15 November 2012

Why Suicidal Ideation Shouldn't Stay Private

A lot of things have happened since I last posted, and it's been a while since I have, but I feel moved to share something I just wrote for an assignment. If you have thoughts of suicide, please talk to someone.

The importance of identifying and addressing suicidal ideation in others cannot be understated. I personally have lost a close person to suicide. For me, it was my godfather – the man who delivered me when I was born. This was someone who could have been a major influence on my life, but instead was lost to the world when I was only six years old.
There are two ways in which I look at the tragedy of my godfather’s death. The first is this: it is important for us to be able to talk about suicide on a variety of levels. As I was six years old, my parents chose to tell me that my godfather had died of natural causes and did not discuss the true manner in which he died. However, I found out how he had actually died around a year later, and from a friend of my own age; I can remember it very distinctly, as it felt to me as though I had lost him all over again, but this time my memories of him were tarnished by the taboo of suicide. I think we as social workers need to understand the implications of death and of suicide at a variety of ages, and feel comfortable discussing this with children, adolescents, and adults. I would have benefited from a better, if maybe not fully detailed, understanding of how my godfather passed, despite my being so young.
            The second way I view this tragedy is this: it is madness that a man with a medical degree who was currently practicing in a medical field did not feel as though he could seek out help, and that no one saw the signs of suicidal thoughts in him. It seems unreal to me that he could hide his severe depression and suicidal ideation from so many. My godfather had a long and early history of trauma. I do not doubt that these traumas fed into his depression and his inability to handle certain stressors, like having a newborn son of his own. However, that his wife did not seek help for him, and that his friends and colleagues did not either, points to the overwhelming fact that seeking help for suicide continues to be too stigmatized to be accessible. Until we remove the stigma from seeking help, we will continue to see wonderful people take their own lives. 
            The pain of losing someone has long impacts. My godmother has had many of her own issues, many of which I feel relate to the traumas of losing a loved one to suicide. Their son has lost a lot in not having a father. My parents and our community lost an amazing friend and doctor. I lost a wonderful relationship with an intelligent man. How can these losses be preferable to banning the stigma of seeking help? 

05 June 2012

In Honor and in Memory

My grandfather recently passed away, and as I was working this evening I found myself thinking about him and his wonderful ways. The following is a list of just a few things I miss about him.

  • his hugs, which were all-encompassing and warm; 
  • his amazing and toothy smile, which he rarely went without; 
  • the way he would sing hymns and other favorite songs as he walked around the house; 
  • his laugh, which was rich and full of joy; 
  • the way that he embodied the idea that you can take a man out of Texas, but you can't take Texas out of the man;
    • His mantle was decorated with two shotguns, and a pair of spurs hung from them.
  • his humble nature, which was paired with a vocal and constant loving praise of others; 
  • his love of good stories, which was visible in his collection of books and movies; 
  • his faith, which was strong and deep; 
  • his jesting nature, and his ability to tell tall tales right along with truthful ones;
    • He told me one Thanksgiving that he had seen a turkey walking past the house, and that he had wished desperately that I had been there, because he was sure I would have been able to catch it for dinner. I bragged about this for much longer than I should have.
    • He gave me a Tarheel pin once and told me he had received it from the governor of North Carolina. I thought I'd caught him in one of his tales, only to find out later from my mom that he'd told the truth.
    • His escape from an MP when he was caught wearing a yellow-with-white-polka-dots bow tie with his military greens is legendary, and though the tale is true, his excuses to the MP were not.
  • his deep love for me and my family, and the bright joy he took in not only my engagement, but in the man I am to marry;
    • When I called him to tell him Stephen proposed, he could not contain his excitement. He could barely finish a sentence for the "Praise God" exclamations. In the middle of telling me his joy, he spontaneously went into prayer, and blessed the union of two wonderful families and praised the wonderful family we would have and become. It was intensely powerful; my mom, who was with him when we spoke, can't talk of it for tearing up.
    • In his last week, my parents were sitting on either side of him, holding his hands. My dad asked him if he could get my grandfather anything, and my grandfather's response was to squeeze their hands and say "I have everything I need right here."
  • his complete and generous love, which was shown for any and everyone;
    • He went into the hospital for a while last year, and he had all of the nurses charmed within a matter of minutes.
    • Even when he had lost the ability to speak more than a few words, and could only really answer "yes" and "no" questions, he still used "ma'am."
    • His last words were "love" repeated over and over again, said with joy and not tinged with fear of death.
  • the way he popped out of his armchair when he got up (his wooden leg hampered him standing up normally) and was an act showing his strength, which he kept for so long.
These are just a few things, and I'm sure I will add more as the days pass. For now, I just need reasons to focus on the good in missing him, and not on the pain I feel at knowing I will never see him again.

