:
- I’m ugly.
- I’m not worthy of love.
- No one will ever love the real me.
- How can anyone love me when I am such an emotional mess?
These were some of my very thoughts, along with many other negative tapes playing in my head, from a young age. Some of it came from emotional neglect and abuse that my brothers and I went through from our alcoholic dad. I know now that our parents were probably both mentally ill, (my dad was depressed and my mom most likely had anxiety to some extent) but they did the best they were capable of in parenting us. I think on some level my brother knew this, too. I just wish he could have asked for help. He lived in a trailer park and had some friends, but only one of them knew how depressed he was, yet he didn’t even recognize the suicidal signs that were there. So…
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, do what could be the hardest things you may ever do – pick up the phone and call your local suicide hotline or the Suicide Prevention Services of America at 1-800-273-8225.
Lastly, please do not allow yourself or anyone you know to stay isolated. Try your best to reach out.
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug. 🙂
This is too beautiful to pass up sharing! I believe Janet captures the spirit of hummingbirds in her paintings as well as their physical beauty! 🙂
Like a flying jewel, the hummingbird darts lightly through the world, teaching us to appreciate the wonder and magic of every day existence……….
How does the creative process work?
Initially the seed of an idea is sewn.
The seed then enters into an incubation period which can be short lived, or take years to come to fruition.
The seed of an idea As we go about our daily lives, just like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle being revealed, the seed sprouts ideas that give us more information…..This can happen at any time.
It’s vital to record these ideas, because even when we think we couldn’t possibly forget a moment of inspiration……we can, and do, which is why it’s important to always have a sketch/notebook at hand.
Like a ghostly apparition sometimes the answer seems almost within reach – but then it disappears and returns to incubation….it was just a…
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Over the last few days I have been deciding how I plan to deal with my brother’s suicide and how I would like to be involved in a large community near where I live. I met with a woman on Tuesday at the open house for a new mental health facility that opened in Redding, Ca. Here is a link to the article: http://anewscafe.com/2017/05/25/county-officials-mental-health-professionals-and-public-attend-open-house-of-new-mental-health-facility-in-redding/
It was exciting for me to hear about all of the many services this group of people is going to offer to Shasta County. I knew then that God was showing me how my life is going to change real soon. I signed up to be a volunteer. I will start out doing simple things at first such as answering phones or e-mails or helping with mailings. I also plan to begin attending meetings facilitated by the woman I met with. She facilitates meetings for friends and family members of people who completed suicide. It has been many years since I went to any kind of open recovery meetings such as this, but I am looking forward to it. I remember back in 1988 when I went to my first recovery meetings after I stopped drinking and using drugs. I felt very nervous and afraid. However, I am not that person anymore; I know what I need to deal with, I have good boundaries, and there is no pressure to share. I think just meeting new people and hearing other people’s stories will help me begin to deal with the unfortunate choice my brother made. I will have no problem sharing or talking, though, so I am sure I will. The next meeting isn’t until June 5th so I have some time to process all of it some more before then.
I have my first counseling meeting set up for June 2nd with a therapist I met a couple of months ago. I am also looking forward to talking with her. It has been a very long time since I went to a woman counselor which will be different. When I first went to counseling in 1988, I went to a woman. However, after several months, I felt really uncomfortable with her for some reason. So I stopped. I kept going to the ACA meetings, and then found a male counselor at the church I was attending at the time. I went to him for several years, and he was encouraging, safe, and the first man I ever felt connected with emotionally whom I knew I could trust. I grew a lot in those years, and he helped me through the transition of entering a second marriage which has been healthy and loving. My husband and I have been together since December of 1994. It has been quite a journey! And now we are looking toward the future when our nest is empty and he retires someday.
So as far as working with Hill Country Care Center, I am planning to take some time to get to know people, get a good feel of all of their services to the community, then possibly go through their Shasta Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Academy which is a “FREE 65-hour certificate training program…designed to help people prepare for entry-level positions within the public mental health field and/or prepare them to become Peer Mentors.” (That is a quote from their brochure.)
It has been many years since I have taken any kind of classes, but I had already been thinking about something along these lines for the last year or so. I just had no idea I would find out about this wonderful care facility this way. So hopefully, as I said in my last post about my brother, something good will come from his death. It is possible that I may eventually get to use my writing and art to contribute to the creating of flyers, etc. So that is exciting for me, too.
Thank you to all of you who read my last post about the suicide of my brother. I appreciate all of your support, prayers, and comments more than you know. I am planning on keeping you updated on what I will be doing and learning as a volunteer in the mental health community.
