All the May New Things, Or How I Did Nothing

I said, “I’m going to try something new each month in 2019! Yessirree! It’s going to be so great! Maybe I’ll discover something about myself! Reinvent myself (in a good way, of course – no meth addictions or running that bar I’ve always dreamed of)” Yep, that’s what I said. You read it.

Now when I repeat all of that in my head, I do so in my “near-Beth” voice – that one that has heavy mocking overtones and undertones (really, it’s got all the tone – it’s rather tone-rich – tone-full?), and of course it’s accompanied by an overly dramatic eye roll. Oh yeah, new thing in May… mm hmmm… the year isn’t even half over, you had 30 days, and nothing? Really? Solid work there, Maynard!

Truthfully, I had an idea, and then my idea blew up spectacularly. In fact, I’m still smarting from this idea, and it makes me contort my face into a perfectly grumbly stink-face just thinking about it. I’d shake my first at it, but my idea is completely impervious to my attempts at intimidation. Rude!

So, here’s the May update on the nothing new I did.

  • I moved to the big kid’s class in swimming – a side story to that – I told a group of people that I was taking the adult swimming class, because I didn’t know how to swim, and they decided I meant, “I have a fear of water.” Nothing beats trying to explain to another adult that, “no, I don’t think that sitting in my chair and holding my breath for long periods of time will actually help my swimming. I don’t have a water fear.” “But what if you practiced holding your breath?” “Yeah. Still no. Won’t make me better at a front crawl, but you’re adorable! Go on! Hold my breath you say?”
  • My gym idol came up, said he wanted to take a photo of me to encourage one of his friends, and told me I was doing great – that I was really inspiring. (I’m pretty sure he actually meant to say, “I actually want the photo to put in my locket,” and he confused his words. I mean, I am kind of a hot, sweaty, old lady gym-babe. Who wouldn’t? I’m practically a hot, sweaty, old lady gym pin-up girl! (Hrmmm… or maybe just a hot sweaty old lady at the gym. One of those.)
  • I hit a new rowing pace low of 2:26/500m for a 9000m row. I maintained that pace for my 10,000m row yesterday. That .9 rounds down! Hey, it may not be the best, but considering I started at a 3:15/500m pace when I first started, and I couldn’t row 1000m without wanting to wheeze and die, I feel pretty good about that pace.
  • I was interviewed for my company’s newsletter – had a lovely conversation with the in-house journalist (he formerly worked for the San Angelo Standard-Times where he reported on the whole Warren Jeffs’ FLDS stand-off – fascinating guy (the journalist, not Warren Jeffs)). We have about 35,000 employees, so that felt kind of good. I look forward to seeing the article. Who knows, I may reprint it here depending on how it reads. Hey, I’m not above bragging! I’m not proud.
  • I said goodbye to my 10 year old mentee. We celebrated with pizza, fake fingernails (not on the pizza), and spicy hot Funyuns (BLECH!! But she loved them.) I reminded her of how amazing I think she is, and let her know that I believe she will do incredible things in this world. She’s so kind, sweet, curious, and plain fun to be around. I’ll miss making slime. (I can now make about four different kinds. Who knew there were so many??) Also, I’m kind of a whiz with baking soda experiments.
  • I had an anxiety attack (’tis the season), melted down, called a counseling referral service, had another one on that call (Happy Anniversary – this is how I celebrate that annual event these days), and met a lovely counselor. We’re now talking about how to manage those moving forward. I don’t judge how you celebrated Mental Health Awareness Month, but I feel I personally did my part.
  • … and while this is getting into June things, I want to add: The counselor asked me how I honored Jay, and told me to think on it. So, while I’ve been thinking on it, I found an artist, and I’ve commissioned an original piece – something that represents the two of us. I’m not sure how it will look or if it will match my particular vision, but I rather like that I’ve inspired art – even if it’s only in a small way. And I love that something wholly new will be brought to life – something that in its own small way will honor Jay.

Heads-up: I’ve also got no idea what I’ll do in June either. Go new things in 2019!

Mental Health Awareness Month

Last Thursday I was sitting in an elementary school cafeteria waiting on the little girl I mentor. I was armed with pizza, spicy Funyuns (both by special request since it was our last day together), and a folder containing a collage of the various projects we worked on over the year, a photo magnet of her with the Googly Eyes eyeglasses propped back on her head, and a note reminding her that she is an amazingly smart, talented, and funny person who is unforgettable (one of her worries). My heart rate was spiking, there was a pressure in my chest, and I recognized that I was having a small anxiety attack. I closed my eyes and took deep focused breaths. “You’re ok, just breathe. Focus on your breath.” My heart rate didn’t come down.

When I got back to work, I still felt the pressure pushing down on my chest. All of the small things were suddenly too much. My colleague with asperger’s dropping by to over-explain something, which normally doesn’t bother me, made me want to pace back and forth. Then everything came to a head when another colleague, whom I adore, requested help with something quite simple. I’m not sure what played across my face in that moment, but they stopped speaking, stared at me a moment, and said, “you know what? I’ve got this.” Which was a good thing, because where I normally feel like a super hero who can do darn near anything, I suddenly just couldn’t. Their request was overwhelming and impossible. In fact, their request was freaking me out. I started sobbing at my desk trying to logically work through what was happening. I repeated, “you’re ok, you’re ok, you’re ok” – the mantra I’ve used since Jay’s death to help me re-focus, and then I quietly whimpered out loud, “I’m not ok.”