03 February 2011

Yojimbo: A Samurai Classic

Can we talk about how I love old samurai movies?

Ok, let's not. I wouldn't have much to say, other than the fact that I've recently watched one and enjoyed it thoroughly. Yojimbo is about a masterless samurai who comes to a town overrun by two competing gangs and, through wits and trickery, pits the two against each other to clear out the town. (It is also the movie off of which Clint Eastwood based his :A Fistful of Dollars:, which sounds impressive despite the fact that it's another movie I've not seen.)

Better than the story, though, is how the samurai, Sanjuro, walks with his arms in his kimono. It's nothing unusual or new - back in the day, samurai would tuck their arms in to the body of their kimono. People say this was so they could stay warm, but come on - I'm sure it's so they could look hilariously bad-ass. (Or armless. Same difference, really.)

Sanjuro takes your average hide-and-go-seek arms and kicks it up a notch. How could you possibly make putting arms in one's kimono more classy, you say? Why, how about a little...


(Man, I love samurai movies.)

19 January 2011

Emails and Etiquette

I recently read a comic by TheOatmeal that perfectly summarized my treatment of email:
Why Some Emails Go Unanswered
(Apparently, I'm not alone in this behavior.)

I wonder if people did the same thing during the era when physically-written letters were the only way to communicate at a distance. It calls to my mind several scenes from Pride and Prejudice (which probably tells you just a little something about my mind). For example, the letter from Darcy to Lizzy would naturally require a response post-haste - such comments could not be ignored! And yet, letters from Mr. Collins might find themselves in the "oh, that post must have been lost - who can trust letter carriers these days?" category. (I'm sure he could quote many a line from Lady Catherine on letter carriers in response.)

In the end, I'll keep ignoring that one email I always have in my inbox, sad and alone, waiting for a response, until I finally grow a spine (or, even worse, become a responsible adult. *shudders*)

10 January 2011

New Year's Resolution

I'm not usually one for resolutions at the start of the new year. I'm much more a fan of the Japanese tradition: clean the house completely, clear your head, and get ready for everything to be a new start. In America, the tradition of looking back and regretting or attempting to rectify what one's already done is a little too focused on what has happened and is not as focused on what should be.

Despite this propensity, I had a good enough idea for this year that I had to follow through with it.

It probably won't surprise any of my readers to hear that I am a craft-aholic. I have tried most everything, from clay sculptures to chainmaille, beading to embroidery, cross-stitch to crochet. In fact, I have had to devote a blog to cataloging projects I've found and would like to attempt (http://metahausfrau.blogspot.com). I'm just not happy without a craft project upon which to fall back should I have a few spare moments. I say "a craft project," but I should say "a blue million projects." I'm pretty bad about starting a project and, if I don't finish it in the first push of excitement over it, letting it fall to the wayside. It isn't that they are bad projects, or ones not worth finishing; it's just that I have too many ideas upon which I want to act, and a new project always holds more excitement than one that is started and taking a little longer than expected, requires a little more attention than previously thought, etc.

My resolution is simple: to finish projects I've started. I've started a small notebook, with each page dedicated to a different project I've started but not yet completed. Once I finish a project, I check it off and move on to the next project. I'm also not allowing myself to add a new project until I'm down to one or two remainders in my book, which is perhaps the best incentive of all. In a perfect world, I would continue to operate with only three or four projects at a given time. This would allow me the freedom to switch off of a project with which I was getting frustrated (for example, a long-term crochet or knit project), while still forcing me to finish as many projects as I start. We'll see how long that idea lasts...

Still, I'm proud to say that I have finished two projects in full since I started this system around a week ago. Granted, I have another ten or so left in my book, but I'm chipping away at them, slowly but surely. It's nice to have them finished, and, even better, I get an uplifting sense of accomplishment with every large check mark in the book.

So, dear readers, what are your resolutions this year?

It's a little horrifying to see how many projects I am "actively working on."

03 November 2010

Strange dreams

I recently have experienced a number of very odd dreams, ranging from the innocuous (like dreaming that I was handing someone a blank application to fill out and realizing, as I turned at my desk, that I was instead rolling over in my sleep) to the outright bizarre. My dream from last night falls into this latter category, and I can't help but share it.

I was walking in an open hallway when I suddenly was caught up in a mass of people heading toward a large room/small auditorium. It became clear along the way that all the students (of which I evidently was one) were being gathered for their thesis presentations, and along with this came my realization that I not only had not written my thesis yet, but I had not even begun any preparations for writing the thesis. I pulled out a large book (probably with 200 or 300 pages), which was evidently a prompt book to assist with writing the thesis, and not a single page had been filled in.

