Friends: Reaching Out — Reaching In

Maggie and Vin

The bright sunlight through the burgundy bedroom curtains made the dark bedroom seem like a redlight district. I’d been living out of bed for over seven years as of 2009. Brief weekends out of bed were followed by weeks of recovery from the exertion. I curled up in a ball around a tiny screen where I would communicate with my friends on Facebook. My phone was anything but smart, and it cost a modest extra fee to be able to have web service on it. But the access to a society who would laugh at my ironic jokes and understand my pain when I couldn’t sleep at 2 am was something I deemed a justifiable expense.

Cell phone

My daughter had been accepted at the University of Washington in the Fall of 2008 and as part of giving their students a way to get to know their roommates, the school suggested new students start a Facebook account. When my daughter was home for winter break, we sat together on my bed as I signed up for my own account. I thought it would be a great way to keep in touch with the daughter I missed.

Some of my friends are quite witty. One of those friends had acquired friends from the online community, meaning “friends” he had never met in person. At first, I was very apprehensive about accepting “friend requests” from people I had never met. But soon conversations and jokes carried over from the friends I did know in person and

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Me & Maria Mills Greenfield (who passed 1-19-2017)

I felt like I knew people from places across the country and even the world. Places hundreds of miles from any I had visited.

While laying in bed in pain, I composed quick thoughts and shared them. It became a release. When people began to respond, I felt I had found friends in the darkness. I connected with other people who were isolated for different reasons. Many of us were dealing with pain. Chronic, neverending pain.

While certain members of the federal administration seem to do anything EXCEPT validate chronic intractable pain, that type of pain is exactly what isolates and literally cripples people, making them incapable of living their previous lives.

Many people responded to the dark comments my mind and thumbs combined to leave on other people’s posts. Quickly I accumulated a large list of friends.

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In October 2010, I decided I would rather take up my friend’s offers across the country to stay a day or a week, rather than rent a room in the gray dark winter of western Washington. I had only seen a few states of the country I lived in and a divorce after over 20 years of marriage was a great reason to explore. Many of my friends made plans to welcome me.

This last week, I lost another friend. It seems the death notices come more frequently now than they ever did. Many of the friends I met during my travels during the years from 2010 to 2017 are no longer around. Their absence in mortality does not lessen their effect on my life. In fact, the more friends who pass, the more grateful for all of them and the ways they changed my life and my attitudes.

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Vin Arnone (2014)

At some point, I will write a detailed memoir, introducing you all to each of them…those who are no longer here. For now, I will say, I would not be around if not for my friends. My friends on social media pulled me out of several seasons of depression. These same people called 911 in 2009 when I was suffering withdrawals after a doctor prescribing me Fentanyl and Percocet discharged me without notice. My friends have saved my life in many ways and on many occasions.

Because I have been the recipient of such generous attention, I know the power of social media. I know when you just need someone to talk to, usually, there is someone at the other end when you enter social media. But I also know electronic connections are not substitutes for in-person socializing. They can supplement it very well, but at some point, my brain needed to meet the people I was talking to on the other end of the data stream.

Being disabled, to be able to afford travel, I sacrificed having a home to come to when I was not traveling. For the most part of seven years, I lived without a permanent dwelling. This was an experience of its own. I am in the midst of writing a book about a part of that experience, The Car That Ran on Prayers.

Many of the people I met in person during my travels joined me online to watch how my journey continued. When I finally made the decision to come inside and begin the task of documenting it all, many of my friends and family nearly cheered with relief. It had been a long seven years for all of us.

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I reached out of my bed into a world I had no idea where or if I belonged in. Then, as I traveled, I began to reach into the people who reached into me when I was reaching out.

I have visited my friends, sat on their beds while they were curled up in pain. I love them all. I love those who have passed, and those who are still here. I love those who no longer consider themselves my friends. I love those who try harder every day, and I love those who just want a break and take it.

On the occasion of saying farewell to yet another friend, I can only reflect on all of my friends and the wonderful ways in which they have all expanded my world. I look forward to being reunited with them, and you, all when we are done on this side of the veil.

For now, I recommend calling a friend. Someone you know who gets lonely. Don’t worry, they will forgive you for not texting first. Too many of us are lonely in a world of friends.

Rest in Peace, Vin, Maria, Stephanie, Dana, Lisa, Bobby and so many more. I’ll see you on the other side. IMG_20170726_054126

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Fighting the Permanent Solution

Every day is a fight. A fight for me against an urge to find a permanent solution for temporary problems. I am NOT alone in this fight. The number of people who struggle with crippling anxiety and depression that leaves you suicidal is STAGGERING.  Today when I woke up with more frustrating situations around me, I was also troubled by the news that Amy Bleuel, Founder of Project Semicolon, had left this earth at the tender age of 31. Method: suicide.

The young woman who had fought, herself, so hard NOT to do it, that she inspired people WORLDWIDE to get the semicolon tattoo representing that they would “go on,” had no longer found the strength within herself to do just that. My heart was broken.

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On the New Book shelf

Today sucked for me. I tried to get some help on a large car repair bill and was denied. Then my puppy ate my denture. My only way to smile. The ONLY thing keeping me from looking like someone people don’t want to talk to: CHEWED. I was despondent. Coming two days after the news that the $900+ check I was expecting was NOT on it’s way and would never be, due to a recalculation in my student benefits.  Suicidal? Perhaps… definitely more than ready to be violent to a certain male dog who’s time with his male parts has expired. But I kept in physical control, choosing the method of “sitting still,” and not acting where I could have done something I would later regret.

I have attempted suicide more times than I can count. It would happen every single year as a teenager and young adult. My suicidal ideations affected my children and my friends. I wasn’t a happy person to be around, and most antidepressants made it worse. I finally found a medication solution when I started using cannabis as my medicine in an eaten form. But my struggles with the moods and the trials continue. I have used methods I have learned from Dr. Low and Recovery International to help manage them.

I’m not the first person in my family to struggle. The Post Traumatic Stress that my grandfather experienced in the war along with a major head injury, lead him to finish himself off when my father was only four. My father, having experienced Post Traumatic Stress from his father’s suicide as a young boy, struggled until he also killed himself on my birthday weekend in 1999. My nephew was the latest, and the youngest, having only reached 18 in 2012 when he succeeded with ending his life. It runs in my family.

I have reached out to friends near and far, my poor daughter more times than I want to admit, and now I reach to God. I find comfort in a quote from Ezra Taft Benson, “There are times when you simply have to righteously hang on and outlast the devil until his depressive spirit leaves you.” I think that is true. Another truth is that I have not been actively suicidal since I understood I am a daughter of God. Somehow, killing something that has eternal consequence seems different, worse. I am able to hang on and stay still when I would have previously done something I would regret.

wp-1490992833080.jpgMy thoughts and prayers right now are with Ms. Bleuel’s family and friends, and ALL of those who looked up to her. It’s okay to keep hanging on. Just because she couldn’t, doesn’t mean you can’t. Stay strong, we are ALL children of a Heavenly Father who loves us. Help is around the corner, just ask.