I am still doing art and still plan to keep working on the picture books I’d like to write and illustrate, but for now it is just for fun. I am feeling like this other work is going to become more important to me for the time being, but the facility does also have a program where they train people to go into elementary schools and talk about suicide. Who knows? Maybe somehow, all of this will meld together into something beautiful. I sure hope so.
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂
I have been feeling a little reluctant to write about this, but honestly, I don’t see how I can NOT write about it. This will be long; bear with me, please.
On the morning of May 5th, I learned that one of my brothers committed suicide on May 4th. In a way, I wasn’t surprised when I thought back on the last time I had spoken with him. He called me out of the blue about a month before this and asked me if I knew where his daughter was. I thought this was a strange question since I have not seen her since she was three years old! She and her mom left California in the early ’80’s when her mom and my brother divorced. Anyway, I asked him why he needed to find her. I asked him if he was sick. He said he wasn’t sick, but he couldn’t hardly walk anymore. He said he wanted her to be able to have all of his part of the financial investments that our parents left us “just in case something happens to me.” In the back of my mind I had a flash of what he may have been planning. However, I did not ask him if he was feeling suicidal. I wish I had. I was actually surprised that he even called me.
My brother and I had a very rocky relationship for most of our lives. I never really understood why. I am the youngest. He was the middle sibling. We were four and a half years apart. He would have been 61 this July. He always seemed closer to our other brother. However, throughout our lives we all really went our separate ways. The closest I ever felt to either of them was when we went through the death of our mother in 2006. Our father died three years later. So our eldest brother had to handle all of the inheritance stuff. It was a very stressful time for all of us. Since then, we have all lived separately; my oldest brother left the area and my other brother and I never knew where he was until about three years ago.
That was when my middle brother decided to call me and apologize for everything he had ever done to hurt me. He was crying and truly sorry. This was something I had been praying for since 1987 when God had turned my life around. I had tried many times to make amends with him, but he was just not ready. Needless to say, I was thankful for that call. I told him I had forgiven him many years ago and had been praying we might be able to have that conversation someday. I told him I had always wanted to know him and I loved him. I asked him if we could just start to have a relationship then, but he said he didn’t want to. He was addicted to drugs and couldn’t get clean. He was living in a trailer park where he had been for the last 20 years. He didn’t know how to change, and he didn’t ask anyone for help that I know of. I felt helpless, but I let him be. I called him a few times just to see how he was doing, but he just didn’t know how to connect with me.
I believe he suffered from mental illness his whole life; most likely anxiety and depression, just as I have since I was at least 15. Looking back on my childhood, I now believe my dad suffered from depression and this was why he drank. I also think my mom had anxiety issues not just because of his drinking, but because of her own chemical make-up. She was always worrying about everything and everyone.
I went through my drug and alcohol abuse days from about 1980 to 1987. That was the year I quit everything and got help through counseling and an ACA (adult children of alcoholics) meeting every week for a couple of years. However, both of my brothers kept using drugs and alcohol for the rest of their lives. My brother who died was hurt on a job many years ago and was getting pain medicine through the veterans hospital. He was in the Navy for four years when he was right out of high school. Apparently, though, his back became so bad, he could hardly walk anymore. I believe that he just chose to die to escape the pain that was consuming him.
I have been that low many, many times myself emotionally. However, I am thankful to have a loving husband and two children who love me and would never ever want me to make that choice just to escape any pain I may go through in my life. It doesn’t solve anything, and it leaves those whom the person left behind in shock, angry, and sad.
When I learned of my brother’s suicide, I was definitely shocked. Then I was angry for a few days. Then I had to begin dealing with the aftermath of what would happen to him and his stuff. At the time I didn’t have a clue as to where his daughter was. Then his best friend found my brother’s ex-wife’s phone number. She was contacted and then my niece was. Yesterday I spent most of the day on the phone with my 37-year-old niece whom I do not even know. It was strange, but good.
Hopefully, just getting in touch with her will be the blessing that comes out of his sad choice. My brother and his daughter were estranged from each other for most of their lives as well. I always felt sad about that, but hopefully she and I can build a relationship with one another now even though we live very far apart.
To this day I have no clue as to where my other brother lives. We became estranged after our parents were both gone eight years ago. He left the area and has never wanted to come back. However, our brother who died did have a best friend who knew where our oldest brother was. So the same month that my brother called and apologized to me, he also went and found our other brother to make amends with him as well. However, I have no way to find our eldest brother to try and do the same. He is living off the grid which is what he always wanted.