For those of you who don’t know me, I don’t cry easily. I get mad easily at perceived injustices (don’t take on one of my people; I’m always on their side). I fume easily. Heck, if you need someone to rant along with you, I’m your girl. I also have a long fuse. Hrmm… I guess I did just say I got mad easily. Well, life is full of contradictions and so is this paragraph. Your main take away from this is that I’ve never been much of a “cry-er.” At least that was true until Jay died, and my anxiety attacks began.

Once I calmed down, I dug around my brain looking for the root cause, then I realized that in addition to it being the last day I would ever spend with the girl I mentor, and she had quietly announced over pizza that her 29 year-old aunt had passed away over the weekend; she didn’t understand why (the news took me completely aback). I had her talk about how she felt and then had her tell me stories about her aunt. I also realized it was exactly two months until the 3rd anniversary of Jay’s death. The brain is such an amazing and complex thing, working ever so tirelessly behind the scenes (thanks, brain – you’re a champ). And still, even with a basic understanding of the psychology and physiology behind my anxiety attack, I felt like I was being weak. I felt pitiful and pathetic. I felt like I wasn’t trying hard enough to keep it together. “Oh no! It’s two months until an anniversary. Oh dear! You’re not going to see your mentee anymore. First world problems, Beth. Boo hoo. No one has ever experienced that before. No one has ever lost a spouse before. It’s not like you saw it. Stop being a baby over nothing and get it together. What is wrong with you?”

I told one person about my attack, because I didn’t want to burden anyone else over a trivial meltdown, and even then, I assumed the person I told thought I was being overly dramatic – that clearly I was sharing the news because I needed attention. It’s highly unlikely that that’s what they thought, but I wasn’t thinking clearly. I was using them to personify how I felt about myself.

Well, today I decided to share that small story about my anxiety attack for a few reasons:

  • There is a stigma associated with mental health issues, and I am part of the problem. Where I can talk to you logically about depression, bi-polar disorder, or schizophrenia on the one hand, and how the person is not at fault for suffering – how they are at the mercy of the chemicals in their brains, I absolutely will not forgive myself for crying at my desk – for not powering through – for embarrassing myself by not being stronger. It’s just an anxiety attack, get it together. In fact, typing it now doesn’t change how I feel about myself, and that’s a problem. Every time I tell someone about Jay and I cry, I also get on myself. You see, I’m also part of the problem. If you think the way I do, you’re part of the problem, too.
  • May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and we all need to be aware.

Below are some statistics from the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), and from the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP) that are important for you to know:

Key Mental Health Statistics Include:

  • 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. lives with a mental health condition.
  • 1 in 25 (11.2 million) adults in the U.S. lives with a serious mental illness.
  • 46.6 million adults in the U.S. face the day-to-day reality of living with a mental illness.
  • Half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% by age 24, but early intervention programs can help.

Suicide Statistics:

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • In 2017, 47,173 Americans died by suicide.
  • In 2017, there were an estimated 1,400,000 suicide attempts.
  • The age-adjusted suicide rate in 2017 was 14.0 per 100,000 individuals.
  • The rate of suicide is highest in middle-age white men in particular.
  • In 2017, men died by suicide 3.54x more often than women.
  • On average, there are 129 suicides per day.
  • White males accounted for 69.67% of suicide deaths in 2017.
  • In 2017, firearms accounted for 50.57% of all suicide deaths.

Mental health is such an important issue, and affects so many that you owe it to yourself, your friends, and loved ones who may be struggling to educate yourself and gain a better understanding of mental health issues. You owe it to yourself, your friends, and loved ones to help remove the stigma that often prevents people from seeking the help they need. Understand that mental health is not a weakness, nor is asking for help when someone is suffering. Once we as a society embrace that idea, then we can begin to work towards making real changes – changes that get people the critical help they need – help that is affordable, and available to all.

Below are resources from the NAMI website for you to use if you find yourself in an emergency or crisis situation:

In An Emergency

If you or a loved one is in immediate danger calling 911 and talking with police may be necessary. It is important to notify the operator that it is a psychiatric emergency and ask for an officer trained in crisis intervention or trained to assist people experiencing a psychiatric emergency.

In A Crisis

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 800-273-TALK (8255)

If you or someone you know is in crisis—whether they are considering suicide or not—please call the toll-free Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline connects you with a crisis center in the Lifeline network closest to your location. Your call will be answered by a trained crisis worker who will listen empathetically and without judgment. The crisis worker will work to ensure that you feel safe and help identify options and information about mental health services in your area. Your call is confidential and free.

Crisis Text Line – Text NAMI to 741-741

Connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message.

National Domestic Violence Hotline – Call 800-799-SAFE (7233)

Trained expert advocates are available 24/7 to provide confidential support to anyone experiencing domestic violence or seeking resources and information. Help is available in Spanish and other languages.

National Sexual Assault Hotline – Call 800-656-HOPE (4673)

Connect with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area that offers access to a range of free services. Crisis chat support is available at Online Hotline. Free help, 24/7.

Please consider making a donation to one of those organizations – to help fund research, and help promote education for mental health issues.

In November, I will be participating again in the Out of Darkness Walk here in Austin, Texas. If you’d like to support AFSP and their mission during Mental Health Awareness Month, please consider making a small donation of $10 to our team the “Jay” Walkers. You can do that by clicking HERE. Be sure to visit the AFSP site to gain a better understanding of how your donation will be applied. As always, thank you.