Warning: this is pretty close to free association, on some uncomfortable topics, such as mental health, suicide and not being OK.
I’m guilty of some some things I dislike in this post:
- I don’t like remembering death days; I like to focus on birth anniversaries, the day the world was gifted with the lost loved one
- I don’t like being preachy or trying to sound like I know what people should do, because their circumstances are different than mine, and how could I know?
- I don’t like wallowing in grief
- I don’t like being negative
- I don’t really burdening other people with my grief, worries, and deep and private thoughts, which might sound weird for someone who has a blog; perhaps this is some kind of self-induced behavioral therapy
- I don’t like beets or pre-minced garlic or food that pretends to be other food, like ‘cauliflower pizza crusts’ – whaaaaat? (but this isn’t about those things; that’s for the Glover Gardens Cookbook part of the blog; back away gently from this post if you’re only here for the recipes)
World Mental Health Day is coming up soon, on Sunday.
To make it personal, my brother was a victim of suicide. On this day, in October of 2013. A beautiful, cool, fall day in central Texas. Once a sunny, bright personality, I believe mental health challenges and a growing inability to deal with or share the stresses of everyday life were the biggest contributing factor to Steve’s death.
Here I am.
“Talking” to you about this uncomfortable subject.
No one needs to be a victim of suicide.
But it will keep happening as long as mental illness is a stigma.
It will keep happening as long as we feel like we need to keep our struggles to ourselves.
I have a poem in me called “The Bright Face” which isn’t ready to be born yet, but is about how we hide our troubles, our struggles, our fears, our inability to face things, anything that we feel makes us “less than” behind the Bright “Oh, I’m Fine” Face.
And sometimes, people die because they feel “less than”.
They die because they can’t keep up the bright face any more.
They die because they think they’re alone.
They die because they think they’re the only ones struggling to find meaning, to make ends meet, to be afraid to apologize when they know they’ve wronged someone and let the wound fester until the relationship is harmed.
They think they’re the only ones crying in the night.
Because they’re crying alone and don’t feel safe enought to talk about it.
Or feel angry or helpless or hopeless or sad.
We. Have. To. Talk. About. It.
It has to be OK to not be OK.
I should feel like I can say that I’m tired, or weary, or weak, or angry, or scared, or sad, and know that you won’t judge me.
You won’t think I’m “less than” because you’ve had those feelings yourself at times, right?
Ok, let’s try it. I’ll go first. Please feel free to join me in the comments.
I’m tired. Tired of worrying about people dying in this horrible pandemic. Weary of the ways we have to live right now.
I’m weak. So weak. This week, in addition to feeling emotionally down, I was physically weak, with some kind of food poisoning or I-don’t-know-what.
I went DOWN for a couple of days. Terrible gastric symptoms, fainting and hitting my head, fever, inability to THINK.
I felt a little sorry for myself, mostly because when I fainted (4x!), I found myself face-to-face with the cat litter box that has been moved to the bathroom near my studio because of the ongoing kitchen remodel project (the cat center was in the laundry room, which is part of the remodel). Cat litter granules embedded onto your cheek when you’ve fainted and are in gastric distress are salt in the wounds. This will be funny later, I know.
Bu the minute I got out of the food-poisoned fog and had my brain back, I lectured myself about how terrible it was that I was grumpy, because I have it so much better than so many other people (which I do – I could have fainted on a mine field in a war-torn country, or because of starvation instead of dehydration, I could have a lasting disease or disorder instead of a temporary illness, etc.).
I was angry with myself. I felt like I should have had more compassion for others who have more difficult struggles instead of feeling down. Perhaps I felt undeserving of my own compassion. I was putting on the bright face INSIDE MY OWN HEAD.
Beyond that, I’m angry in general right now.
Why do we have to lose people? To suicide? To COVID?
I am angry and wallowing in intermittent emotional flatness because we lost someone special in our extended family to COVID recently. It is a story that is separate from my brother’s suicide, but there aren’t 6 degrees of separation in these events, just one or two degrees. I’m angry about that.
I’m angry about the misinformation and fear being sown about vaccinations or COVID precautions to garner ratings or political support.
I’m angry about the suffering that so many are experiencing because of the pandemic, whether directly, like the deaths and job losses, or indirectly, from the unavoidable changes in how we have to live.
Another feeling is sadness.
Sad in general because of what’s happening in the world (and scared about it, too).
Sad specifically when I remember what my brother could have brought to the world and his loved ones in these 8 years since he left us at 46, and the joy he missed having left us too soon. The same sadness applies for our more recent loss.
I hope you don’t think I’m “less than” for sharing all these negative and scary feelings, because you’re letting yourself feel and share and work through these feelings when you may have them yourself, right?
Please, please, please, if you read this blog and got down to this point in this post, give yourself and others permission to talk about not being OK. To talk about being angry or sad or helpless or hopeless.
That would be a fitting legacy for my brother’s pain.
And this is my small way to honor him, on his death day.
Steve didn’t like beets, either, by the way. Beets aren’t for people like us.
And I think he chopped his own garlic.
Poems have been my way to work on, work out and, more recently, to share feelings of longing, grief, despair, hopelessness and other dark nights of the soul.
I’m sharing with you below some poems I’ve written over the years as I try to process what happened in our family, what happened to my brother in the night of no return, what happens to millions of people who lose their way.
Please don’t lose your way. And please, don’t let someone you love lose their way. I did.
I will always have to live with that.
I didn’t know.
I forgive myself.
I want to share, in case you need to hear it.
That’s why these ragged poems were written, that’s why this ragged post was written. I shared the bottom one at work yesterday, which was really scary, and the connections that were forged were beautiful, and meaningful. At least one person needed to hear it. That becomes part of my brother’s legacy, too.
I’ve rambled along, with feelings and ideas and thoughts about how we should be, but I haven’t really introduced you to the inspiration for this post, my brother.
He was THE BOMB.
He was hilarious.
He was the spark to light the flame at a party and the one to make the pun that would render everyone groaning.
He was many things to many others: father, husband, son, friend. They have their stories, their own grief, their own memories.
He was… Steven Thomas Harvell, the one and the only.
We were as close as siblings could be.
And then, life closed in, and our masks and struggles and need to have “bright faces” and just get on with it, not showing or sharing our challenges, got in the way. I hope to someday get over that abyss and the feeling that I failed him and didn’t hear his silent pain.
World Mental Health Day is October 10, but EVERY DAY is a good day to focus on mental health, our own and that of our loved ones.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from the slippery slope of life and contemplating taking the ultimate step to end it, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255. There are also suicide hotline numbers in almost every country.
To close this meandering free association, the most rambling post EVER in the Glover Gardens blog, I’d like to suggest the title of the post as a way to live.
Just Connect, Just Love, Just Accept, Just Listen
Call me out if I fail to live this way. I’m trying.
© 2021, Glover Gardens