I know this has been a very long post; if you stayed with me, thank you. I wrote this to encourage anyone who is thinking about suicide or knows anyone who is, to tell you to please reach out for help. There is lots of help to be found! First, try to talk to someone you know. If that doesn’t help, call a local suicide hotline. Or call 1-800-273-8255. This is the number for Suicide Prevention Services of America. Their website is http://www.spsamerica.org if you want more information. I have never used their services, but I am sure there would be someone there to talk to.
Well, friends, I am definitely going to be reaching out for some help myself in dealing with this. I have talked with someone locally whom I am planning to meet this afternoon. Perhaps this is going to be the start of something good.
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂
Another writer’s food for thought! 🙂
It’s always been my intention to write and illustrate children’s books. I’ve been banging on about it for what feels like the whole of my life. It doesn’t matter how long, really – I do think everything happens in its own good time, when all the factors are right. I don’t know exactly what’s been holding me back though – perhaps a fear of not being good enough, or a worry that I’ve got nothing new to say, or that I can’t draw the pictures very well. Or maybe not as well as so and so, that famous person, or such and such that acclaimed artist.
Of course I can’t! And nor should I want to. They are them, and I am me. I must do it in my own way, as only I can, respecting my own self, and waiting to see what happens. And I have stories coming out of my ears. And so I’ve made a solid…
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Hello Friends! Today I want to share a post from my husband’s new blog, CCC: Hard Corps. He has been finding all kinds of people who write about their experiences in the California Conservation Corps. either from the past or currently.
Our son just joined them a month or so ago and is loving the great work they are doing. Our daughter will be joining sometime soon after she graduates from high school this year. My husband was in the CCC back in the late 1980’s. We met in 1990 after he had just gotten out.
Agnes’s story is very inspiring! Enjoy!
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂
This is Agnes. Agnes is one of the organizers for Women in the Wilderness. She hails from the San Fernando and Simi Valleys, however, the mountains of CA have been her favorite home. She spends her winters in Mammoth Lakes, CA and summers have been spent mostly in Kings Canyon National Park, but also the Inyo NF, the Stanislaus NF, and all over CA travelling between CCC Backcountry Crews. With an environmental studies degree and seeking something more than planning, she stumbled upon the Backcountry Program. The 22 weeks spent that first summer in the Sierra launched her outdoor career working with young people building trails and community. Agnes has hiked over 10,000 miles all over the backcountry, she spent 5 seasons with the National Park Service and 8 seasons with the Backcountry Program as a Supervisor and Program Manager. Following her passion, she is a founding member of the
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Recently I decided to look into the biography of Frida Kahlo, the female Mexican artist who definitely painted her pain. Above is my personal favorite picture of her. Most of her paintings have always felt a bit unsettling and disturbing to me. I never felt comfortable viewing them, but I think it was because I never researched her life to find out why she painted the things she did. I really didn’t know anything about her until I watched a Biography DVD about her that I checked out from the library a couple of weeks ago. It was then that I learned about the horrific bus accident she was in when she was just 18 years old. This accident changed her life in many ways.
Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907. Her full name was Magdelena Carmen Frieda Kahlo Calderon. She later changed the spelling of her first name to a less Germanic spelling. Her father was Wilhelm Kahlo, a “German-Jew of Hungarian descent who had come to Mexico as a young man.” He first worked in the jewelry trade which was his father’s business, then took up photography after marrying Matlde, his second wife. Then he changed his last name to Guillermo.
Frida’s father was a positive influence in her life. When she was six, she was stricken with polio. Guillermo encouraged her to swim, participate in sports, ride a bike and keep herself physically active. However, her right leg remained disfigured and much thinner than her left for the rest of her life. She mostly wore long skirts and long pants to hide it.
When Frida was 15, she was admitted to the Prepa, or National Preparatory School. She changed her birth year to 1910 and claimed to be 12 instead. It is believed she did this because she wanted to be more closely associated with the Mexican Revolution which began that year.
September 17, 1926, was the day that changed her life forever. Frida had been shopping with her friend Alejandro Arias. As they were walking along they decided to catch a bus that had benches along the sides for people to sit on. As the bus driver tried to pass in front of a turning streetcar, they crashed and Frida was thrown from the bus. Alejandro found her lying in the street with the rod of a metal handrail impaling her left hip and exiting through her female organs. She also suffered several fractures in her third and fourth vertebrae, pelvis, and right foot. Her left elbow was dislocated and the rod also caused a deep abdominal wound. She spent a month in the hospital and never went back to school.