In an understandable state of panic, I was ushered into the room along with the swell of students around me and began to notice specific friends and acquaintances, all of whom were clearly prepared for their presentations. Apparently, writing a masters is, in my subconscious, like writing an in-class essay - you're given a range of topics and prepare all of them so you can answer whichever essay question the teacher assigns in class. In this case, my Vikings professor from senior year of college came to the front of the class and announced that we would be presenting a Norse-style saga.

A student came forward and began showing his saga; intimidatingly, this was in the form of a movie which he wrote, directed, and in which he starred. As this frightening evidence of how far behind I was rolled on the screen at the front of the class, I frantically began planning my own presentation. I would have to go with a story-teller mode, of course, not having anything better planned. Unfortunately, my status as a raconteur is shaky at best, so I decided to provide an existing story from an unusual point of view.

Here's what I had (in a bare-bones sense):

There was a beast, a demon monster who terrorized the king's domain. This monster was born to a human mother but in the presence of beasts, and with such a beginning he could not fail to exhibit odd powers: he could walk for miles in desert without suffering; he could create mud demons; he could and did strike down his opponents with unnatural forces. The king feared for his people and rightly so - the monster was gathering an army, preparing to attack with great force.

The wise ring-bearer called upon a champion, a warrior proven in battle and of great strength, to free the kingdom of this foul beast. This warrior went into the town, subverted the power of the monster, and flushed him out into the open and away from his army. The warrior, proud of his conquest, marched his captured prey through the town. Then, not unlike Beowulf with the arm of Grendel, he hung the monster such that all could see him.

It was then that the centurion pierced Jesus in his side with a lance.

At this point, I woke from my dream and realized, with great relief, that I was freed from the obligation of producing thesis-worthy material out of thin air/turning the New Testament into a Norse saga from the Roman's point of view.

I present all of this as a lead-in to the following conclusion, made minutes after I woke:

Either my subconscious mind is insanely creative, or I need to find out how it is getting access to illegal drugs.*

* This is a joke. Please laugh.

31 July 2010

Work Ethic

[Before I begin, I feel obliged to note that I've just published a few posts that were sitting, unpublished but 99% finished, in my Blogspot queue. These are all post-dated, so I'm going to link them here in case anyone feels the need to have read each and every one of my beautiful pieces of prose:

- On Bullying
And now, back to our regularly scheduled post.]

Work has been insanely busy as of late. I'm currently working as an office manager in an apartment complex near NC State, which means that the summer is on the whole the busiest time of year: students move out, students look for new housing, students move in. Unfortunately for us, each week has been busier than the one proceeding it, and will continue to do so until school starts on 18 August. That disclaimer being noted, things definitely hit a new high yesterday. Over 60 apartments were scheduled to be moved into either the 30th (Friday), the 31st (Saturday), or the 1st of August (Sunday); as the office is not open on weekends, I and my two fellows had to get leases signed, keys cut and allotted, and parking passes assigned to all of those people. Though we did manage to survive, we're not out of the clear yet: an insane number of people will be moving out over the weekend, as it is the 31st, so we can count on having a lot of paperwork to process on Monday as well.

All of this stress and hard work has been altering my personal life, as my post-work life seems to have been taken over by the strains. A lot of this is because I am, on the whole, of worrying stock - it's hard for me to let go of the things I have to do just because the office door is locked behind me. Another aspect of it is that I fall on the introverted side of the personality scale: I need time alone to recharge and, with a strong and consistent strain, the time necessary to reset my personality grows exponentially. Add to that a heavy dose of personal pride in the work I produce, and thereby a need for it to be right, and you have a pretty strong concoction of Leslie-Going-Crazy.

That being said, Stephen pointed out something that I find intriguing, even though I don't necessarily agree with it. An employer, he said, would naturally value any employee who put a lot of personal pride and effort in to their work, as it would ensure not only quality work but an employee who would diligently work long hours providing it was for the good of the work produced. However, when it comes to the employee, it is not necessarily a good trait: for me, someone who does not plan to make a career of this job/in this field, it seems that I'm putting myself through an unhealthy amount of strain and punishment for the same rewards I would receive were I not so stressed and caught up in my work.

While I understand the point he makes, it still seems to me that I am reaping benefits above and beyond what I would were I not so concerned. Practice makes perfect: will I be able to put in effort when it was important if I did not practice such behavior now? There's also the matter of references: what if a glowing recommendation from my current employer gets me that career-worthy job? Nevertheless, I don't like that I have been for several weeks now too stressed to socialize well. The past three or four days were particularly bad; I created a deeply rutted path from work to my apartment because I declined invitations to deviate from that route - I went to work, came home, spent a few hours gathering myself before passing out at 10:30, and then went to work again the next day and repeated the cycle once more. Though I can tell myself that this is just a bad stretch, that after school starts it won't be like this in the office again until next summer, I cannot fully disregard the point that Stephen makes.

So, dear readers, what are your thoughts? Where should one's priorities lie?