“Accident” 1926 by Frida Kahlo
After she went home she was confined to bed for much of her recovery. It was at this time that her mother gave her a small lap easel to use for painting. So Frida put a mirror in the canopy of her bed and began painting her self-portraits and still lifes. When she was able to get up more, she also began to paint larger portraits of people she knew.
Frida Kahlo painting in bed
Frida suffered through many operations, several body casts, and a great deal of mental as physical anguish. Her friend Alejandro went away to Europe for two years and they wrote to each other, and he visited sometimes, but their relationship was not meant to become anything more.
Frida fell in love with and married Diego Rivera on August 21, 1929, a famous, overweight, middle-aged artist, when she was just 19. She relished the attention she received in being his wife. They had a rocky marriage and both had affairs; the most devastating one for Frida was when Diego had an affair with her sister, Christina. Diego and Frida divorced in 1939, but were remarried a little over a year later and stayed married until her death on July 13, 1954.
She painted over 150 paintings in her lifetime but only had one individual exhibition. It was held from April 13 to 27, 1953, in Mexico at the Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo. She had also suffered through many more operations in prior years in attempts to fix her spine and leg which had both been so badly damaged in the bus accident, but the last operation she had was in 1953 when her right leg was amputated below the knee because of gangrene.
There is so much more to know about Frida Kahlo, but I don’t want this post to be too long. If you would like to know any more about her life and paintings, you can read more about her here: http://www.fridakahlofans.com/biocomplete.html.
I also would recommend the book “Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish” by Martha Zamora, which is the source I used for this post and where the quote in the second paragraph came from. I found the pictures on Google.
I have often thought about trying to paint about some of the painful things I have gone through in my life, but then when I sit down to paint, I find I would rather paint beauty, because focusing on flowers, landscapes or beautiful sea creatures is what has helped me through the last few years. I appreciate everyone who loves the sea turtles I have painted.
I am currently working on doing illustrations for a children’s story I wrote quite a while back (not Larry, the Lonely Leatherback, but a different one.) I have been trying to get the characters to look the way I have them pictured in my mind, but sometimes it is difficult to figure out how to draw them in certain poses! However, it is a challenge, which is what I love and keeps me going.
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂
I wanted to address an issue that may or may not have crossed your mind about my blog. I have realized that sometimes I say in my posts that I am going to be working on certain projects for a while and that may be what some of you expect to see until I say I am finished with it.
For instance a while back I was showing you parts of my picture book, “Larry, the Lonely Leatherback,” but I never said whether I had finished it or told you anything about it. Update: it has been put aside because….
I get bored sometimes working on long projects. So I find new things to do or learn. The next thing I was working on was learning to draw and paint new sea creatures besides just sea turtles. So I did an octopus and was planning on doing several more. But I just hadn’t found any really good pictures to learn from in how to draw them in different positions.
Then I became interested in Chinese brush painting. So I got a kit to learn how to use Chinese brushes and ink. I painted a few things with those and am still doing it. And as mentioned in my last post, I have been working on learning East Asian calligraphy. I am using my Chinese paint brushes and ink for that and am learning from the book called “The Heart of the Brush” by Kazuaki Tanahashi.
I also said in a post a few days ago that I want to paint more Pokemon characters. I do! I realize there is a story about Gracie the Green Sea Turtle on my blog that is unfinished as well.
You may wonder if I ever complete any of these long projects. I do. A couple of summers ago I painted seven huge sea turtles. It took me all summer long to complete that project, but I did! I have A.D.D. I was tested for it back in about 2002 and the woman who tested me said I definitely showed many signs of it. I also take medication for anxiety and depression. My life has been pretty crazy in the last ten years or so homeschooling my two children, and trying to teach myself art and keep in shape amongst all the other trials and stress we have been through in the last few years. I keep hoping maybe this tendency I have to start things and get distracted so easily will go away, but honestly I believe it is a part of who I am. No medication, religion, exercise, etc. is going to “fix” it. That’s okay! I feel I have accomplished a great deal in my life in the area of art even if I am not out there selling it or promoting it very much. I do art because I am a creative person, I love it, and it relaxes me.
So if you ever wonder when I’m going to get back to something I say I’m going to be posting about, please just be patient with me. I am a work in progress. But if you don’t care one way or the other, please keep coming back! It is nice to know there are people who are encouraged by what I think and do. I appreciate it more than you know.
Here’s a short explanation of ADD even though they are referring to ADHD. The “H” stands for hyperactivity which I do not have! I don’t think I have ever been called hyperactive. Not everyone with this condition has the hyperactive component.
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂
This is the most amazing form of artwork I have ever seen before! Watch this, especially if you love Van Gogh and his work!